Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
  
Good/Bad Consumer Brands

I’m kind of tired of people saying “who are you/we to tell what is bad or good design?” well, if we don’t point it out, nobody else will. This following list will be a few samples of what I think is good and bad design among national consumer brands. These are all subjective opinions (if that helps anybody here digest it more easily,) and based on my own personal perceptions of what is good and bad. I’m basing my opinions on the whole “Brand Experience” or whatever you want to call it; looks, feel, smells, advertising, brochures, logos, color palettes, uniforms, store displays — everything and anything that makes a brand a whole. For the sake of this discussion let’s put aside business plans and corporate agendas on the side. You are welcome to chime in with your opinions too and to call me snobby. Obviously, there will be many unintended omissions, brands that went overlooked and this is only 0.5% of the options that could be discussed. Nike and Apple don’t need to be mentioned, we all know they are good. Take a look.

Good

- Dunkin Donuts: No other store can make you feel so good about ingesting hundreds of calories per inch as the voluptuous Dunkin Donuts. The colors are well thought out and the logo is so round and friendly I want to eat that too. In the doughnut category mad props go to Krispy Kreme, their brand power is in the product.

- Volvo: From their cars, to their ads to their chunky wordmark it all smells of safeness, security, boldness and good vehicleism.

- Abercrombie and Fitch: talk about using the power of sex to sell. Want to feel like a cute bad boy? Shop there. Urban Outfitters gets my vote too, especially for their web site.

- Altoids: Not sure what it is about them, but it works.

- Virgin: They got it goin’ on, from their newest ads to their stores it’s all about music, personality, and every other product imaginable (from airplanes to soda.)

Bad

- Walgreens: I’m sticking to my guns on this one, they need some retouching on their external appearance, that’s all.

- Blockbuster: They should be more sure of themselves, they own the rental market, it would be nice to see them take it up a notch, make it a little more exciting to go to their stores. No need to change the blue/yellow one-two punch.

- Verizon: No need to go into detail.

- Midas: Horrible, horrible bad logo. Purely superficial opinion, sorry.

- California Pizza Kitchen: Anything that uses Textile for their logo is in for some scrutinizing.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1476 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON Jun.09.2003 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
debbie millman’s comment is:

Good:

JetBlue--makes an airline feel like a community

Jaguar--you would never know they were owned by Ford

Starbucks--sorry to state the obvious. I guess it doesn't hurt that I am addicted to Iced Grand Skim lattes, and damn proud that I can say that without stammering

Coach--have done a great job of reinvigorating their image--and created a new badge in the process

Band-Aid--beautful and kitschy, big brand and precious at the same time

re: Abercrombie & Fitch--let's not forget that ten years ago they were an "old man's brand"!

The Bad:

America On-line--confusing, unwieldy and in desperate need of a redesign (logo included)

The Ugly:

Coca-Cola--too sad for words--and I am referring to the redesign...

On Jun.09.2003 at 10:57 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

California Pizza Kitchen: Anything that uses Textile for their logo is in for some scrutinizing.

I agree their logo is pretty horrible and clip-arty. I'm not sure that's Textile though. Either way, it's not good. Although their BBQ chicken pizza is GOOD.

---

Here's a brand that is puzzling me a little lately: Coca-Cola. For years, Diet Coke had its own distinct brand language - unique can design and advertising. But now, they've been redesigned to fit into the traditional diet mold - a plainer, 'lighter' version of the base brand. So as Coke's red can has gone back to its more traditional elements (script and dynamic ribbon, the diet supplants the red with silver and even lessens the 'fizziness' of the new ribbon graphic. What happened to all the years of building a Diet Coke brand?

On Jun.09.2003 at 10:58 AM
Katie’s comment is:

I'm in complete agreement with Armin about Krispy Kreme. In my photojournalism class I made the Krispy Kreme in Raleigh, NC the subject of my photo essay. It was really an excuse to sit and watch the doughnuts make their way through the sugar glaze waterfall (glazefall?).

Anyway, not sure if this counts as a national consumer brand but I regard this brand family as falling squarely in the category of good design...

Jack Spade / Kate Spade

Most likely due to the small scale (which perhaps negates it's mention as a "national consumer brand") of it's operations, Jack Spade always seems so consistent in aesthetic, pays proper attention to the functionality of the products, and obviously, pays great attention to design and branding.

On Jun.09.2003 at 10:58 AM
Brent’s comment is:

Target: Consistently my favorite TV ads.

Here's one that confuses me too: Miller (specifically MGD and Miller Lite) I see good ads...I see bad ads. It seems to go be the entire media spectrum too. That catfight ad was terrible but I keep seeing those nicely designed delivery trucks around. Color me baffled.

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:11 AM
Michael S’s comment is:

Intel's Intel Inside isn't the prettiest mark (especially their magenta wireless stuff), but the idea to get chip recognition outside the computer box was very smart. Sun's Java has jumped on that bandwagon and is releasing some new brand initiatives this week according to the WSJ.

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:13 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Good

VW & Audi - Beautiful cars & beautiful websites.

Tower Records - I don't care much for the logo but they to me they are what Amazon is to books.

FedEx - So the logo isn't as 3D as UPS ;)

International Herald Tribune - Along with CNN, the place I turn to for news abroad. Great website.

Adobe - Now with commercials. Logo may be a bit weak but the brand seems pretty consistent. Same for Macromedia?

