Opinion

Launching a new logo? Expect to be trolled

From Slack to Zara, it seems no company can escape a logo rebrand unscathed, writes 99designs' Pamela Webber.

New logos for well-known brands have always resulted a certain level of hand-wringing and general dismay. But as this age-old conversation moves out of industry publications and increasingly on to social media and other public online spaces, our collective aversion to change has been amplified to an extreme.

Social media—and Twitter in particular—has a tendency to bring out the worst in human nature, and it’s human nature to instinctively reject the unexpected. New levels of outrage and vitriol have become an accepted response across a variety of topics on these platforms, and brands unveiling a new logo now have to treat the exercise almost as a stress test: they expect to be trolled.

“Was this kerned by a robot?”

“The worst piece of type I’ve seen in years”.

“It’s like four ducks sewn together”.

These are just a few of the tweets levelled at some of the world’s most respected agencies and brands in recent weeks, and other comments are so vile we don’t want to republish them!

Slack’s old logo (left), and new (right), which has been described by some as looking like ‘four ducks sewn together’

How happy the clients are with the work (Zara and Slack respectively) barely even comes into it, but the response certainly wasn’t a surprise to anyone involved. Slack’s CEO Stewart Butterfield made the correct assumption in his own tweet about his company’s recent rebrand:

Zara in particular has been the recipient of an unusually enthusiastic level of trolling around its recently revealed logo, not only as a result of its newness, but because it fundamentally disrupts the status quo. It is completely different from the fashion branding formula du jour. It kicks back against the ubiquity of the lean, bold sans serif font with plenty of white space—think Balmain, Burberry, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent — and embraces a curvier serif wordmark that stands out from the crowd and is full of character.

Zara’s old logo (left), and new (right)

But this is what makes Zara’s new logo good: it purposefully steers away from the generic and embraces one of the year’s hottest typography trends.

There is some very robust reasoning behind the new branding. Referencing a custom font that originally appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in the ’90s—and was created by Zara’s current artistic director, Fabien Baron—is a brilliant way to demonstrate the company’s globally successful brand proposition that blends high street and high fashion. Having defined itself as a market leader in the premium fast-fashion space, working with Baron & Baron makes complete sense, and is a natural fit for Zara.

In short, no matter how many critical tweets are flung the company’s way, whether you like it or not the new logo makes sense.

And ultimately this is why well-designed rebrands will always weather the storm of public opinion and backlash from armchair critics. Designers are used to critique, it’s just that in 2019 this process is exaggerated because of the role social media now plays in our collective consciousness.

Last year it was Celine, the fashion brand that had the audacity to drop the accent from its wordmark, two weeks ago it was Slack, last week it was Zara. Outrage is quickly replaced with acceptance, and people move on.

A logo is designed to last a decade or more. It’s time to accept that any rebrand unveiled in our current climate must be robust and resilient enough to withstand at least a few days of internet outrage, whether it’s deserved or not.

Pamela Webber is chief operating officer at 99designs.

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