2012: the year of moan-brand


The world’s least favourite logo—but for how long?

Was 2012 the year that brand design failed? Certainly the general public and a large number of designers did a heck of a lot of complaining as a long list of high-profile new / reworked logos appeared to increasing derision — so much so that you have to wonder: is a logo launch free of moan-brand misery even possible in 2013?

One by one, ever more brands joined 2012’s year-long turkey shoot culminating in October with the University of California: a logical, reasonably well-executed new device incorporating references to the 150 year-old seal it replaced (see below, or here). Yet it inspired new heights of hostility, finally being withdrawn after widespread media taunting and a 50,000-person petition. Not a work of staggering genius perhaps (the applications did seem a bit dull) but deserving of that much crazed torch-bearing lynch-mobbery?

Austerity-inspired conservatism coloured brand launches in 2012. Gap attempted to crowdsource a logo to (justified) anger and ultimately, failure. Others settled for the safe ‘upgrade’ rather than wheel-reinvention. Twitter risked being given the bird by redrawing theirs (but no-one noticed). Windows (Paula Scher / Pentagram) and Ebay (Lippincott) unveiled unexciting upgrades which fared a little better – but still attracted plenty of carping.

The worldwide whinging seemed in inverse proportion to the quality of design management supporting the visual flourish. Gap thought they could save a few quid in the dumb belief that social media can do anything. University of California seemed to go public with little internal / external support or buy-in and worst of all, the university itself failed to stick to its guns.

It has always been true that brand design is about more than the talents of designers / typographers and the reflexiveness of modern media now makes careful stage-management essential. Research, planning, implementation strategy, client ownership, commitment and belief are just as important as visual skill.

Wolff Olins know a thing or two about this stuff, yet in ‘surveys’ their London 2012 logo (top) was the most hated in the world. But — the games themselves turned out way better than anyone could have hoped and waddyaknow — that weird logo’s already looking a little less nasty, wouldn’t you say? I still dislike the typeface and many applications (and the ticket fiasco still stings) but already I feel a little less mad for attempting to speak up for it.

Most logos are born ugly and unloved. Few achieve beauty even after their third or fourth iteration. Apple? Lovely product design, naff symbol. Nike? Nicely drawn but still just a tick, big deal. But as brand experience proves positive, logos look / feel better, becoming eye-catching signifiers of quality.

Here’s to strategic fortitude and less moan-brand hysteria in 2013.





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