Starbucks and JetBlue yes. Apple and Nike a given, correct.

Bad

AOL - Just plain ugly.

Netflix - Could be so much more.

ebay - I don't mind the logo but the website, sheesh...

There must be more 'bad" ones I can't think of at the momment.

Are we including customer service as a brand quality or is this just a visual observation?

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:16 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

customer service

It certainly is part of the brand experience. I respond very strongly to good or bad service. It plays a big role whether I'll buy from them again. Example: CompUSA. Unless I HAVE to, I won't go anywhere near them. To find someone on the floor to help you is nearly impossible, and then when you do find someone, they tell you that they aren't responsible for the aisle you're in. Just great.

Bad brand: CompUSA.

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:20 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Good:

Tall Paul's Tall Mall

http://www.tallpaulstallmall.com/

I've never had a better online shopping experience than through his simple site.

Yea, his logo kinds sucks, but so what?

I also love the 'Easy' line of companies in the UK:

easy.com

Cooper Black and Blaze Orange. Two wrongs *do* make a right sometimes!

Armin...you stated that you are judging based on the 'overall brand experience' but you seemed to focus on aesthetics in all of your critiques.

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:20 AM
Briar’s comment is:

Good:

Lego -- Smart, confident and fun

John Deere -- Their redesign seems to have pulled their brand together

Some books you know are going to be good, from the cover down to the paper selection, they are consistantly good:

Penguin Books

Phaidon Press

Princeton Architectural Press

Bad:

Enterprise Rental Car -- Starts with a re-directed URL and goes down from there

Mapquest -- Why does such a power house of a brand have such a horrible logo?

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:25 AM
Bob’s comment is:

Re: Blockbuster - I work at Blockbuster part time (how about that economy?) here in St. Louis and they try everything to take it up a notch. It seems like every month there is something new and annoying for us serfs to trot out on the unsuspecting public.

While I think their logo and colors are stellar, the store interiors need a redesign, especially promotionals banners and displays. Everything is in CAPITAL LETTERS and it DRIVES ME CRAZY. And if you want to see truly horrendous design, work there and check out training manuals and internal documents.

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:27 AM
Brent’s comment is:

customer service:

Three horrible letters: S B C

I was never more happy to give my business to some other company that was nice to me. Now I can't stand to see their ads.

Bad: SB(f'ing)C

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:32 AM
armin’s comment is:

>Armin...you stated that you are judging based on the 'overall brand experience' but you seemed to focus on aesthetics in all of your critiques.

Yeah, I like to judge books by their covers. But you are right, my critiques were mostly on the visual side. Though I did give mad props to Krispy Kreme for their kick-ass dougnuts.

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:56 AM
brook’s comment is:

bad: Best Buy: stupid logo, stupid everything

bad: Kmart: martha stewart and nascar. yay.

good: us army: perfect propaganda. no one actually thinks they will ever have to fight a war, just get college money!

On Jun.09.2003 at 12:09 PM
armin’s comment is:

Another huge brand I think is bad is Orbitz. Their whole look tries to be cool, to me it just misses the mark with a half baked retro-futuristic look. Plus, they are supposedly the inventors of the pop-under ads.

I was going to mention Best Buy too among the bad ones and Starbucks with the good ones.

>Same for Macromedia?

I hate their new packaging and new logos for their MX line. That whole crystal ball-space age shit is just a tad immature. The other day I came across the site for the firm that designed the MX stuff and I can't remember it now. I used to like Neville Brody's packaging better.

On Jun.09.2003 at 12:29 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Bad --

Cingular -- separated at birth from Flex-Car. And I hate their commercials.

Caterpillar -- it's not that it's so horrible, it's just that it could be so much better.

UPS -- let's not go into it more.

Denny's -- looks like the crap they serve.

Man, there's just so many other instances of bad.

Good --

EasyJet. Cause any company that's bold enough to use Cooper Black in their logo is just cool. They have Easycar.com too.

LittleTikes -- great name, and their logo looks like their products in everyway. Rounded, plasticky, non-toxic.

Fossil -- they just get it.

Komatsu. This is in contrast to Caterpillar. One of my favorite logo because of its simplicity and help in pronouncing the name. Decent site as well.

And Sony, Levi's, Swatch, Lucent, and stuff you've all named.

On Jun.09.2003 at 12:52 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Dunkin Donuts is one of the ugliest brands this side of Payless Shoes. Hideous, sad, dated, grim. And you go in and the franchise owner's daughter is doing her algebra homework next to a sorry pile of mini-muffins and your heart just sinks. Just goes to show, Brand Experience don't sell donuts, sugar sells donuts.

I'd have to say, buying fast food in general is one of the worst experiences for me. When they all started to offer super-sizing for everything and suddenly these poor cashiers were transformed into quasi-pitchmen, I just felt so sad and embarrassed.

On Jun.09.2003 at 12:52 PM
Sam’s comment is:

EasyJet: Cooper Black and Futura Book?

I think I'm going to chunder.

On Jun.09.2003 at 12:54 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Cause any company that's bold enough to use Cooper Black in their logo is just cool.

I'll correct myself: Almost any brand that uses Cooper Black is cool. Payless is an exception.

On Jun.09.2003 at 12:56 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Come'on Sam. Are you Cooper Black phobic -- were you traumatized as a child in some way by that font?

How can you not love its clunkiness?

