Last night, Yahoo reached the end of a 30 day campaign to drum up excitement for their new logo reveal. By most accounts, there’s no love lost over bidding farewell to the company’s old logo, but the public (and more specifically, the design community) may have some trouble accepting the new iteration.
I still occasionally check my Yahoo email account (now relegated mostly to spam and newsletter sign-ups), so I have personally been keeping up with many of the logo changes, though none have necessarily impressed me as a true improvement.
The final logo iteration does stand above the other 30 options, in terms of detail, sensibility and more closely matching Yahoo’s greater brand identity. But as a logomark, is it actually an improvement on the 1995 version?
While retaining many of its defining characteristics—the color, the exclamation point, the shifting baseline—the new logo sheds its serifs (replaced with Optima-esque scallops), learns to do math and gets some snootier punctuation. (Remember to yodel with your pinkies out.) The new exclamation point looks more “L’oreal,” and less “Howdy y’all! Let’s do some searchin’!” And it definitely would not have been your friend in high school.
CEO Marissa Mayer worked (closely?) with Yahoo’s in-house designers to develop the new logo. When explaining the choice to clean it up and reign it in, Mayer says:
We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo – whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Having a human touch, personal.
While close comparison may not reveal a whole lot that’s actually better or worse than the original, many critics argue that Yahoo’s promotional strategy of trotting out 30 alternatives (read: trashcan fodder) for the public to “vote” on before revealing their actual choice is what really hampered this redesign.
Kevin Farnham and Geoff Katz are the designers of the previous Yahoo logo. Kevin is quoted in a review on AdAge as saying:
Honestly some of them could have used a random font generator. There’s not a lot of discipline behind what they’re doing from a design perspective. You can tell different designers are involved in the making of them.
What many are saying about the so-called “options” for the new logo is that almost none of them evoked a high level of design sensibility. Little more than typeface changes and spacing tweaks, the whole cycle represented nothing more than torture for the designers whose reject piles were raided for a publicity campaign.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
What this new logo really says is that we, as a culture, will never openly accept a corporate redesign. Time after time, companies (some in desperate need of a fresh face) bite the bullet and update their public persona, only to cower and shake under the weight of mass dissension. The Gap. Aol. Pepsi. Windows 8. All failed attempts at a facelift. Outside of Starbucks hitting the “enlarge” button for their logo, I’m hard-pressed to think of a recent redesign campaign that didn’t result in recall petitions and gnashing of teeth. How long will major companies continue to risk it?
Perhaps one cause of such vitriol is the secrecy with which these redesigns are announced. People (it turns out) don’t like to be surprised. But in Yahoo’s case, it’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. They started the countdown clock a month ago.
And we waited.
Not in anticipation of being amazed, but instead to tear down whatever came to pass as the trumpet —er, yodel sounded. We all knew that the 30 different logos weren’t even in the running. If anything, they probably achieved their actual goal of making us think, “Well, at least it isn’t any of those!”
The funny thing is, we’ll all be used to it six months from now. Chris Matysczczyk on C-Net put it this way:
Logos aren’t all that important. They live in a context. They take life from all around them and give a little back.
Corporate redesigns give companies a chance to situate themselves more accurately in the current cultural construct. They give new designers a chance to step up to the plate and make a name for themselves. They allow new dreams to be dreamt, past mistakes to be forgotten and eras to be defined.
Redesigns should be anticipated, not reviled. We should give them some time to sink in and settle down before breaking out the torches and pitchforks. While healthy criticism should always be welcome, it’s the mindless calls for immediate retraction that could definitely be curbed.
Yahoo managed to get the conversation started early this time. Their method for doing so either indicates that Mayer hates her design team, or that there’s still some cojones behind that yodel after 18 years.
About the Author
Patrick Gosnell is a graduate student and teacher at Texas State University San-Marcos. He has a background in fine art photography, and currently focuses on international typographic practices. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and daughter. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his blog, TYPEATX.