After 30 days of previewing logos, Yahoo! finally presented their new logo design. PRI’s design team—Elena Nazzaro, Allyson Murphy, Dany Petraska, Rebecca Terranova, and Sara Reffler—weigh in on what they felt worked and what didn’t.
Overall, the new logo does evoke the sort of whimsical look Yahoo was going for, though the letters themselves appear too thin when the logo is reduced to a small size (like in the banner of Yahoo! pages). However, it just doesn’t feel like the powerful, solid logo I would choose to represent an Internet company worth billions (if we can judge by their recent Tumblr purchase) who is trying to gain traction in the slippery world of the web.
I question their decision to post 29 cast-off designs before revealing the finale. It was obviously a quest to gain interest and chatter on the interwebs (and look, it worked—here we are blogging about it!) but it seems like it muddies the water and introduces a lot of “not as good” representations of the new company before finally coming out with the winner. From a branding perspective, this dilutes the reveal of a new and (hopefully) well-thought-out refresh. It takes years to establish brand recognition, and this seemed to be a month of confusion and rejected ideas.
As a child I used to look forward to the chocolate-filled advent calendars that my parents would buy me around the holiday season. The thing that I would realize on the third day of following my advent calendar was that the company manufacturing the calendar was more focused on providing you with small daily treats for about a month and put little to no effort into the manufacturing of the actual chocolate treat. It was waxy, cheap, misshapen in the mold, and had a bad taste. The biggest letdown was on the last day of the calendar because there was always an even larger version of this bad chocolate. The daily disappointment I felt with my yucky, chocolate-filled advent calendar is how I felt about Yahoo’s “30 Days of Change.” Yes, there were 29 different logos. Yes, it made me talk about Yahoo! every day for 30 days. But, like the chocolates in the advent calendar of my youth, I am not really impressed by the tasteless, misshapen, poorly manufactured product I received. For a company with an exclamatory for a name, their new logo seems a little stuffy and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
“Underwhelmed” was my overall feeling on these logos. I didn’t mind the 30 days of logos rollout so much, but at least they all should have been possible contenders. When we met and discussed these as a group, we were grasping at straws to figure out which one we’d prefer over the one they picked (if any). Many of them seemed to just be “Yahoo” typed in a funky font, or sometimes four funky fonts that either came with their computer or they downloaded off the Internet. Typographically, the gaps in kerning and random stretching of letterforms were disconcerting. And the others that we didn’t mind as much were too reminiscent of other logos and styles—one looked better suited to sell yogurt, one evoked eBay, another looked like a Star Trek-roller coaster hybrid. We weren’t feeling any of them.
Perhaps most telling was when, at the end of our discussion, we viewed the old and new logo side by side, and realized that the old logo ran circles around the new one. The old logo was quirky and whimsical, but was immediately recognizable and stood out well at a small size in their banner (something the new one fails at because of the lightweight lettering). Please don’t get us started on the bevel effect that seems like they were trying to copy Google.
Who was the design guru responsible for this? It all comes out now that it was CEO Marissa Mayr’s idea, as she notes on her Tumblr that she loves Adobe Illustrator: “I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous [smiley face].” And that she and her inhouse design team sat down “one weekend this summer” to redesign the logo. Yeah . . . that explains an awful lot right there.
I knew they were working on a new logo, and that it was all part of a publicity campaign, but I wasn’t watching this playout. So I was only fully aware of what they’d done the day the final logo was announced. At a glance on the morning news, I couldn’t see the difference. I could see it once compared side-by-side though and my first reaction was that it was thinner. And that was about the extent of my reaction! When we gathered to discuss this event, I looked further into the process they used and do not understand the strategy behind the 30 days of logos. Though it might have been a cool idea to show how the logo morphed over 30 days! Once the final was chosen, go back and show the first draft, second, etc., to illustrate the design and decision process between a design firm and their client, which should always be collaborative. So, unless the designer was presenting 30 different ideas and they chose the one they chose, the 30 days of designs were almost meaningless?
Do I like the new logo? Did I like the old logo? In my mind, it almost doesn’t matter, it’s all about what I feel when I see their logo (or any company’s logo). Is it familiar? Do I immediately recognize it? What is my experience with the company? Its logo? This is especially true when the logo is typography. If it’s readable, I know it’s Yahoo! (or Google, or pri, or Dell, etc.). Psychology-wise, you can argue that a logo could influence how I feel about a company, and I agree: when I don’t know anything about the company. Once I’m a company fan, it’s their service and product that will sway my opinion, not their logo at that point. But maybe that’s just me: if Yahoo! is trying to update/change/improve their branding, I say make sure you sing that “Yahooooooo!” yodel as often as possible. And stay away from branding their CEO, as CEO’s will come and go. Don’t turn it into a do-I-like-her-or-not campaign (e.g., statements regarding workers working remotely, did she or didn’t she create the logo herself, etc.).
I was excited by the social buzz that Yahoo! was generating around their new brand—first they bought Tumblr, now they were announcing a redesign of their logo and site, I was hooked and I wanted to see more. For the first few days I followed along with the campaign, looking at what seemed to be logos mocking other sorts of stuffy logo concepts (one that looked to me like a yogurt company, one that looked like a makeup company, etc.), but I just became more disinterested as time passed. For me, this entire campaign was like the last hill of a roller coaster—as you climb another hill you have all of this adrenaline in your system, you’re excited for what’s over the crest, and then as you reach the bottom, you’re disappointed, because the ride is over and you have to go back to your normal life.
Nothing seems exciting or interesting about the Yahoo! logo, the bevel feels gimmicky and dated, the shapes seem arbitrary instead of logical or mathematical. Perhaps the most disappointing part was that there was a lot of potential to rebrand Yahoo! and recreate the same kind of success that AOL had with theirs. Yahoo! might have received a lot of media attention for the change, brought their brand back into the discussion of big web industries, but I think this tweet explains the whole thing best: “‘Everyone is talking about our brand!’ is not the same as ‘Everyone loves our product!’” Overall, the whole campaign, not just the logo, fell flat and short of my expectations.