On Jun.09.2003 at 12:58 PM
armin’s comment is:

>EasyJet: Cooper Black and Futura Book?

Isn't that Gill Sans rather than futura?

I like DD man! I like the colors, I like the typeface and I like their TV ads. Don't care much for the doughnuts, except those damn munchkins, those are hard to resist.

>Almost any brand that uses Cooper Black is cool.

Check this out! They are called Cooper and they use Cooper, how cool is that? Yeah! not that cool.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:00 PM
Sam’s comment is:

I love Cooper Black for what it is. I do not love it on a piece of aerospace machinery that contains my living, breathing person. I love it on toys and t-shirts and cotton candy sticks. I love it in sparkly puffy yellow press-on letters that say "Rasta" on a pink t-shirt like I saw last week. That's was kinda cool.

But truly, could there be a worse pairing than Cooper and Futura? No there could not.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:07 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

i would kill for a donut right now.

say it with me: alfred a. knopf.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:10 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Okay, I actually left a meeting to come and post this. Sam--thankfully you already brought this up: Dunkin' Donuts????? Armin: I appreciate that you like the donuts (who doesn't?) and the coffee is truly sublime, but the logo? The packaging? Ugh. I couldn't go another second without posting this.

Let me clarify: I think Double D is a fun brand. Again: their products and delivery are great. But the brand expression truly needs to be reconsidered here. There is a DD on 31st and 5th in NYC that is four stores in one--DD, Subway, Baskin and Robbins and one other that I can't even remember. All fours logos are on the awning--a true four-way split. There isn't even a consideration of creating a masterbrand mentality here.

I think this gets us back to aesthetics vs. the deliverable. DD has great donuts and amazing coffee and may even some cute ads. But they have a somewhat aesthetically-challenged brand look. I personally feel that their brand design diminishes the brand's impact and stature. A leadership brand should deliver on both. Think Target. Think Apple. Think VW. But DD? Sadly, I don't think so.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:14 PM
griff’s comment is:

Tan, Tan, Tan, ...EASYJET?!?!?

God forbid one of those planes ever goes down in water, the weight of Cooper Black will pull it to the bottom of the ocean in seconds. I am amazed they can even get the planes off the ground. Perhaps it would work better for easyTanks.

Who the hell sold 7-11 on that color palette? Obviously some one all jacked up on a 3 day slurpee bender.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:17 PM
armin’s comment is:

>Dunkin' Donuts????? Armin: I appreciate that you like the donuts (who doesn't?) and the coffee is truly sublime, but the logo? The packaging? Ugh.

Aaaaaah... fine, you know... whatever. I like it. And I stand by my original opinion. I'm a sucker for big, fat, chunky logos! I do appreciate the fact that you left a meeting to post, it makes your case stronger.

And how many times have you heard "Orange is the new pink"? DD has orange and pink! C'mon!

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:21 PM
Steve’s comment is:

Here's an example of good and bad rolled into one. Jack in the Box...TV spots GOOD!! very good, at least 8 out of 10 times. Well branded on TV. Everywhere else...(print, marketing, onsite) yuck-o.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:21 PM
Eric’s comment is:

I'm trying to stay out of the sprawl of this thread but Debbie's comment reminds me of a trip out west earlier this year where KFC and A&W are doubling up on their stores and the branding is this unimaginable wash of red and white and brown and tan.

i still have bad dreams.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:34 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

I like the Dunkin' Donuts type and colors; the coffee cup logo they've stuck on to the side of it, not so much. I agree the in-store environment could be much better. I wouldn't put too much thought into the DD/Subway/Baskin Robbins signage. I think that's more a NYC large franchisee's doing than DD's. I've read recently that DD was actually trying to yank some of their franchises back from Riese (the franchisee) because of some very dirrrty restaurant reports.

I've got no complaints with Cooper Black, but I'm not flying ANY plane with ".com" in its name or on its side. I'm all for cheap fares, but I want to know that your airline is about more than nickels and dimes. I never flew ValuJet and I'd be nervous about flying JetBlue as well, despite their coolness. Knowing they have new planes is a comfort, I'll admit.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:39 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I think jumbo jets look like fat fishes. Everyone tries to turn them into elegant birds or something, but they still look dopey. The Cooper Black on EasyJets fit the forms of the planes, and also fits the market that they're in. It's not the goddamn Concorde for God's sake.

Now, I don't particularly like flying econo-airlines myself -- but lots of people don't care about frills. Considering this lowball market, their logo could've been fucking Wal-Mart. But instead, it's this fun, approachable, clunky, well-designed logo.

You guys are snobs. If there was a Design Within Reach airline, I'm sure you'd all be on board. Just wait till you have 2 kids who want to go to Disneyworld.

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:43 PM
Adrian’s comment is:

Good -

Fossil

Einstein Bros. Bagels

www.linotravel.com (good website, bad logo)

Graves line at Target

Bad -

Captain Morgan Mustache

Stark line at Target

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:45 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Stark line at Target

Really?

On Jun.09.2003 at 01:56 PM
Su’s comment is:

Check this out! They are called Cooper and they use Cooper, how cool is that?

NOT COOPER

I miss Andy.

On Jun.09.2003 at 02:00 PM
Sam’s comment is:

I can't tell if EasyJet is actually an airline or a travel agent. If it's the latter, they don't own planes then the plane on the website makes a lot of sense. I assume we can pay for their toy-like services with Monopoly money.

