Launched in 2002, Meetup is a social network that allows groups of people with like-minded interests to organize and meet. Right now, within my zip code, I could meet up with people hiking for tacos, fans of the Denver Broncos, or Settlers of Catan board game players. Instead I stay in to finish watching season two of Narcos — malparidos! — but if I wanted to I could easily join the 27.76 million members across 178 countries, and attend one of the 613,017 Meetups a month from any of the 257,754 Meetup groups. Last week, Meetup introduced a new identity designed by New York, NY-based Sagmeister & Walsh.
There are lots of reasons to love Meetup’s nametag logo, but one important reason to ditch it. The nametag represents the most awkward moment in the entire Meetup experience — the moment you have to say hello to a complete stranger. […] Now our logo represents why Meetup exists in the first-place — to bring people together to do the things that matter most to them. We call it the Meetup swarm, and it’s created when individual dots unite to form the “m” symbol.
The old logo had the right idea and it actually communicated quickly and clearly what the network was about: meeting. I hadn’t thought about the name tag representing the awkward part of meeting as mentioned in the quote above but I do know that I very much dislike sticker name tags. Somehow they make everyone look like a doofus, even if they are charming and/or smart. The execution of the old logo wasn’t great though and because of the lettering style they chose it felt too much like a corporate meeting of graffiti artists. Now that the Meetup name is well known and its offering well understood the logo doesn’t need to be as literal anymore and the new logo does away with any indication of what Meetup is about and instead puts its energy in conveying a kind of on-the-fringe aesthetic that reflects the idiosyncratic nature of some (or most) of the individual groups. Execution-wise the wordmark can do whatever it wants because its attitude (along with the rest of the brand images) is “I don’t care what you think; I know I’m cool” but as a piece of lettering it’s not the most impressive, engaging, or even pleasing. It’s fun and quirky, sure, but that’s about it.
The monogram is more successful in that it communicates the “swarm” concept more convincingly and it has a bold, energetic presence perfect for social media avatars. The “M” is still too awkward for my taste but, as I’ve preached lately, I highly appreciate its effort for standing out in a sea of logo sameness.
During the initial discussions it became clear rather quickly that a simple logo change would not answer the difficulties that lay ahead: While we did look at the main visual signifier, the real challenge was to come up with a system that would allow a viewer to navigate the myriad of different possibilities in finding ones own community on a small screen efficiently and delightfully. We suggested a system that allows categories and subcategories to be navigated quickly, partly with the help of a limited number of symbolic colorful photography, partly by a large number of duotone based back-ground images that can be easily generated. We also suggested a whole slew of icons, illustrations and animations, inspired by the concept of swarming.
The swarm concept is solid for the company, it’s a simple and easy way to pitch the new look to its members, and it comes to life through animation quite well.
The print materials and posters are all fun. For now. It’s maybe a little too much of a good thing with the bright colors and dots everywhere, which is great for a limited amount of time but eventually it might get tiring, repetitive, or even lose some of the appeal.
The other drastic element of the identity are these category images which have a very clear audience in mind: young and eccentric who probably like animated GIFs. Again, these are fun, but I think they alienate some parts of the audience by being 100% quirky and not allowing for the brand to have a slightly more serious side. This may be right on target for Meetup in which case hooray but I think it skews too heavily in one direction. But, hey, 27 million members can’t be wrong and I doubt these will have any negative impact on those numbers. Overall, I like the boldness and graphic spice it brings to a large, mainstream market but its heavy-handedness might wear thin quickly.