This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.
A year ago, almost to the date, I wrote a heartfelt and disparaging review of the redesign of the Payless Shoesource identity on Speak Up — Brand New’s “mom” as I like to call it. Since the launch of this blog, the most requested logo review and/or tip has been for Payless. More than a dozen times. I always point our readers to the link above and explain that we try to keep our reviews as current as possible and prefer not to discuss older work. Until now I had refrained on bringing up Payless again, but the recurring requests are perhaps an indication (or is it vindication?) of my original feelings… That the old Payless identity, in all of its Cooper Black glory, had too much equity that could have been evolved instead of being replaced by an unnervingly meaningless icon and subjectively boring typography.
Receiving e-mails titled “New Payless Logo” [emphasis mine] many months after the new Payless logo was actually introduced was a bit disorienting: Why, after a year in the market, has the new identity not made a dent in people’s perception of the brand? Not even designers’. Even when Payless ran a TV ad campaign with plenty of airtime right after the redesign, it seems that it’s the old Cooper logo that people still think about when they think about Payless. I know I do. Of course, as with any major identity roll-out, specially one that involves more than 4,600 stores, the introduction is slow, specially in smaller markets and I think it’s the new stores that trigger most distinctions of change, rather than the logo. Having seen one of the new stores here in New York, I can attest to their improvement and enhanced appeal. Brighter and more colorful. Certainly, this is where the improvement was desperately needed, as going into a Payless store was one of the most depressing retail experiences.
Images from Payless’ 2006 Annual Report
However, the logo change — designed by dg* Desgrippes Gobe — is still in my mind one of the worst design, strategic and visual decisions made by both parties as it adds nothing to the brand and it does less in establishing any sort of personality. Unless bubbly vapidity counts as personality. Over the course of five years now, I have reviewed tons of identities, and every now and then I look back on some to see if I have changed my mind. With Payless, I’m happy to report that, indeed, I still find it a failure one year later.