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The Best and Worst Identities of 2016, Part 3: The Worst Reviewed

Announced Dec. 23, 2016 by Armin

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Contrary to what you might think, it’s not exactly fun making this list and I’ll admit that each year it gets harder, in part because the work isn’t that bad as the quality of work at the top levels has improved across the board in recent years — however, I have no conflicting the No. 1 spot in this list. Part 5 of the series, with the Worst Noted, is a different story, there is a ton of really bad things in that list! So the inclusions in this list are judged on a curve, I guess, in relationship and in contrast to the Best and some of these projects were, indeed, worse than those other ones so someone had to make the cut and these nine are it.

See also:
Part 1: The Most Notable Reviewed
Part 2: The Best Reviewed
Part 4: The Best Noted
Part 5: The Worst Noted
Part 6: The Best Friday Likes

Yup, I also included this one in the Best Of list and it’s not that I can’t make up my mind but just as there are things to celebrate about it there are things to cringe about it, primary being the if-you-don’t-get-it-you-suck attitude from the too-cool-to-try-harder aesthetic. And some of the applications are downright nauseous… literally, they make you dizzy.

I debated whether to include this one or not in the list. On the surface there is nothing visibly wrong with it but since this is a blog for designers I have no trouble in mourning the evolution of the original Saul Bass logo into what it has become. It’s not for pure nostalgia sake or because I blindly defend anything done by the masters; it’s about the almost nonsensical evolution of a flat logo that implied dimension followed by a dimensional logo with a graphic that implies dimension followed by the most recent version that removes the shading and transparency — a good thing, I guess — and reverses the color bands from white to blue and yields a wobbly mess of curves. It ends up being a semblance of something but there is not much of substance there anymore.

I’m all for simplicity but this unfortunately crossed the line into dryness with bare-bones typesetting of Garamond and no-much-better-thank-stock-photos photos of flowers. Such an amazing place should have yielded something much more interesting, engaging, and rich even when the assignment wasn’t to reinvent the wheel.

In the comments section we get a lot of “aren’t the before and after images switched?” and this is the one case where I would agree and endorse such a comment, particularly with the logo… everything about the new is worse and less functional than the old one. The packaging was a slight improvement but the faux roughness in the background graphics was too much of a turn-off.

This is competent and useful for the most part and arguably doesn’t deserve a “worst” label but I think what tips it is that it doesn’t build on any of the trends it’s using. The geometric sans serif is unbalanced with that “r” and the curving of some of the corners is beyond unnecessary. The nail in the coffin are the mostly gratuitous MTV-wannabe-esque variations of the monogram that lack purpose and excitement.

Like the shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onions, melted cheese, and other stuff added to their products to hide the fact that the product isn’t that good, the old logo’s heavy-handed aesthetic hid the fact that there wasn’t much under the surface except for a bell and a name. So when the new logo stripped down to adapt to the minimalist trend we were left with a bell and a name, looking as default as if you put some of their meat on a plate and tried to eat it without anything else.

Maybe taking its name too seriously the new logo takes a lot of liberties with some typographic norms that exist for a reason, like the small arm of the “F” doesn’t reach out to touch the next letter or that a baseline exists to align things to it not barely miss it by a few points up or down or, you know, that letterforms are consistent.

I’ll admit that I admire the effort by one of the most giant conglomerates in the world to do something interesting but unfortunately the result ended up like a watered-down version of something perhaps remotely interesting. What makes this even less of a triumph is that, reportedly, the creative brain trust of McDonald’s convened to jointly come up with this… a case of design by committee where the fault lies in a committee of creatives. So despite the extra large “on” this isn’t on like donkey kong.

The Uber logo and app icon unquestionably needed an update; their execution was less than stellar and not very useful in the various environments they were to be used, from digital applications to decals on car windows. Unfortunately, what read on paper like a series of unfortunate design process events yielded one of the least useful or meaningful updates for — love them or hate them — one of the most significant companies in the world. Other than being bolder, the new wordmark is generic and the execution lackluster. The app icon abandoned the “U” — where they literally owned that letter in the same way Facebook owned the “f” in app icons — in favor of a “bit”. And they built an identity around a confusing concept of “atoms” that are mostly patterns, I think. Like the other projects in this list, it works, sure, just as picking your nose with your finger works but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more meaningful and elegant ways to do it.

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Brand New, is a division of UnderConsideration, displaying opinions, and focusing solely, on corporate and brand identity work. More…

UnderConsideration is a graphic design firm generating its own projects, initiatives, and content while taking on limited client work. Run by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit in Austin, TX.

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