Friday, September 06, 2013

A Rebuttal to The Atlantic Wire: Good Design Doesn't Matter?

Atlantic Wire

Yesterday in The Atlantic Wire, Rebecca Greenfield wrote:

One would think that with all the intense outrage over Yahoo's new logo that this is the most cared about logo to ever grace our eyes, but it's not. Just a few of years ago, the new Gap logo evoked more ire than it deserved. The anger got so extreme that the clothing company reverted back to the old look. This happens often: The public gets very upset over something that matters not at all. Maybe the new Yahoo design is "dull, uninspiring and limp," as one critic put it, but does it mean anything? No. But everyone gets all worked up because they have the facilities to do so in a somewhat astute (sounding) manner — a phenomenon known as the "Bikeshed Effect."

First off, I must admit, I was flattered that Franklin Avenue's critique was singled out. But...

I must say, Greenfield's post was a bit of an overreaction to the overreaction. We live in a social media world where everyone reacts with intense outrage to everything. Miley twerking. The boiling temperature in Southern California today. The latest crazy thing to come out of Pat Robertson's mouth. The cancellation of "Happy Endings." Do any of these things matter? Yes and no. They matter to people in the moment, and isn't that all that matters?

Everyone has something they care about. You may be pissed off at an NFL trade that I have no idea about. I may be pissed off at MTV for naming a song of the summer that is so clearly not the song of the summer because, you know what, that does matter to me. In my world, a world in which I grew up obsessing over the Billboard Hot 100 and even printing out my own Top 30 music chart every week (what? Yes, I didn't just collect TV Guides), stupid stuff like that matters. And am I going to voice my opinion? Yes, because I care that much. I really do. (And sorry MTV, but a terrible One Direction song that has just been released can not, under any logical argument, be considered the 2013 song of the summer.)

That brings us to the Yahoo! redesign. Why do I care so much? Well, I care about things like logos, typography, fonts and good graphic design. I've been obsessed with these things all my life. I even married a graphic designer. I grew up printing fake newspapers (yep, not just music charts and TV Guide collecting for this guy!) mostly because I loved the idea of how publications were laid out. I obsess over logos, enjoy looking at old examples and have even designed my own through the years (for my college radio station, among others). So when I see what I *know* to be a bad logo, and I consider the amount of time, money and energy that went into that bad logo, I want to vent. Thanks to social media, now I can. On this blog. On Twitter. I know Yahoo! has no interest in what I think. But at least I got it off my chest, and have been able to share in my disgust with others. (That's what social media is about, after all. A community.)

My AT&T U-verse email goes through Yahoo!, as does our Franklin Avenue email. Which means I have to look at that logo several times a day. And every time I look at that new logo, with its thin letters, I wonder why. Why a major new media company like Yahoo! would go for a logo that was so faint, so dull and so uninspiring. It especially looks faint next to the bolder, thicker (and yet, uncapitalized) logo of AT&T, an ancient company that has nonetheless been able to effectively rebrand itself.

Yahoo!'s original logo was not amazing, but it had a lot more character than this one. I could even hear the famous trademark yodel in my head when I glanced at the old logo. This one looks like a logo that might have been designed for a medium-sized city's public library.

So yes, I think logos mean something. Design means something, just as architecture means something and art means something. It may not be discussing "How Will Yahoo Increase CPM's Given Current Trends in Digital Advertising?" -- but that's an evergreen topic. It's not something that incites passion. I'M ANGRY OVER YAHOO'S CPMS. No. Not the same thing. With the logo, we're discussing something that just happened -- hence all the sudden pouring of haterade. It's a physical, noticeable change that you can put your arms around (in this case, to suffocate it to death.) And someone has to say something. That's why there are literary critics. Book critics. TV critics. Film critics. Art critics. Architecture critics. And yes, design critics. When a major corporation undergoes a major rebrand, and comes up with something so limp, I think they need to hear from us. They need to know that they can do better.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to check my Yahoo! email. While containing my anger.

A few more good reads on the topic:

Yahoo's Logo Reveals the Worst Aspects of the Engineering Mindset (Glog)
Yahoo’s new logo and the 30-day punchline (ARS Technica)


Will Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Campbell said...

By attempting to invalidate the opinions against the redesign, Greenfield validated them.

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