I had my first swimming lessons at the Y — well at “La Guay” since that happened in Mexico — I also saw my older brother get kicked in the face by a girl during a Karate championship, his nose bled; I played dozens of basketball games too in various locations in Mexico City. It wasn’t until I was old enough to party that I learned that the Y’s full name was actually YMCA through the Village People, and it wasn’t until later that I learned it stood for Young Men’s Christian Association. Being Jewish it baffled me for years that they allowed me to swim there or that they allowed my brother to get kicked in the face — being Jewish in Mexico means young Christian men don’t swim in your JCC (Jewish Community Center) and they don’t get their noses kicked there either. Needles to say, I am not the only Jew or Christian or other religious denomination individual to have done something at one of the 2,600 locations in the U.S. alone. Far from it: 45 million are part of this global non-profit organization whose mission it is “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” After 43 years with the same logo, the organization is introducing a new identity system by Siegel+Gale and is adopting the moniker the whole world already has for it: the Y.
Let’s get warmed up with some press releasing:
The Y’s former logo had been in place since 1967 and was the organization’s sixth since its inception. The refreshed logo, with its multiple color options and new, contemporary look, better reflects the vibrancy of the Y and the diversity of the communities it serves. The new logo’s bold, active and welcoming shape symbolizes the Y’s commitment to personal and social progress.
—The Y Press Release
The joint revitalization effort began with an extensive qualitative and quantitative market research initiative—the insights of which—led to the development of a refreshed brand platform, brand architecture and nomenclature system. Designers created a new visual identity that is bold, active and welcoming—representing the Y’s commitment to social progress. The logo, which also has been refreshed to reflect that the public refers to the national brand as “the Y,” is set in a variety of color combinations to symbolize the diversity and vibrancy inherent in the organization and its communities.
— Siegel+Gale Press Release
The Y’s new visual system reflects our true identity: a caring, people-oriented organization that is devoted to the cause of strengthening communities. Our refreshed logo, for instance, is bold, active and welcoming, suggesting our determined commitment to social progress. Plus, the many colors reflect the vibrancy and diversity of our communities and activities.
— Logo History PDF
The evolution is clear: From a hard-angled, tough-looking logo to a round-edged, soft-looking logo that plays well with the rest of the identities of the twenty-first century in pretty much all capacities. It is bubblier, it is lowercase, it has gradients, and it comes in various flavors. Unfortunately, all of the changes feel a tad gratuitous in the final execution. I can understand the reason to move to this spectrum of identity design but it feels so generic now and what is more interesting is that, as you peel off the decorative layers (first the gradients, then the colors) the logo in black-and-white is the best rendition. That is not to say it’s very good, but at least it’s more powerful and direct. Turning the stem of the Y into more of an arrow seems like a good idea in concept but in its final form it just looks like dozens of other chevron-based logos, leaving the triangle far too independent. Meaning, that in the old logo if you took away the red triangle you would have a weird black shape, whereas the new one if you the bubbly triangle out you are left with an arrow, so it’s not intrinsic to the mark anymore. The sizing and placement of “YMCA” is a mere notch above in importance than the ™ symbol, it feels like a way of showing 99% commitment to the idea of going full-on with just the Y.
The rest of the identity is governed by color and typography, Cachet being the overarching choice, which gives the Y an odd techie feeling that doesn’t seem to fit. The colors are nice, I guess, so that’s a positive.
In the end, I think this simply serves as a platform to let the Y be the Y, semantically and strategically, more than visually..