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This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.


Baq to the Compaq

Reviewed Aug. 26, 2007 by J. Marianek

Industry / Technology Tags /


Flash forward to the year 2015…

Imagine your local Best Buy at 5:30 am on a Saturday morning; late August 2015. Picture a winding line of 300 good Americans—moms, dads, children, teenagers, and husky Ebay speculators. The barbarians at the gate are loaded with lawn chairs, vitamin C, playing cards, fleece blankets, and other middle-class mechanisms of subsistence. All are biding their time in hopes of being one of the first few to get their knuckles around the newest model of the Compaq Presario VXXX series. Compaq is so hot right now—they sponsored the last space shuttle mission.

Lest the consumer of the future remember the ’80s and ’90s when Compaq made ash-grey machines that were more or less the same shape as the box they came in. I remember playing Doom on a Compaq with sharp, uneven plastic seams which were accidental recepticles for Crystal-Clear Pepsi, but that’s all in the past.

COMPAQ (Compatibility and Quality) was one of the first makers of IBM compatible machines back in the ’80s. It was since bought by HP where it underwent several image transformations. The previous logo was made in 1991 by Interbrand and later adjusted by Landor. Evidently, these agencies were careful not to reinvent the serious former logo for strategic ends unknown to us; equity, beauty, cost, fear, timelessness, please pick one. The tweaked-out logo remained decidedly backwards-looking with its po-mo italic until early last month when the new logo was revealed during a launch of new laptops.

Compaq’s brand has historically lacked a personality offered by identity, packaging, or product. Cohorts in the category all have a hook; a cow-spot box (Gateway); a beautifully engineered instrument by ex-Olivetti folk (ThinkPad), or dare we mention the skin of Apple. Even the most grating ad campaign of the late ’90s burned the Dell name in everyones head while aiming at a college-bound stoner crowd, “Dude, you’re gettin’ a Dell.”


The new Compaq identity is a new slate for the company. Magic happens when you roll over the nuclear family on the website. The Q becomes a huge speech bubble voicing consumer dreams and needs. This transparent gesture is playful and smart. Speech is not an original idea; however in context, the Q suggests that Compaq is listening and reacting to different types of consumers.

Indeed, if Compaq aims to be populist by selling down-market computers and laptops for the not-Apple crowd, they’ll have to put their ear to billions of consumers. (They already have a $450 laptop.) Their new Democratic slogan, “See why Compaq gets people talking,” may get tired, but the perverse Q finally means…something.

The forms of the new logo are techy but sexy. Tough-but-fleshy gestalt forms appear to be drawn by happy engineers with protractors who also happen to make trustworthy hardware. The flood of red is passionate with hints of cherry and a pomegranate aftertaste; making spreadsheets has never been so seductive. And if you’re one of the many who find reproduction sexy, you can certainly imagine the logo going through a fax machine, or re-entering the atmosphere well at 60’ x 10’ on a space-shuttle. Well done, Compaq. See you in the future.




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