Established in 1995, Yahoo was one of the first internet juggernauts, serving as a portal into the web for hundreds of thousands of internet n00bs. Today, well, it’s big and it has… stuff on it. News, sports, games, other stuff, and then there are its more well rewarded properties: Flickr and Marissa Mayer (CEO and President since July 2012). The latter reinvigorated the former earlier this year with modicum success and now Mayer is trying to bring Yahoo back into the public’s awareness. And boy, she did. Thirty days ago, Yahoo announced it would be changing its logo at midnight today and that in the 29 days leading to it they would put up a new logo. After much build-up the new logo has been introduced and was designed by Mayer herself and Yahoo’s in-house design team.
29 Days of Build-Up
The new logo will be a modern redesign that’s more reflective of our reimagined design and new experiences. To get everyone warmed up, we are kicking off 30 days of change. Beginning now, we will display a variation of the logo on our homepage and throughout our network in the U.S. for the next month. It’s our way of having some fun while honoring the legacy of our present logo.
We also want to preserve the character that is unique to Yahoo! — fun, vibrant, and welcoming — so we’ll be keeping the color purple, our iconic exclamation point and of course the famous yodel. After all, some things never go out of style.
The reactions to Yahoo’s 30 Days of Change stunt were mostly negative at worst and skeptical at best. No one came out and said “This is going to be great! Yahoo has my undivided attention for 30 days!”. It got a lot of publicity on the first and second days and then it fizzled slowly, even for me — where my job is to keep tabs on things like this, I just didn’t bother checking anymore. But, in contrast to most opinions, I actually thought this was a pretty astute idea: (1) It preemptively warned the millions of people that read Yahoo that change was coming so that there weren’t any surprises; (2) it demonstrated an exhaustive exploration of potential logos, basically shutting down all the usual “Isn’t my Yahoo logo better?” Dribbble posts; and (3) no one, not a single company this size or any size, has ever done this. Whether it was a good or bad idea isn’t the ultimate point, the fact that they did it was ingenious in itself.
Another complaint was that by showing 29 logos that are basically typographic explorations diminished the importance of the logo design process: You don’t just throw 30 logos out in the wind and see which one flies. No, you are supposed to engage in research and delve into the deepest corners of the company culture to emerge with a single, untouchable logo idea that captures every single essence of the company and… well, let me tell you that idealized process rarely happens, especially with companies this size, where it’s not uncommon, at all, for large design firms to show 10, 20, 30, 100 different logos, all equally feasible as logos to adopt. What made Yahoo’s effort more questionable is that it just seemed like a font-choosing exercise but the point is missed: we need to assume the decision was made that Yahoo needed to have a wordmark, not a doodad or an icon or a new illustration, just typography that seemed fun and was an evolution of the old. Then, all the above explorations are perfectly on target. Some suck, yes, but, again, none of them are out of the realm of possibilities as potential logos and most of them are reflective of what the larger percentage of design firms would have explored and shown to Mayer had they been given the same brief.
So, the stunt was mostly just a stunt but it worked in creating expectation and giving Yahoo some momentum into launching its logo. The problem is: the result did not deliver. Showing mildly venturesome graphic approaches throughout the 29 days gave me hope that there would be something radically cool at the end of the process. There wasn’t.
1 Day of Disappointment
On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)
So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail.
We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo — whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Having a human touch, personal. Proud.
We didn’t want to have any straight lines in the logo. Straight lines don’t exist in the human form and are extremely rare in nature, so the human touch in the logo is that all the lines and forms all have at least a slight curve.
There it is: Yahoo’s new logo. And it’s just… fine. Had the old logo been introduced today it would have been panned for being too silly and child-like and Western-y but we’ve all come to appreciate its quirkiness. From all the explorations to end up with a Humanist sans serif a la Optima feels like such a big disappointment. Not because the wordmark is bad — it’s actually fairly nice — but because of the raised expectations that their new logo could be so radically different that it demanded 30 days of preparing the public. The most daring move Yahoo made was introducing the chiseled execution which is actually fairly daring for an audience that likes new, shiny things not old, musty things like the Trajan Column.
Overall, I am as disappointed as most people will be but I honestly believe there is some merit to the final logo and its subtleties. I also have the strange feeling some people will be disappointed with me for not ripping this logo apart but, let’s admit it, as much as it could have been better, it could have been a heck of a lot worse.