Left: AOL, about the time the internet and I first met. (Remember that sonorous modem music? The sound of the future!) Right: AOL now (yes, it's still there). With lotsa "headline news" on household health hazards, amazing pet stories, and shocking-yet-true dramatic personal episodes of total nobodies.
I should probably start with a brief, unflattering jaunt down memory lane—unflattering mostly to my old college buddy, the internet. See, I came of age as a graphic designer in the early 2000s, when the internet was a vastly different place—virtually (heh, virtually) unrecognizable. I'd only ever had an AOL email account. I'd never sent a text. MySpace hadn't even dethroned Friendster yet as king of social media (a term no one had ever heard), Facebook was still just a glint in young Zuck's eye, Twitter was a looong way off, and a camera phone was the must-have device du jour (bonus points if yours didn't have a little antenna you pulled out to get reception).
One recent, inelegant example that hits both marks is the NYC logo designed by WolffOlins in 2006 (http://www.wolffolins.com/work/new-york-city). It’s big, brash, in-your-face -- and a perfect match for the city.
Seen elsewhere in NYC, I’m a huge fan of Doyle Partners’ 2009 redesign of The Cooper Union logo (http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/graphic-content-cooper-unions-new-logo/?smid=pl-share), Paula Scher’s [super-elegant] 2009 logo for the New York Philharmonic (http://new.pentagram.com/2009/01/new-work-new-york-philharmonic/), and Experimental Jetset’s fascinating new 2013 graphic identity for the Whitney Museum (http://whitney.org/NewIdentity).
On a more commercial scale, I think Landor Associates’ 2012 rebrand of Cheer for Proctor & Gamble is definitely a standout among the detergent aisle (http://www.rebrand.com/distinction-cheer).
I could go on and on… But a great place to follow news and opinion on logos and branding is the site Brand New: http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/