Here's their Brand Promise:

"To provide our customers with safe, good value, point to point air services. To effect and to offer a consistent and reliable product and fares appealing to leisure and business markets on a range of European routes. To achieve this we will develop our people and establish lasting relationships with our suppliers."

Et maintenant, je hurl mon lunch.

And for the record, I am not a snob. I'm a New Yorker.

On Jun.09.2003 at 02:08 PM
Adrian’s comment is:

Kiran Max Weber commented:

Really?

Something about the transparent yellow they had been using for the office products just sets me the wrong way.

On Jun.09.2003 at 02:09 PM
JZ’s comment is:

The Good:

VW. Everything about them makes me want to cuddle with their cars. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the design of their dealerships. Brilliant!

The Bad:

I can believe nobody has mentioned Wal-Mart. Ugly from top to bottom, head to toe. Their entire experience is stale, old, smelly, flickering flourescent lights on yellowed linoleum.

This is the largest company in the world. The US's largest employer. And everything about them is aethetically poor.

On Jun.09.2003 at 02:21 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Something about the transparent yellow they had been using for the office products just sets me the wrong way.

Now that you mentioned the yellow, I understand. I don't like all the stuff, I have the scissors and letter opener. Love the baby bottle/rattle but I would need a baby to use it.

I can believe nobody has mentioned Wal-Mart.

Right on, everything about them is awful. I just read they have almost 600 stores in Mexico alone. I believe they are in Asia as well. Disturbing.

Although I'm not really into the "hippiness" of the brand image, as a brand of grocer, they are top notch.

On Jun.09.2003 at 02:51 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Stark line at Target

It was a tad pretentious, IMHO.

I can believe nobody has mentioned Wal-Mart. Ugly from top to bottom

Yet one of the biggest, most succesful, retailers in the world.

Shows how much graphic designers know about branding. ;o)

as for the 'easy' line of companies, the 'brand experience' I got from them is 'plain, simple, pay for what you want--nothing more.'

On Jun.09.2003 at 02:52 PM
Bob’s comment is:

Wal-Mart: Aesthetically poor, but pin-point precision when it comes to their target market. I touched on this specific issue in a previous post, but just because we as "enlightened designers" deem something (Wal-Mart) as crap, doesn't mean it doesn't succeed when you consider the taste of Small Town Middle America. They wouldn't be the largest company in the world and the US's larget employer if the user experience was so bad that people wouldn't visit every week.

On Jun.09.2003 at 02:54 PM
Damien’s comment is:

Sam - easyJet is an airline, they started the whole no-frills airline activity in the UK. The easy brand has many sub-brands with the latest being easyCinema.com.

I admire the business behind the easy brands but personally I dislike the easy brand and feel that it operates at a level which gives it little room to really build a complet brand experience.

I wrote a diatribe about my feelings for the new easy venture here: http://www.mdnstudio.com/writing/

On Jun.09.2003 at 03:00 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Does anyone really think that Wal-Mart is a financial success because of its aesthetic? Sounds like designer hubris to me.

On Jun.09.2003 at 03:39 PM
Cheshire Dave’s comment is:

jetBlue does absolutely everything right. Great design is executed at every step, including the uniforms. The whole experience is lovely, right down to picking your own damned seats online. The attitude flows all the way to their little yoga cards in every seat pocket. Fun, unpretentious, efficient, and professional.

Also good: Turner Classic Movies

And surprisingly good: Mother Jones -- the magazine, not the website. The website, though ok as it is, should follow the magazine's design standards. I expected the magazine to be too-left-to-be-relevant, but the professionalism of the design, which features excellent use of Luc(as) DeGroot's Thesis faces, matches the excellent articles that almost always make you me want to rid myself completely of my complacency.

On Jun.09.2003 at 03:41 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> I am not a snob. I'm a New Yorker.

same damn thing :-P

On Jun.09.2003 at 03:56 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Does anyone really think that Wal-Mart is a financial success because of its aesthetic? Sounds like designer hubris to me.

It's succesful due to its brand image. Aesthetics really aren't as high on the priority scale for overall branding as graphic designers think they are. ;o)

That said, Wal-Mart ain't an ugly place and it cerainly has a defined aesthetic. It's just not geared to our particular clique's tastes.

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:00 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Exactly! Just so long as we understand each other.

Anyone have any feelings about the self-branding that design firms and branding agencies do? For example, is this old thing up to snuff? Or perhaps it's a classic and not to be fussed with? And is a new site for Landor?

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:03 PM
Ian’s comment is:

Good: Swiss Army. I over paid for a watch because the type on the face was so nice.

Bad: Quiznos. Postmodern gay-par´┐Ż?

Good: Unitedcenter.com. Site by CP.

Bad: Coors. My God, Coors.

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:14 PM
JZ’s comment is:

Does anyone really think that Wal-Mart is a financial success because of its aesthetic?

Nope. And I still maintain that their user experience is poor.

I think they are a financial success because they are smart businessmen. They offer the best prices and stock nearly every item on the planet. Furthermore they tend to always offer the single-lowest priced item in every category. THAT is what appeals to their target market.

Their stores are ubiquitous and as such are convenient. The average shopper who needs a few items can combine a trip to the grocery store and the hardware store into one strip and generally assume they'll get the best price.

