Yahoo ‘logogate’

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You may have been aware of the prevalence of the new Yahoo logo in the media for the past week. Maybe if you are not following the various design media outlets that we are you may not have, however it has made it to mainstream media as the latest ‘logo gate’. Essentially, every designer and their dog are having a go at yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for co-designing the new yahoo logo over a weekend and announcing the details on her blog (http://marissamayr.tumblr.com/post/60336044815/geeking-out-on-the-logo). She describes how herself, a handful of designers and an intern spent a weekend examining and refining a new logo design for Yahoo. Detailing the choices, she claims “I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)” The result (http://yahoo.tumblr.com/post/60332693287/introducing-our-new-logo) has certainly ruffled the feathers of the design community.

Jokingly, a voice in our head said “and we should also join the bandwagon” and we were ready to dismiss the notion at that. But it then occurred to us that we might have something relevant to add to the pot here.

That point, among all the negative criticism, is that the design method described by Marissa Mayer does in fact outline a process that is the very opposite of what Nomad strive to accomplish. She clearly had good intentions, a design knowledge and a clear goal to rebrand a multi-billion dollar company. But where did she go wrong and why would it go so strongly against the design epitome that Nomad would advocate?

Mayer notes that they polled all of their staff on what they would like to see in the new logo, and arrived at some useful information on visual aspects of the typography of the logo. She adds that these were “what the people who know us best felt suited us best.” Great, some valuable research so why would we have issue with that? While the staff may best represent the company, they are not the main ‘product’ that the company offers. They are not the users. The company is defined by the online tools that they offer and the only people who use them are, of course, the users. What we don’t have knowledge of here is what the user experience of Yahoo is and what the public opinion is of the image that they are trying very hard to project.

The second lack of foresight is the concentrated efforts on the logo. This is essentially superficial. The logo could look like anything and users will still have a similar experience in using Yahoo. And from a design perspective, it is a more important exercise to review how the brand makes you think than how it looks. And a brand comprises of a vast amount more than the logo looked at in isolation. The decisions described by Mayer might be of interest to a bunch of designers over a drink one evening, but do not make much sense for the Yahoo user’s perspective. Beyond that, Mayer describes some typically aspirational objectives for the new logo, but again one is left feeling like having gone through the motions without understanding how we are achieving them. We have said that we want to achieve ‘A’ and we have built ‘B’, but there is no clear connection on how successful ‘B’ is.

A lot of critics have focused on the technical and aesthetic flaws but a running theme is concluding that ultimately it is not about the visual result but the flaw of the design process. And this is the positive for the design community, that it seems the design process was so flawed that it has brought it to the forefront of attention. Yahoo have designed from the top down, and not the bottom up. Hopefully designers and people generally will realise that addressing the design process from a user-centred perspective will have been the answer rather than details on which type design crimes were committed.

Links to some reactions:

Oliver Reichenstein of Information Architects takes probably the best potshot at the issue:
http://ia.net/blog/logo-bullshit-co-inc/

Academic design writer John Maeda offers some overlooked positives:
http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130909215827-34374336-hooray-for-yahoo?sf17018742=1

Editor of ‘Fonts In Use’ details the visual problems (maybe at risk at overlooking the greater design process as much as Mayer though):
http://fontsinuse.com/uses/4713/yahoo-logo-2013

 

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