Everyone loves a good makeover and 2014’s been an exceptional one for big brands. This was the year when flat design reigned supreme, classic companies ditched their aged-old look, and others faced heated controversy in the face of change. Simplicity was all the rage as large icons, illustrative touches and gradients were replaced by minimal sans serif fonts and delicate designs.

With so many rebrands to choose from, we decided to poll our 99designs community to see which 2014 branding trends you thought sizzled and which ones fizzled. Now the results are in and we’re excited to round up this year’s biggest trends, major industry makeovers and which brands you think wore it best.

Flat design is king


It’s no secret that flat design held the trend trump card for 2014. Ever since Apple’s iOS7 unveiling last year, this minimal look has rapidly surpassed skeumorphism in nearly every facet of design. As a result, many of this year’s rebrands resisted gradients in favor of crisp line-work and minimal details.

Perhaps most notable is Olive Garden’s transformation. In an effort to ditch the “Old World” atmosphere and bring the restaurant chain into the 21st century, architectural changes, menu revamps and – of course – a new logo were all on the table. The faux-painted Tuscan terracotta was traded in for a cleaner, organic look that aims to appeal to a wider audience.

Plenty of other brands also flattened out this year. Which ones do think best handled this branding trend?

Tech 2.0


In the start-up sphere, quality design often comes after company success – when there’s more time, data and funding to make better decisions on brand direction. For some tech companies, 2014 was finally the year for their makeover.

Pale blue hues quickly fell off the color palette – deemed “too corporate” – and were replaced with dynamic pinks and more vibrant blues. Scripted fonts were swept away in favor of simple sans serif fonts. Linear shapes and outlines were all the rage.

For an industry that prides itself on “disrupting” the norm, it will be interesting to see where their designs take us next.

Bold and beautiful wordmarks


You thought that Netflix’s new wordmark was the entertainment industry’s best makeover.

Just as flat design pushed minimalism to new levels this year, wordmarks also reigned supreme. Icons and shapes were bypassed for clean, compelling type treatments. While some received small modifications (such as Netflix or Cricket), other brands found new life.

Yet even the simplest looking designs can offer great complexity. Sagmeister & Walsh’s take on New York’s Jewish Museum is a one of the greatest examples. Utilizing sacred geometry discovered in the Star of David, they were able to create fully working grids to lay out the logo, typeface, and collateral. The result was a modern design based on a historically relevant foundation (see the full brand identity here).

The travel industry takes flight


Airlines around the world made big changes to their identities this year. Southwest ditched the plane in favor of a small multicolored heart to emphasize their strength and “collective heartbeat”. Hotwire also abandoned their plane icon to better represent their expanding brand, which includes car and hotel deals. Frontier added an element of speed to their typography, while Spirit triumphed the handicraft trend.

So what does that mean for each brand? Fresh plane paint jobs, new kiosks, redesigned flight tickets, website and app changes… the list goes on. Travel design is no small feat!

Rethinking iconic brands


The most challenging makeover will always be for an iconic brand. More than any other type of identity, these types of brands host a cult-like following – that’s what makes them iconic, after all. But fans can be fickle and change never comes easily. Designers are faced with an immense challenge: the brand needs to be updated to stay relevant, but the changes can’t be so drastic that they alienate long-time customers or lose site of the brand’s history.

Often, that means smaller changes over time – a little color change here, a few moved lines there. But The Hershey Company made the boldest move of all, updating the signature wordmark, stripping off the apostrophe, and ditching their skeuomorphism in favor of flat design and a minimal new icon.

TV stays trendy


Airlines weren’t the only industry to get a big makeover this year. Many television channels also got a refresh for 2014.

IFC tilted their logo to make it “slightly off”. Disney ditched Mickey in favor of their token signature. BIO got a full name change, while Tru TV and Oxygen ousted their dated logos in favor of bold text and playful colors, translating the new look across the entire platform (see Oxygen’s in action here). Which TV network do you want to tune into?

Divide and conquer


Lines were back with a vengeance this year. While some rightfully replaced more complex and illustrative logos that were beginning to feel dated, other revamps felt almost “anti-design”. Yet the hidden reasoning behind such minimal designs serves a greater purpose.

For Penguin Random House and Television Academy, the simple vertical lines help them define the company hierarchy, allowing each logo to add or detract creative elements to represent different branches and initiatives of the company. See how Penguin Random House distinguishes a whopping 250 brands using their new logo here.

Which branding trends were your favorites this year? Who do you think had the best makeover? We’d love to hear your opinions in the comments! Or learn more about current graphic design trends.