But I doubt that many people actually enjoy shopping at Wal-Mart. They stores are typically dirty, crowded, ugly, and full of employees empowered with the worst customer service in the retail industry. Every have anyone at Wal-Mart ask YOU if you need help. Never happens. Unless the store has been open less than 2 months.

They aren't great, they're the default. And their brand experience could be improved infinitely. Unfortunately, I bet it would hardly effect the bottom line. Nobody goes to their stores for experience.

I can't count the number of times my wife and I disappointedly left a specialty store that we like sighing, "Well I guess we can get one at Wal-Mart."

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:22 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

It's succesful due to its brand image.

I count myself among those who believe that Wal-Mart is successful because of a predatory business strategy. At this point they could design everything using Microsoft Publisher templates and still make more money than Venezuela.

Sorry for getting off-topic. I just got back from vacation. Bad Brand: For Dummies. Do all dummies have bad taste? If I were a dummy I'd be insulted.

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:28 PM
john’s comment is:

"...when you consider the taste of Small Town Middle America."

Bob, you might be amazed at what small town mid-america is all about. It's not full of velvet elvis painting and dogs playing poker. ;) The reason they work isn't because (your assesment) small town mid america has no taste. The reason they work is they have stores on every corner and stock everything from nose trimmers to toilet paper... and do it at lower prices that anyone else. The bottom line is if you give most people the products they need at a great price, and put a store on almost every corner, they will shop there... and would care less about how nice your "logo/branding" is. Does it make designers useless? Absolutely not, because most companies CAN'T put a store on every corner, and/or sell stuff less than anyone else. However, when you have the power to do that... it doesnt matter what your branding/logo looks like...

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:36 PM
Su’s comment is:

Rebecca, I think you're getting into similar territory with the For Dummies books as is being covered with Wal-Mart. If they were impeccably designed, I think they'd be likely to run off a good portion of the dummies they're trying to sell to. Okay, the Construction Site Yellow could be toned down a bit, but the overall casual tone is a good thing.

That said, many of the Dummies books are actually really really good, and useful well beyond dummy level.

But I agree that Wal-Mart's success probably does stem noticeably from being predatory.

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:39 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

ad: Coors. My God, Coors.

I like them, except for the current goofy versions. Bright, loud, colorful, fast, and hip.

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:42 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I count myself among those who believe that Wal-Mart is successful because of a predatory business strategy.

No doubt that that plays a big part in it--but they had to get to that point somehow. They weren't a mega-corp out of the gate.

Even so, small towns still support their Wal-Marts. Branding certainly plays a role in that (friendly people, cheap stuff!).

BTW, this thread seems to have turned into an 'ugly brand identies vs. pretty brand identies' rather than a discussion of brands overall.

and would care less about how nice your "logo/branding"

Absolutely! For most businesses, their visual identity has little-to-nothing to do with their success/failure. The brand (overall), of course, has everything to do with it, but most people could care less about the logo on Bob's Corner Store.

That doesn't mean better visual identities don't help a company/organization. They certainly do. But we need a bit of perspective on things here.

On Jun.09.2003 at 04:53 PM
Cheshire Dave’s comment is:

Ten years ago I was hired to complete the Dummies alphabet, which at that time was limited to the letters they had amassed for titles like MACS..., DOS..., and PCS..., as the whole title used to be set in that chalkboardish face, not like how they do it these days with the first part of the title set in Myriad.

In 1995, when I was first learning HTML, I thought that maybe I should check out HTML For Dummies, seeing as my work had been used to create the cover and all. I was astounded by the insulting tone the author took. Offended, actually. Ashamed, actually, that I had contributed to the book in some way. I haven't picked up another since, but maybe the books these days aren't written that way. Regardless, I'm glad my work doesn't show up on them anymore.

On Jun.09.2003 at 06:08 PM
Nick Finck’s comment is:

The good, the bad and the just plain fugly...

Good:

Sobe: So be yourself. Sobe's brand is a little "off" but that is their nitch.

Adobe: The A still rings memories of exacto knifes and paste-ups.. days long since gone.

Bad:

AOL: Welcome to the world wide, what the [email protected]#!?

eBay: shopping for kindergardeners.

MCI: We work like most phone companies do... poorly.

Fugly:

Key Bank: Yes, we know we see the symbolisim already! Now get on with it!

Technics: The only thing good we make is turntables.

Hardee's: Like Carl's Jr. but tilted. Why not just use one brand name for both coasts?

Juno: Another swoosh, and another lousy ad service.

On Jun.09.2003 at 11:34 PM
felix’s comment is:

Armin,

you scare me. The new Dunkin Donuts (whimsy coffee thing) is downright terrible. Sorry for chiming in late, but better than never.

looking over the lists, one thing is clear (aside from Coke): bad product = bad brand.

On Jun.10.2003 at 08:20 AM
armin’s comment is:

>Armin, you scare me. The new Dunkin Donuts (whimsy coffee thing) is downright terrible.

I won't be broken down. I like it. Though this stance seems to question my taste I would be advised to take it back, but I won't. You'll see, a hundred years from now when my grandson is carrying on with Speak Up he will do the an analysis of the greatest brands of the 21st century and Dunkin' Donuts will be among his list — making grandpa proud.

Or not.

On Jun.10.2003 at 08:28 AM
Bob’s comment is:

Bob, you might be amazed at what small town mid-america is all about...

