Xiaomi launches electric car division, and a new logo that looks exactly like its old logo

Society & Culture

China’s trendiest mobile phone company is on the move, with plans to invest $1.5 billion in electric vehicles, and a logo redesign that reportedly cost $300,000. Chinese internet users think the latter was a lousy investment.

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Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi just released its first folding mobile and announced an ambitious entry into the electric vehicle business. And with the new endeavor comes a new logo. But it looks maybe a little…familiar?

At a keynote conference yesterday, the company, which has surpassed Apple to become the third-largest smartphone brand in the world, unveiled, according to its official press release, “a brand-new logo” as part of its “refreshed new corporate visual identity.” The only significant change in its updated design was the replacement of the old square frame with, writes the Verge, “a squircle,” which is basically a square with round corners. 

As minor as the tweak appears, Xiaomi’s CEO, Léi Jūn 雷军, spent more than 20 minutes (in Chinese) at the event explaining the reason behind the change and what he was hoping to achieve with this visual rebrand of Xiaomi. 

Describing the new logo as Xiaomi’s first major branding update in more than 10 years, Lei said that it was personally hard for him to drop the original one, but he stressed that the redesign was necessary, as the company needed a “new look” while entering its next phase. He noted that Xiaomi’s marketing team had been looking for designers to give its old logo a face-lift since 2017. And among a number of proposals pitched by many famous design firms around the world, the company finally settled on the iteration created by Japanese graphic designer Kenya Hara, who serves as the art director of the minimalist lifestyle brand MUJI.

Lei also seemed to be aware of the similarity. Right after the logo was revealed, he rhetorically said to the audience, “Is everybody disappointed by this logo, that we just made our original logo rounder?” But he went on to make a case for the rebranding, saying that the designer told him, “It’s not just about a square turning into a circle.” Rather, the new logo is “essentially a reflection of the concept ‘Alive’” and it is supposed to show “a major shift in Xiaomi’s inner spirit and personality,” he added.

But what is “Alive” and why does Lei think what seems like a simple shape change is such a big deal? Glad you ask, because Hara really went into details to explain his design philosophy and choices for Xiaomi in a video shown at the conference. “We believe the more technology evolves, the more it gets women into the fabric of our lives. This bond between human and technology is ever-converging, and this gave us the inspiration of the design concept of ‘Alive,’” Hara said. 

He continued to state that when trying to find the delicate balance between a square and a circle for Xiaomi’s new logomark, he encountered the “superellipse” mathematical equation that allowed him to experiment with different shapes and eventually achieve a “visually optimal dynamic balance” that best represents the core concept of “Alive.”

Although most people may not notice, the overhaul actually didn’t end with the shape. Hara said in the video that his redesign also introduced a new font for Xiaomi by changing the curve of its typography. And the new logo is dynamic, which means it adapts to its context and is placed at the most suitable position depending on what devices one is using. 

However, Chinese social media users were not impressed and they’ve been mocking what they saw as a very underwhelming rebranding effort. Here’s a sampling of the reactions on Weibo. Just remember, a team of professionals led by a design legend dedicated hours of time to this effort. And it’s rumored that Xiaomi paid Hara’s agency more than 2 million yuan ($305,217) for the new brand identity.

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“Lei, you might want to report [this crime] [this crime] to the police. No one will poke fun at you.”

xiaomi“I am not trolling this time, but I really think Lei got scammed.”

xiaomi“It took a minute to do the design and an hour to get Lei sold on the idea. The rest of the time was spent on building a story.”

xiaomi“If Xiaomi ever wants to change its logo again, I’ll do the job for 50 cents. I can make the shape even rounder.”

xiaomi“It’s fine. Lei paid 2 million yuan to learn a lesson.”