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Yahoo’s Big Logo Reveal is a Giant Letdown

So after 30 days of anticipation, parading out a different logo every day to generate excitement, Yahoo had the “big reveal” of their new logo. We are not only uninspired, we are yawning. And stunned. Stunned that another major company could take such an embarrassingly amateurish approach to their rebranding.

Now let me be clear, I’m not one for logo bashing — I think that’s way too easy to do and it becomes a kind of blood sport for a lot of people whenever a new logo is announced. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon to rip something apart rather than build it up. I much prefer the latter, when it’s warranted.

I held out hope for Yahoo, even during their “30 days of bad logos” that they decided to roll out. I did harbor serious reservations about that strategy which in my opinion, created more brand confusion than it did excitement. Skeptical, yes, but I kept an open mind to see where they would take us.

Well, the logo would have had to be pretty damned impressive after all that buildup for it to have any hope of working. It was worse than I imagined. Not only is it uninspiring, it is technically bad in that there are just so many design no-no’s that scream “amateur hour” to any professional designer worth their salt.

Unfortunately, the video demonstrating the “science” behind its creation left me unimpressed and unpersuaded — in fact, it feels like a lot of smoke and mirrors to convince us in mathematical terms why it works and why we should like it. Such BS. In the end, it still looks terrible! Check your pockets folks, you’re being swindled.

CEO as designer

But the clincher was CEO Marissa Mayer’s Tumblr post, where she explains the design process in her own words. After the first few lines, I honestly thought I was tricked into reading a satirical piece from The Onion or something. But no… here are some tidbits:

“Our brand, as represented by the logo, has been valued at as much as — $10 billion dollars. So, while it was time for a change, it’s not something we could do lightly.”

OK, fine so far.

“On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator.  I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)”

Wait, what? Uh oh, not liking where this is going. Why is the CEO of a $10 billion dollar company talking about Adobe Illustrator? The tools of design creation are so far down the pipeline from what she should be discussing… I am… well, let’s wait and read some more…

“So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish…”

Holy crap — now she really lost me.

So the logo for this $10 billion dollar company was created over a weekend with a team that included the CEO and an intern? Perhaps Saturday was also spent with a tutorial of how to achieve bad kerning in Adobe Illustrator?

Nope. That was real, folks. It really was Yahoo’s CEO discussing in her own blog post how they went about rebranding a $10 billion dollar company.

I’m sure she thinks this was a radical move, with a take-charge CEO working down in the trenches on creating something in an inspired fit to reinvigorate the masses. But as CEO, you would think she would spend more time explaining the strategy and rationale behind the new branding — perhaps there just wasn’t too much more to say there. Instead, she chose to discuss the actual design.

Now, I know Ms. Mayer has an MS in computer science and was a software engineer, but as far as I know, she never had any design training or professional experience, other than playing with various shades of blue at Google. She fails to see why the new logo is so insipid and does nothing to inspire the feeling of “whimsical, yet sophisticated; modern and fresh” that she portends in her post. She explains the playfulness of the big “O,” fine — but any professional designer sees that there is no balance to the spacing between the letters. The kerning between the “Y” and the “a” is downright horrible. Close up that space! And then the spacing between the “o’s” is too tight. The exclamation point doesn’t look right either — it’s too wimpy and looks like it should be pulled down a bit. The whole thing just looks disjointed and unbalanced — which in the right hands could work — but here, just looks like something that a CEO with no design experience and a summer intern helped create.

Other companies have had similar branding fails in recent history, one of the biggest being the GAP logo fiasco. What has happened to branding? Why is it now treated so lightly that people just toss around junk in such a trivial, jovial manner, with all those contest-driven and crowdsourced activities that come with it? Logo design is not a beauty competition, but in the end, it is the professional designers and design agencies that will make it beautiful! And relevant. And on target. And effective.

For my money, rebranding a business, let alone a $10 billion dollar global corporation deserves more. What say you?

And if you need a logo or rebranding for your own business, contact me and let’s discuss how we’ll get it done the right way.

Photo illustration work: Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN

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