Sunday, October 24, 2010

what's in a logo? a lot

By now you've all heard about the recent Gap logo brouhaha, in which the purveyors of inexpensive office duds revealed their new corporate marker to a fury so loud, they were forced to recant and issue a big, public "never mind." For what it's worth, I think it was the right decision: While their logo isn't one of my favorites, the new one was awful. But more importantly, the new logo had nothing whatsoever to do with their old one, which had come to be known and trusted by shoppers everywhere.

Some have argued recently that logos don't matter anymore, but I strongly disagree. If that were the case, then why does the image of a U.S. flag awash in logos conjure sentiments of outrage? Why is this taxonomy of species so powerful? And why did Logorama win best animated short at the Oscars this year?

Of course, many successful companies periodically update their logos as a way to refresh their image or reflect a new line of thinking. But my opinion is that unless you're changing the entire gist of your offerings, the best redesigned logos don't completely start over; they instead build on the existing design so that the public can still identify the brand. When Gap decided in the mid-90s to ditch Banana Republic's safari/travel theme and go after the "casual luxury" clothing market, the resulting logo redesign made a lot of sense. But Gap's change this year was just dumb. It reminded me of the decision that New York City-based pharmacy chain Duane Reade made a few years ago—only this time, the parent company realized the error (albeit after severe public excoriation) and wisdom prevailed.

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