News Column

Yahoo Logo a Goner, but Purple's a Keeper

Aug. 9, 2013

Aug. 08--Yahoo is dumping its iconic logo and will replace it with something more "modern" on Sept. 4.

But in the meantime, the Internet pioneer is trying to ease people into the idea of a change -- and attempting to capitalize on the publicity -- by displaying different variations on a potential logo each day.

"Over the past year, there's been a renewed sense of purpose and progress at Yahoo, and we want everything we do to reflect this spirit of innovation," Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Savitt wrote in a blog note posted Tuesday night. "While the company is rapidly evolving, our logo -- the essence of our brand -- should too."

The new logo will retain the company's signature purple hue and the slightly superfluous exclamation point. The distinctive "yahooooo" yodel will also stick around.

But the logo Yahoo has in store has "a modern redesign that's more reflective of our reimagined design and new experiences," Savitt wrote. "To get everyone warmed up, we are kicking off 30 days of change. Beginning now, we will display a variation of the logo on our home page and throughout our network in the U.S. for the next month. It's our way of having some fun while honoring the legacy of our present logo."

This is the latest move by CEO Marissa Mayer and her executive team to try to make Yahoo "cool again" against the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Yahoo has been on a buying spree, picking up companies like Tumblr and Rockmelt. It also gave its Flickr photo-sharing service a major face-lift and last week announced plans to expand into part of The Chronicle's building in San Francisco.

This is the first major change in 18 years for the company's logo, which comes in both the full name and the smaller "Y!" label that appears throughout the Internet pioneer's properties.

A logo plays a small but important role in establishing a company's brand identity. Yet in this era of social media, which provides a public soapbox to anybody with an opinion yet no design training, remaking a familiar corporate logo can become a huge issue.

In 2010, for example, San Francisco casual clothing maker Gap suddenly gave its famed blue-square logo the boot, replacing it with one that set the Gap name against a white backdrop. After a week of mounting criticism on the Internet, Gap reverted to its old logo.

And in December, the University of California system revealed a new modern logo that used a block C nestled in a U-shaped silhouette. Critics mocked the logo, saying it looked like a fruit label or a bidet.

After 55,000 people signed a petition, the UC system abandoned the logo. That was a mistake, said Rob Duncan, creative director of the San Francisco office of branding company Mucho.

"The worst thing that happened with the university is that they did back down," Duncan said Wednesday. "That means that any big brand that's even thinking of a change, they'll be getting a little bit scared. People aren't going to be brave enough to do something that's innovative. That's what design is about, to push the boundaries."

By displaying 30 logos in 30 days, Yahoo is giving its users time to prepare, although the real test will come when the new logo is revealed. The first plain-looking, sans-serif font logo posted Wednesday was already getting a collective "meh" from the Internet peanut galleries.

But Duncan said Yahoo should "rely on the professionalism of the designers" it hired and stick with the new look for a while until it "starts to live on you."



Source: (c)2013 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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