Yes, Pandora is still a “thing”. No, not the jewelry company, the music streaming one. I don’t blame you for forgetting about it. In the ever increasing music-streaming market, Pandora has been left for dead by other options like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play. In an effort to regain momentum, Pandora launched a rebrand last October. This rebrand replaced its serif “P” logo, unchanged since 2000, with a more modern, clean aesthetic. The new logo had one adversary; PayPal.

In its press release announcing the rebrand, Pandora said the “vibrant and bold color scheme showcases the next phase of the product and the music experiences Pandora brings you”. PayPal disagrees, arguing that there are striking similarities between the two, including the block-style capital P, the blue color and the overall minimalist look. Most importantly PayPal says it is causing confusion between the two logos, interfering with “ease of use” of PayPal’s service. PayPal also states Pandora openly mimics the PayPal logo because of its own waning popularity in the music streaming industry and wanting to “ride the coattails” of PayPal’s success.

Pandora Logo: Old vs. New

Old (left) and New (right) Pandora Logo

Being a graphic design student who follows tech and branding news, I don’t have any issue distinguishing between the two. Nevertheless, I cannot deny the similarities. The capital P’s depicted in a distinctive, block-style sans serif type, with no “counter” or hole in the top part of the P, and the use of PayPal’s familiar deep-blue color range. Other users cited issues differentiating the two logos. In its lawsuit, PayPal included over 200 instances of people tweeting about the issue.

PayPal Twitter Examples

This conflict presents an interesting case study. What two lessons are there to be learned in logo design? Finally, while Pandora may have taken “inspiration” from PayPal, it did utilize one of the more interesting colour trends for logos and user interfaces this past year.

Logo Design: Two Things to Consider

Distinguish Yourself

You need to create a distinct and recognizable typographic image with your logo. The typeface, colours, and shapes you use are all memorable. One critically important argument of the lawsuit is the confusion between the PayPal and Pandora logo. Your logo needs to stand out on the crowded screens of customers’ smartphones and tablets, where the logo guides customers quickly to your platform. Thoroughly research and identify similarities with other brands, and ensure that any overlaps are not significant. Red flag: if someone says “wow, this reminds me of _______’s logo…” odds are someone else will notice this too.

Think About Scalability

Your logo is everywhere, so you need to keep it scalable! Your logo won’t be seen in isolation. Part of the problem with the Pandora/PayPal scandal is that, as people try to access the apps on small screens, the logos become smaller and harder to distinguish. Make sure the logo looks clean and distinct at any size, whether it’s on your smartphone, a truck, or a billboard. Simplicity is your friend here.

“Colour” of the Year?

Every year, Pantone announces its “Colour of the Year”. If I may make a recommendation, why choose a single hue? Choose a blend of them. Over the past year, gradients, or ombré (so fancy), have made a return to the graphic designer’s palette. Rebranded logos from Instagram, Apple Music, and our very own Pandora, all introduced gradient aspects to their logos. The gradient trend extended beyond logos/icons to user interfaces in Spotify, Airbnb, and PayPal.

Gradient Logo Examples

Why the sudden uptake? Pandora designers cited the ability to “add dimension to the logo’s otherwise flat design without resorting to the hyper-literal, real-world representations of skeuomorphism”. Another benefit is the flexibility that a gradient provides. You can pick any colour from a gradient and use it as an accent, without really committing to it long term. Other designers think the current trend in gradients is a nostalgic call as people yearn for throwback from the ‘70s and ‘80s. There may also be a scientific and psychologic aspect to gradient’s renaissance. Scientific research shows that people prefer things things that are easy to process, and view smooth things as “safe”. Gradients do both those things.

Get them while they’re hot… Design trends are often cyclical, so enjoy the rainbow wave of gradients while you still can!

Conclusion

Whether you can distinguish between the two logos, or think there are grounds for a lawsuit, the conflict of Pandora and PayPal presents a great case study in logo design. Research, think about typefaces, and said repercussions in scalability and similarity. Will your logo use an ombré/gradient? And remember, when in doubt, there are these guys in suits called lawyers. In hindsight, Pandora will tell you it’s worth the call.