Actually, I think I have a pretty good idea, what with living in Kirksville, Missouri (population 17k, hour and a half from Columbia, 3 from STL and KC) for five years and watching a new Wal-Mart come of age in that town. Certainly, they are predatory, as the demise of Prenger's Apple Market, Heilig Meyer, Pamida, and countless other local businesses can attest to.

But the point that I am trying to make is that Wal-Mart's design and branding is great design because you can't tell that it's been designed. Because of their low prices and ubiquity, Wal-Mart doesn't need a proactive brand, but I can guarantee that if they had one, it would turn off a lot of people in Kirksville. Case in point: when Wal-Mart and Target both came knocking at Kirksville's door in the early 90's, who got in? Wal-Mart (granted, that decision is a civic matter and way more complicated than the brand, but the popular opinion at the time was in favor of Wal-Mart as well).

I can't be the only person here who has spent time in Small Town, USA, can I? The design world that we all know and love does not reach 95% of the indigenous people in a town like Kirksville. The high school kids there think Korn and Dr. Dre are edgy. What would their parent think about Graves?

On Jun.10.2003 at 08:43 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

I can't be the only person here who has spent time in Small Town, USA, can I? The design world that we all know and love does not reach 95% of the indigenous people in a town like Kirksville.

I'm from small town WI. Watched as KMart first came in, then many years later, Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart there is nice. Big gigantic store + grocery store.

Since then, most of downtown is empty. Two independant grocery stores have closed. KMart is faltering. It's just incredibly self-destructive for a small community to allow a Wal-Mart to come in, but they always let them.

The high school kids there think Korn and Dr. Dre are edgy. What would their parent think about Graves?

That's not a small-town mentality. That's an American mentality. American's aren't known for being terribly cultured. We like our McD's, our Wal-Marts, our Home Depots and our AppleBees.

'Branding'--in terms of visual identities--really isn't as big of a deal as we make it out to be for most people. American's want adequate products, decent service, and cheap prices.

On Jun.10.2003 at 09:31 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

The bp branding is great, from the logo to the gas stations. I don't know to much about them as an oil company, but I assume it isn't as "clean" as their visuals.

On Jun.10.2003 at 10:41 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> I won't be broken down. I like it.

Right on, bro. I like DD's logo too Armin -- it must be a superstud thing to like chunky logos. And a sign of verility and immunity to male pattern baldness.

Let's pick up some munchkins at DD, then take an EasyJet flight to Paris, where we can buy some Philippe Starck furniture.

On Jun.10.2003 at 10:48 AM
armin’s comment is:

Can we stop at Wal-mart first though?

On Jun.10.2003 at 10:50 AM
Colin’s comment is:

Great Brand: The new Mini Cooper.

On Jun.10.2003 at 11:40 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

The new Mini Cooper

It certainly is off to a good start. I think it's to early to tell whether it will have staying power. Saturn used to be a good car brand, especially when they first came out. I remember when it came time to buy a first car, most of my friends looked at Saturns and a few bought them. Saturn would make a big deal when you received your car, taking a picture of you with it in the showroom and having the sales staff applaud. Don't know if they do that now, but I don't know anyone buying the cars anymore. It seems like VW really grabbed that entry market with the Jetta. I know it got me!

On Jun.10.2003 at 11:47 AM
kev’s comment is:

Good:

O'Reilly technology books. You always know which one's O'Reilly and you always know it'll be helpful.

This might be a west-coast/Colorado thing, but a burrito place started in Denver that is literally the reason chipotle chiles are used everywhere from Einstein's to Subway,Chipotle... the user-experience, print material, food and envirionment are all in-line and completely enjoyable. The one thing inconsistent about them is their website, done by local Denver flashturbators XylemInteractive. Goofy, uninformative and not really like their restaurants at all.

RedHat: The new bluecurve interface is undeniably XP-like but somehow just doesnt feel so candyish. The setup program completely blows away SuSE's take. Not only do they give you the exact right amount of control over your installation depending who you aren what you're doing, but they give you a free trial subscription to their up-to-the-minute RedHatNetwork website, letting you know if anything you have is out of date or in need of security patching. Very happy with my latest RedHat 9 install.

Bad:

I concur with the ebay thing. Perhaps it's similar to WalMart, etc in that too nice of a design would scare away the average user. Who knows.

Microsoft. Everything they produce smacks of complete and utter disregard for anything usable. They pack the most features into the smallest space, often resulting in instability and insecurity. Their mushy-gushy advertising feels completely condescending and totally ironic to me. "we are in awe of you" Yeah right MS, how's the DOJ thing coming along?

On Jun.10.2003 at 05:30 PM
Michael’s comment is:

Clearly designers have strong opinions about what looks good, but are we really experts on branding? Does good taste equate with expertise? This part of the original post has been largely ignored here.

Anyway, it may not say much about my taste, but Armin... I'm with you on Dunkin Donuts. Icky but effective. I wouldn't want one on my street, but when I see a DD, I think yummy cakes.

On Jun.11.2003 at 09:38 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Bad:

Cell phone companies: bad brands, bad service, bad phones, bad everything...

Good:

Jones Soda Co.

Glaceau

On Jun.12.2003 at 07:50 AM
bud’s comment is:

Anybody have some thoughts on cereal brands, specifically raisin bran crunch

On Oct.02.2003 at 02:47 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Not sure if you are being facetious, but I'll bite.

