Dying leaves?

“Leaf” logos filed for trademark registration in 2011

One of the most prominent trends in logo design in recent years has been the proliferation of leaves as design elements.  As companies have attempted to adopt images that reflect our society’s increasing concern for the environment, the leaf has become visual shorthand for eco-friendliness.

Percentage of new logos containing leaves

The graph above shows the sudden jump in leafy logos over the past decade (the analyses here are concerned only with logos containing generic leaf images; logos featuring specific leaves such as maple, oak, and holly are not included). By 2009, the percentage of logos with leaves reached 3.87 percent, before dropping off slightly in 2010 and 2011. It may be that we have seen this trend peak.

 Leaf logos by industry

Of course, the leaf logo trend has not taken hold equally across all industries. The graph above shows that logos in industries such as agriculture, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals are much more likely to feature leaves: for example, in 2008, almost 16 percent of all new agricultural logos contained leaves. But even those industries such as insurance and advertising that would seem to have little use for natural or “green” images have seen marked increases in leafy logos.

Percentage of “dying” logos containing leaves

The flipside of the leaf’s popularity as a design element is that more and more “dying” trademarks (those that are abandoned, canceled, or expired) contain leaves. The graph above shows this increase. By 2011, 3.44 percent of dying logos contained leaves, nearly matching the percentage of new 2011 logos with leaves (3.68%). It appears that the leaf is transitioning from logo design trend to logo design cliché.