Dropbox brand update streamlines its logo and takes aim at creatives

Today Dropbox introduced a new brand design that includes a revamped logo, a plethora of color schemes and a new typeface. The new branding aims to set Dropbox apart from other file syncing services by appealing to creative collaborators — but users probably won’t see too many changes.

Gone are the whimsical colored pencil drawings (e.g. dinosaurs traipsing through the snow) of longtime creative director Jon Ying, who left the company last year.

“Our new illustration style picks up where our earliest style—loose, handmade, witty—left off,” write creative director Aaron Robbs and VP of Design Nicholas Jitkoff. The new visual style, made in collaboration with design house Collins, appears to avoid primary and secondary colors at all costs while keeping whitespace everything but white. It juxtaposes graphite drawings with collaged elements and other computer-generated imagery.

The typeface, Sharp Grotesk, was designed by foundry Sharp Type, inspired by hand-drawn poster lettering and the work of Swiss designer Adrian Frutiger. It has plenty of variations, from squat and heavy to ultra-narrow. Of course it’s a matter of taste, but none of us here are particularly into it. It is, however, original while not being totally outlandish.

It’s a throwback color aesthetic (these color combinations are very ’70s modern) combined with a post-Helvetica-Neue type aesthetic, and these things don’t always play well together. At least it’s distinctive.

That said, chances are users won’t see these things too much — this is all really for a marketing push that deliberately embraces weirdness in order to set Dropbox apart from its more staid competition. The type isn’t going to appear when you open your Dropbox menu or in your web file list. Those need to remain usable and so will likely retain the default sans-serif look, though you can expect some flair here and there from the new-look book.

Old at top, new below. Personally, I prefer the geometric type.

While we’re divided on the brand aesthetic, we like the new logo. While the old one was pretty clearly an actual box, the new one reduces that graphic to its basic shapes: a group of five isometric squares, or what laypeople call “diamonds.” The image is open to interpretation but still recognizably a box, avoiding missteps made by Airbnb and Uber. Ironically while the logo itself became more geometric, the type became less so (most visible with the clipped bars and rather off-kilter counters in the p and b).

Those companies totally redid their looks but failed to do so cogently: Airbnb’s pretentious new logo, the “Bélo,” aimed high but ultimately just reminded users of a combination of various reproductive and non-reproductive organs. Uber’s similarly high-concept redo was simply incomprehensible. Microsoft threw away decades of colorful history with its Windows 10 logo and replaced it with something deeply bland.

Considering the failures of major tech companies in attempting the task of a reinvention, Dropbox’s work here is on the whole admirable. We look forward to using the new geometric logo and the focus on creatives is welcome and smart. The full story of the redesign can be scrolled through interminably here.