Interesting that you only refered to the type of cereal. I say that because many of the large cereal companies have a "raisin bran" in their portfolio--Kraft (Post), General Mills and Kellogg's each have a branded product, and then there are probably at least 10 or 20 private label brands, if not more. I might be slightly prejudiced, but my favorite is Post. The most raisins, and the best packaging.

On Oct.03.2003 at 07:22 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

I've never really thought that corporate parentage had much of an effect on cereal purchases. I'm much more interested in the actual cereal itself. How do people feel about Post vs. Kellogg's vs. General Mills?

I don't think any particular cereal has very good packaging. Smart Start wasn't bad when it came out. The photography was a bit more light and atmospheric than usual. I eat a lot of Fruit Harvest these days even though the packaging is dreadful; like a generic fruit crate but not even that good. But the cereal is tasty.

On Oct.03.2003 at 08:48 AM
Sam’s comment is:

NY Times article here [free registration req.] on brand parenting, or heritage brands, or whatever it's being called. This time about delicious Oreos:

"The industry term for this phenomena is line extension," says Alan Brew, a marketing expert at Addison, a corporate branding consultant in San Francisco. "This widens the franchise. And it's defensive. To stop a micro-product from coming in, you attack yourself, all the time, before someone else attacks you."

On Oct.04.2003 at 10:03 AM
Mark’s comment is:

Good Brands:

AT&T:simple and modern and unique widely recoginzed logo that was designed for ahead of its time when it was. Says "telephone company" always.A brand that is quality & modern design at its best.

Midas: (old logo) this logo was fine it needed no changes to it. The king's crown over the "i" was equally unique and was great for hinting the inspiration for the name from the famous chracter King Midas.

Staples: This is a very clever brand a whitty company for office supplies, they have something very clever going with the "Easy" button. The logo is equally clever, the "L" is a staple hense the name "Staples" which are also an office supply, beats unimaginative names like Office Depot and Office Max.

and

Unocal 76 and BP (old logo): These are both equally recognized in the world and are known to be connected to auto racing, need I say more?

Target: this is a good logo for a succesful upscale yet affordable department store.

UPS(old logo):I know before I said I didn't mind the change from the old UPS logo to the new one but this one is easily recoginizable and the other one isn't I mean the swoosh is hard to indicate a shipping company.

The Weather Channel (old logo)

This was a good brand until it was changed, this was for the Weather Channel a well known channel today thats basically displays the weather. The logo was obviously based on this logo the AMS /Amercian Meteorlogical Society Seal of Approval.

Nike: The first to use the swish, a popular shoe brand ,easily recognized.

Bad Brands:

SBC: boring logo, not unique, jumped on the Initials only bandwagon looks nothing as good as the previous one when it was known as Bell

Ugly Brands:

Optimum Online:This is just so bad theres no uniqueness in having a blue half moon over a red O . looks like it was designed by a toddler

Verizon: Cheap image, plus a red V and a red Z? come on guys pick one! You can't have a red V and red Z it looks rediculous, personally I prefer this logo LOL

On Aug.24.2005 at 03:59 PM
Mark’s comment is:


I forgot to mention this the new Weather Channel logo just fricking ugly a blue square with left-aligned font.

Well its not terrible but its plain boring compared to the previous one also I'm not really excited about the new slogan "bringing weather to life" yawn ,a better one would be "Live by our forecasts".

On Aug.24.2005 at 04:11 PM
David Farley’s comment is:

Hi all. I'm not a negative person, but can I rant for a minute?

I am SO tired of corporate America throwing around the word "brand" like they have a clue as to it's meaning. A brand includes the logo/mark as well as consumer experience. If you have a GREAT logo and a sh**ty product or service - your brand blows. Personally, I think WalMart is among the worst brands based on consumer experience and design. A kick a$$ logo would only strengthen my hatred for the company (would be a joke and in my opinion it would cheapen the entire wrold of design. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name is (sorry if you live in a trailer - living in one doesn't make you this) "TRAILER TRASH".

Am I way off here?

My favorite brands and/or logos:

Apple is in the top 5. They made an icon of a half eaten APPLE cool - that's amazing.

Adobe's CGI work has always been incredible. The logo isn't exciting, but it is effective (good doesn't always equal exciting and visa versa). #1 is does it make sense?

Target has a great logo and brand

Army - very smart move (logo)

citi (citi bank) - they made me believe in the "swoosh" again. I hate cc companies because I feel that they're all snakes, but I don't think that way about citi (even though I'm sure they're no different).

UPS - I've heard folks go off about the logo redesign. I personally love it.

Spike TV - I honest had my doubts that it would last, but they are doing things right. I enjoyed their teaser campaign too.

Of course anything Absolut

National Geographic Channel - Gawd, I'm a nerd. Great look though.

xpedx - not that exciting, but smart (identical upside-down)

Honda - Great brand. Great logo.

Lets not forget about the creative gods at Pixar - come on their animation is so, so good.

Bad Brands and / or logos:

WalMart - #1 in the hall of shame

Microsoft - nice try guys. Followers. (logo/positioning/tv)

Sonic - and somebody PAID for that!! I'm only refering to the artwork - their Coke is consistantly great and love their ice.

A1 Steak Sauce - Their positioning statement is STUPID "Yeah, it's that important" ... "important"? Is that the BEST you could come up with?

Any mp3 player other than iPod - I just think "nice try" whenever I see them trying to keep up.

AOL - agreed. Bad all around. How are they still around?

