Released in 1997, AIM, short for AOL Instant Messenger, was the original IM-ing choice for the first mass generation of internet users, making it the one socially acceptable product from AOL one could use without losing his or her cred. Even with the onslaught of instant message features in Gmail and Facebook and major applications like Skype and Apple’s own Chat, AIM has somehow managed to keep its spot — or at least a spot — in the market. Lacking any serious updates in recent years, AOL is completely rebooting AIM, launching a new version this week with mobile apps for the iPhone and Android, desktop clients for Mac and PC, and a site for chatting directly on your browser. With this a new logo has also been introduced.
The old logo, with the AOL running man, certainly had to go in order to break ties with the original AOL that no one wants to be associated with. There was nothing really wrong with it, other than its AOLness. The new logo is a radical change and it’s one of the few redesigns that I’m undecided about whether I like or not. I’ll start with the easy, what I don’t like: as a lowercase wordmark, the product becomes “aim” instead of the acronym “AIM”, which is how people know it and I don’t see a reason why it should be read as “aim” since there is nothing aim-able about instant messaging. I also don’t like that it is similar to Vimeo; it’s not that no one else can do the quirky script approach anymore, but for a product competing for a similar audience, the similarity is not necessarily welcome. What I do like is that it’s a clean break with a fresh, friendly, bouncy attitude. Something the old one never had. There is a nice interplay between the swashes of the script right in the center where the “i” meets with its two companions. The “m” gets a little wonky towards the end, but the overall feel is quite decently executed. The main thing here is signaling change, and AIM does succeed in that regard.