2013 was a big year for brands with many well-known organisations overhauling their visual identity. I spend many hours online keeping up-to-date with the latest design trends and finding out who is rebranding and what agency worked on the project. Below is a snapshot of 2013's most notable rebrands.

Google – September 2013

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The ubiquitous search engine underwent a minor revamp of their iconic emblem with a refined colour palette and a slight alteration to letter shapes. The new identity was designed in-house by the Google team and launched in September 2013.

Google's designers have maintained the integrity of their previous logo by dropping the 3D bevelled look and fuzzy drop shadow in lieu of flat two-dimensional letterforms.

The update coincides with the new Google Bar, which now includes an app launcher at the top of the screen for platforms such as Maps, YouTube and Gmail, which stays the same across platforms (mobile to desktop).

The last change to the Google brand was in 2010 when the original colours were brightened, and the strength of the bevel was reduced. The colours in the new logo have been toned down and the strong gradient has been replaced with a subtle alternative – so subtle in fact, that an untrained eye may barely notice any changes at all.

Optus – June 2013

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Since its 1992 conception, Optus is Australia's second largest telecommunication provider. Their rebrand was a combined effort from Sydney-based agency RE, who were responsible for the identity design, advertising was by M&C Saatchi, custom type by Mathieu Réguer and character development by Marco Palmieri.

The new brand ethos is to create greater positivity whilst cultivating an emotional connection with Optus customers. The hand-drawn typeface is intended to create a sense of humanity and communicate a feeling of warmth. From a copy perspective, they have made a conscious effort to avoid jargon and "techno-babble", instead opting for a brand voice that "tells it like it is".

I'm a huge fan of the Optus brand redevelopment, from the new tone of voice to the character development; each element is extremely polished and perfectly executed. They have certainly jumped on the 'flat' design-style bandwagon, applying some of today's identity trends: think hand drawn type, cheeky copy and a loveable character that supports their new tone of voice.

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Yahoo – August 2013

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Yahoo took a unique approach to the redesign of their logo by launching their 30 days of change campaign. It was announced they would be changing their logo at midnight on August 6th 2013, and in each of the following 29 days.

In the previous year, Yahoo hired new CEO Marissa Mayer (CEO and President since July 2012), and since her arrival, a wave of change has rolled through the company. They have recently acquired several companies including Tumblr, Stamped, and the latest, Rockmelt - Rockmelt was a proprietary social media web browser, incorporating social media features such as Facebook chat and Twitter notifications.

They received a lot of publicity on the first and second day, however the public interest soon fizzled. The campaign was restricted to the US site only, and was not received well by the design community. Critics slammed it as nothing more than a hyped up typographic exploration, diminishing the importance of an in-depth and focused brand development process.

The biggest issue with the campaign was the high expectation it set in the eyes of the public, who were lead to believe that at the end of the 30 days something amazing would happen,but nothing did.

The chosen concept was designed in-house by the Yahoo design team with the assistance of CEO Marissa Mayer, an exert from Marissa's blog explains her involvement on the project: "On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it's one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I'm not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)

So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail."

As a designer, I still haven't made up my mind on whether I want to commend her for her devotion and enthusiasm to the project (given it is not her area of expertise) or scream at her for poking her nose in where it doesn't belong.

The resulting logo is neither horrible nor brilliant, it's elegant, simple and at best, mediocre.. I'm pleased to see they preserved the slight bulge in the tail end of the letterforms, representing the echo made by the yodel – paying homage to Yahoo logos of the past.

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ahm Health Insurance – November 2013

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When I first spotted the new brand for ahm Health Insurance in a newspaper ad I was immediately put off by the cheap, coupon-style design. I honestly thought it was a joke! The bold dotted line and scissor icon suggest that this is a quirky lighthearted campaign and not the identity of a large health insurance provider.

Upon closer inspection (which did include supporting marketing material) I have to say that the brand has really grown on me. The use of the coupon graphic and stark black and white imagery in conjunction with a humorous tone of voice really demonstrates ahm's position in the market – a no nonsense approach to insurance.

Having worked on projects for insurance providers, I understand the importance of positioning your brand to attract your target audience. The new identity makes an impact and distinguishes ahm amongst a sea of competitors, a difficult task in such a crowded market. They look bold and no-nonsense, no superfluous colours or imagery has been used, and every element has purpose and intent. This 'discount' look establishes market distinction, with key marketing messages being concisely integrated at a branding level.

It's a great example of a brand and visually demonstrates their price point and brand message quickly and succinctly.

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Opera Australia – August 2013

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Undoubtedly my favourite rebrand of 2013, Opera Australia is as the name implies the national opera company of Australia. Interbrand Sydney was commissioned for the redesign, launching the identity in August 2013.

The concept is simple and brilliant in its approach to "open up opera", by expanding the letters OA, to OPERA, to OPERA AUSTRALIA and OZ OPERA. By opening the letters, the idea was to encompass the rich assortment of activities and performances the organisation represents.

The concept is especially clever when applied to the tickets and brochure covers. The O and A bookend, the ticket details and imagery, further strengthen the open up opera message by encapsulating the message within the letterforms.

The previous identity was clearly intended to represent the power and vitality of opera through the use of untamed swirling colours; however, the typography feels like an afterthought. I didn't mind this logo because unlike many well-known brands and organisations it clearly demonstrates who they are. It does however SCREAM opera when compared to the new chic design.

If the goal was to create a sophisticated world-class brand, Interbrand have certainly delivered. The new identity is reminiscent of some of the world's finest art galleries such as; The Guggenheim, The Louvre and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through the use of strong typography on a stark white backdrop paired with stunning photography.

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What do you think were the top branding efforts for 2013?