BP - The new icon to me seems very plain (clipart) and without any meaning.

Fiji - Cool bottle, but the artwork blows (in my opinion)

Well, I'll stop now.

These are just my opinions (right or wrong). I should say in defense of all of the creative professionals involved in the projects that I dissed - a designer is only as good as the client will allow him or her to be. There are a LOT of clients with really bad taste - if you want to get paid you make them happy (after at least stating your case if you disagree with a decision).

Thanks for allowing this vent - I really needed it.

There are plenty of unique ideas to be hatched - be original. There is also plenty of work for everyone - no need for hostility between firms. We need to stick together.

On Aug.26.2005 at 10:56 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

I am SO tired of corporate America throwing around the word "brand" like they have a clue as to it's meaning.

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, David, but then you go and exhibit the exact same confusion through your followup remarks. If you want to criticize a company's brand, then do so, but don't say it's a bad brand and then talk about the logo. This is exactly the problem.

I'm also not sure you can really draw a good/bad distinction to brands. Strong vs. weak is the better criterion, as that is something that can be quantified. Walmart is a very strong brand. Whether you feel it is good or bad is simply subjective and depends a lot on your perspective.

Maybe we need to have another discussion on the meaning of "brand".

On Aug.27.2005 at 11:09 AM
David Farley’s comment is:

JonSel - The brand is much more than the logo, so your comment about "don't say it's a bad brand and then talk about the logo" doesn't really hold up.

Regarding "good" vs. "bad" and "strong" vs. "weak". I see your point, but we're talking semantics to some degree are we not?

On a final note, if everything you said was correct would you expect a warm reception of your ideas the pompass way you presented them? So, then the conclusion is that your words are some sort of pathetic attempt to position yourself as above a fellow creative. THAT is exactly the problem.

On Sep.04.2005 at 01:26 PM
David Farley’s comment is:

Sorry. That reaction was probably a bit over the top.

On Sep.04.2005 at 01:28 PM
Mark’s comment is:

You know whats a good brand?

You're probalbly not going to like this....

State Farm Insurance

Before you start ranting and raving I'll tell you why and I'll state my reasons.

1. It works for the company and requires no attention getting.

2. Its simple, easy to read, modern and also besides having just three ovals they have something inside each the types the types of insurance, go ahead and read it yourself they say "auto,life,fire" wow something that tells something about the company, the types of insurance it has!

3.Its eyecatching yet not in your face,I have noticed that on this site that most of you complain that most insurance companies have impersonal,imposing,serious logos.Well this one happens to have a little personality.

4.It doesn't say "look at me!,look at me! I'm fun! I've got gradients!I've got a cute animal duck head on me see!" like Aflac's new poor excuse for an insurance logo.

5.No plain jane here! something makes you love it or hate it either way it gets noticed no matter what gee! perhaps the way the logo is designed?

6.Its versitile for all mediums print,fax,electronic,etc. Yet still looks great either way.want to 3d it? Fine take the existing elements and cgi them.

7. Dated? old? please if it works today theres nothing wrong with it.

8.It sure beats these conforming logos such as Nationwide,Allstate's "hands",no rediculous animal characters like Geico's gecko or Aflac's duck to try to get your attention. (although Aflac's ads are funny)

9.Final reason,its a bresh of fresh air compared to common "swooshes" or "spinny" logos,silly circles, blue squares,bland triangles,text only stuff, failed attempts to be "different" etc.

So here it is State Farm Insurance

On Sep.28.2005 at 07:21 PM
Mark’s comment is:

Another great brand Schlotzskys they had great commercials, their sandwitches look delicious, and the website? great design.

mmm. I'm hungry.

I haven't experienced their survice yet.

Thats to be determined, since none are near me.

I live in Connecticut

Haven't seen any ads lately in my area.

On Sep.28.2005 at 08:26 PM
Mark’s comment is:

Edit mispelt service as "survice" oops sorry

survice=service

On Sep.28.2005 at 08:28 PM
Mark’s comment is:

I've recenntly discovered a very clever logo for Euro Disney in a book of some sort that was a Micky Mouse head made of two circles stragically placed over a European no parking sign, yet when I went to find it on the internet I found nothing of it, can anyone help me find who made this clever unique logo and when it was designed?

It looked like this:

On Nov.08.2005 at 10:39 PM
Jay’s comment is:

I know this is about Logo's but a few comments have been about Websites (Enterprise, Tall Paul's).

This is a winner in the category "How can a company so large have such a lowsy site"

Try Thrifty.com

If the first page doesn't turn you off, and leave you scratching your head, try this. Go to locations and try to find a Thrify rental site in New England.

Concluded they don't have any. Nope. Just malfunctioning site.How much do you supposed they loosing on that 'donneybrook'.

Think calling will help. Their phone tree isn't much better.

On Jan.09.2006 at 12:15 PM
Charlie’s comment is:

Typical design clowns. Meanwhile the rest of us live in the world of results.

On Jan.09.2008 at 12:46 PM
iBran’s comment is:

It's kinda sad that four years later, some of these brands are still in a state of misery. eBay, I'm looking at you in particular. I really don't understand what's wrong inside that company--they don't have to do any branding for print or any other tangible medium, it's all web-based... and the website is still cluttered and unusable, even after they were handed some free advice. Small improvements here and there, but "My eBay" is a complete mess.

On Jan.13.2008 at 09:03 PM