Back in September of 2008 we reported on the evolution of the MapQuest logo and the feeling of the majority was that it was too little too late to make up ground against Google Maps — two years later, MapQuest is betting that it’s not too late with a complete overhaul of their identity and their mapping experience. As a subsidiary of AOL, MapQuest will be integrating the local brainpower provided by its sibling service, Patch; you can read the full details of what MapQuest is setting out to do in their blog. The new identity has been designed by Wolff Olins.
In addition to the new user experience, MapQuest has also revitalized the company’s branding to coincide with the new site aesthetic. The goals of the new logo were to make it simple, clean and modern while remaining vibrant and fun. The new icon can mean different things to different people — some people see the monogram (the M and Q), some people see the “M” to the power of the “Q” — or maps to the power of your quest, while others see a character that can help guide you along your journey.
— Press Release
When I first saw the new icon, I first saw M to the power of Q and thought of it as a nice little monogram, but then the video pointed out and animated for my benefit the MQ as a little character with feet and a winking eye, and now I can’t unsee it. And I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, because as a character it’s a little bizarre: is it a dog? A bear? A big-nosed kid crawling on the floor? It sure is ripe for visual commentary. Poking around on the new mapping site, the character appears tapping its feet while content loads, kind of cute. But let’s assume the mascot effect is lost on most people, this is a fairly nice typographic logo with a very distinct flavor in its color and typeface choices.
The question that plagues MapQuest, more than whether this is a nice identity or not, is if it can ever shed its Number Two role in the online mapping world even with the introduction of new features and smoother experience. I’ll still use Google Maps first, but having spent a few minutes on MapQuest I have to say that if Google Maps disappeared, MapQuest would be a solid replacement. But that’s a big if.