Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Branding itself needs rebranding

Microsoft's Bing search engine has a new logo. It's not an improvement.

It's not bad, necessarily — it has a stylized symbol, at least — but to me it lacks the distinctive, playful vibe of the original. The top logo goes with Bing's trademark sound, "BING!" By contrast, the new one looks ... I don't know. Like every other blanded-up, generic-font logo revision that seems to be the rage these days.

So why did Microsoft fix what wasn't broken? Oh, this is golden:

Erickson notes that the logo takes inspiration from the bottom right of the Microsoft flag "echoing its role as a platform of information for the company." He notes that the small angular cut on the top of the ‘b’ mirrors the angle on the cut of the ‘t’ in the Microsoft logo as well.

"We’ve even aligned our kerning [the space between letters] on the ‘i’ and ‘n’ to match the kerning on the Windows logo," he notes. "The descender on the ‘g’ was modified from the original Segoe font to curve upward ever so slightly which led to a more welcome and open feel. These details together with working with designers and engineers across Microsoft led to the collective brand architecture to create a new look that’s simple, streamlined and beautiful."

I once read a magazine article by a former bodybuilder and steroid abuser. He said that when he first got into the pursuit, he didn't understand why everyone looked like a mutated freak — but once he spent enough time in the weight room, being swollen suddenly seemed logical. Intricate aspects of the craft that he'd never considered as a normal human being suddenly became mega-important in the drive to impress others in his niche. Branding is apparently a lot like weightlifting.

I've sat in many a meeting and press conference where branders have gone off in mind-numbing detail about what each tiny change to a design signifies. Because of course every curve and serif has to have some deep meaning that makes The Da Vinci Code look like Green Eggs and Ham. Somehow, those meanings are always news to me. Maybe I'm just not the target audience ever.

Not that I don't understand branding — after all, I've run a highly successful blog for the past nine years. As it often goes with megacorporations, I've changed my logo on numerous occasions. I've gone with handwriting to give an irreverent and ironic feel; studly Impact font against a blue brick wall to imply masculinity and an ever-unfinished job; baby pictures to depict my personal evolution (or lack thereof); a cross-promotion partnership with the year 2010; a banner that shows off my photography skills, growing recognition of my brand and the lushness of my then-backyard; and, of course, default text to offer promise of branding developments to come. In the early days, there were anniversary and gag banners too, for special occasions. My current banner, established circa 2011, brings the blog into the future with its mix of maturity and refined irreverence.

Of course, a lot of times, these changes haven't been for the better. Mostly I was bored and/or wanted to try something new that misfired. Sometimes the successes went away because I wanted change for its own sake, while bum banners stayed up for years at my insistence that readers warm up to them.

Does this all sound like ridiculous self-indulgence? Exactly.

There's only one reason a company should ever change its logo — because it created something that looks better. If all the micro-tweaks add up to an inferior sum, what's the point?

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