The last time I looked through a Yellow Pages directory was probably 10 years ago and I believe I am not exaggerating. During those years I may have used their online version, but it was a rather obnoxious experience. These days, when anything is so simply findable through Google, the moment the Yellow Pages directory gets placed on our doorstep it goes straight into the recycling bin. I am not naive enough to think that nobody uses Yellow Pages anymore, but I’m surprised it has survived over other newspapers and magazines who haven’t been so lucky and I’m even more surprised that Yellow Pages keeps pushing online, where it faces stiff competition. Canada’s Yellow Pages — producing directories since 1908 and now a 2,300-employee operation — is embracing this shift head-on and has redesigned its identity to reflect its focus on both printed and online directories.
“Our new branding reflects an important shift in the way we are doing business, in what we are offering to consumers and in the way we partner with advertisers,” said Marc P. Tellier, President and CEO of Yellow Pages Group. “[…] The message it sends is that YPG is multi-platform: we’re online, we’re mobile and we are still the leading and most widely used print directory in the country.”
— Press Release.
The final design was created by Canadian agency TAXI, who also did the advertising campaign. But prior to Taxi being involved, Scottish designer David Airey was approached to take a stab at reviving the Walking Fingers. In a very generous post, David even shared the design brief [DOC], which lists the main objectives as:
Differentiate from the competition, Lower confusion rate
Inform of what is in the books. Increase knowledge of what is inside the book
Modernise the perception of the brand
Increase the Modern attribute perception
Increase awareness of multi access
Stéphane Marceau, Chief Marketing Officer at Yellow Pages Group said: “The new YPG logo positions us as resolutely modern, innovative, and digital. While significant changes have been made, we kept our most important assets building on over 100 years of vested brand equity; our famous yellow colour is bolder and our trademarked Walking FingersTM — one of the most recognized icons worldwide — continues to be at the heart of our identity.”
— Press Release.
The project went dormant for many months and it resurfaced again with Taxi’s redesign — which David also covered rather nicely. Gone are the open pages of the directory, to help distance the brand from a print-only model and in its place comes a pebble. Yes a pebble. Not just some random, blobby shape. A pebble.
My favourite IDs always have an insight or a visual pun (in a good way.) FedEX, the classic Rand UPS logo etc. Basically I wanted a larger concept. During a few of our meetings with the client they kept talking about connectivity. About how they want Yellow Pages to be the thing that connects everybody to everything. Not long after that we stumble onto a Buddhist proverb entitled “a pebble for your pocket”. A simple story that teaches of the interconnectedness of all things. Hence the pebble. Subtle: Yes. The new logo is a balancing act of one foot in the past and one in the future.
— TAXI’s Dave Watson
In striking contrast to the quoted FedEx and UPS logos, the “insight” or “visual pun” in this new logo is unfortunately impossible to get without anyone telling you that, hey, this is a pebble, doesn’t it make perfect sense for a directory? I don’t mean to be flippant, but I think there is a very large disconnect between concept and product. Pebble aside, the Walking Fingers are an improvement and more so the typography. In the end, the identity looks more like it belongs in the present, rather than the past but, sadly, I doubt there is a big future for this kind of directory. Printed or digital.