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Recent Rebrandings

1. Martha Stewart Living [View before and after]
Briefly: The September issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine features a new masthead playing down the “Martha Stewart” part of the name.

2. Sears [View before and after]
Briefly: Sears has recently adopted a lowercase version of their logo, with an additional swoosh for good measure.
Thanks to typophile for the tip.

3. MBNA [View before and after]
Briefly: MBNA, the world’s largest independent credit card issuer recently revealed a new logo to be implemented starting in 2005. The News Journal recently reported that Mark Levitt, Director of Brand Management at MBNA, said “the company went through ‘thousands’ of versions before settling on one.”

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ARCHIVE ID 2076 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON Sep.13.2004 BY David Weinberger
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

1. Shame. That "g" at the end of "Living" kills me. It looks like Verdana (i don't think it is, i'm talking what it evokes to me) and I hate Verdana for pretty much any printed application. Of course, many desigers will sing the praises of the thinned-out path tracing the type, but I'll have to work on getting past that "g" first. Oh, is it just me, or are the letters poorly kerned?

2. Hooray for Sears. Years too late, I can finally "see the softer side". But what the heck is with that swoosh? And why is it that only "ears" is swooshed anyway? Does Ears... ahem, sears, want us to know that it's listening to its customers?

3. MBNA seems to be horribly unconcerned with design... interesting that they went through "thousands" of logos before picking one. Of course, isn't that what normally happens in a rebrand? And, of course, while MBNA has a new logo, it goes to show that they don't really "get it", since their website is still using the old logo and without a doubt one of the ugliest websites I've ever seen. Unless that's their brand strategy.

On Sep.13.2004 at 08:32 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

Any more info on the strategy behind MBNA? That's a radical shift in design statements. I'd like to know some background.

Visually speaking, the mbna mark suggests a much friendlier financial organization. They do have a fair amount of "community" language on their website, so the multi-colored tree speaks to that. Lots of colors in that tree...none seeming to match the logotype's color, which I find odd. The logo and typography don't really lock together well except for the common baseline. I'll bet the logo looks nice up large, especially if the "dots" are mottled colors and not solid.

So, for the guts to do something out of the norm for a financial services firm, I give them a big thumbs up.

On Sep.13.2004 at 09:00 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Martha Stewart:

Andrew, the g. Yup.


Obviously they got the memo. The one that says all mega-corporations must have round &/OR fluffy &/OR happily multicoloured logos (preferably &, not OR).

I guess it doesn't look bad. But the blue & black combination is interesting.

Andrew again, "...to be implemented starting in 2005."

On Sep.13.2004 at 09:06 AM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

MBNA: Where Credit is Like a Delicious Candy Tree!

(i.e. Too much is bad for your health)

On Sep.13.2004 at 09:08 AM
David Weinberger’s comment is:

Any more info on the strategy behind MBNA?

Here is the article.

On Sep.13.2004 at 09:16 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Jon, I'm confused about the guts bit. It seems to me they are just following the trend

Abbey - fuzzy edges, happy colours (Old logo)

Unilever - happy images

GE - lots of colours, round typeface


I think all these new logos work well (GE especially, Abbey not so much), but I fail to see the bravery now that it's the popular thing to do.

On Sep.13.2004 at 09:18 AM
Arikawa’s comment is:

Add Xerox to the recently rebranded list.

Press release

On Sep.13.2004 at 09:27 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

So is MBNA saying that money grows on trees?

On Sep.13.2004 at 09:46 AM
ps’s comment is:

i find the Sears change most interesting. and i wonder how long they will stick with this one. or if its just a planned stage to avoid alienating folks who currently recognize the company's logo. but were the hell did the swoosh come from...

On Sep.13.2004 at 10:15 AM
kevin’s comment is:

Martha needed to get outside the box; there's a little too much irony with her in a little red cell in the corner separated from the "Living". Too bad it draws attention to the ugly G.

On Sep.13.2004 at 10:20 AM
marian’s comment is:

Hunh. I don't have a problem with that "g". I mean, if you stare at it, sure, I wouldn't make a poster out of it and put it on my wall (but I would make a poster out of a Gills Sans "g", whereas I won't use the typeface), but I find it friendly and open (the banner/masthead); it looks much better to me than the previous version.

As for Sears, this is the kind of half-change that is, imho, a waste of time and money. The logo is still hideously ugly, only now it's disfigured by a 10-yr-old logo trend (the swoosh). What's the point?

Actually, I think Sears should take MBNA's logo, and MBNA should maybe try another thousand logos on in Sears' changing room, just for the helluvit.

On Sep.13.2004 at 10:57 AM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

MS Livng- Indicted for Who Cares award.

Sears- Attention K Mart meaningless swoosh shoppers!

MBNA- Dig it. Much nicer.

XEROX- Yawn. Hell bent for Optima 60's- esque. Another half-decent Landor mark bites the dust.

On Sep.13.2004 at 11:30 AM
Greg’s comment is:

1. Eesh. The new g is hideous. And, improperly kerned. There was nothing wrong with the original version, but I do like the placement of the "Martha Stewart" name better. Wouldn't surprise me if they dropped it completely in the next year or so, though. Frankly, I think a tightly kerned serif font would do better than a loose sans for the type of magazine it is.

2. I like the Sears rebranding... or rather I would if it had happened six years ago. The old logo still says "power tools" to me, while the new says "home appliance." I hope they break out something else soon, to say "clothes, home appliance, and power tools." A tall order, maybe, but possible (maybe just take out the bars in the letters?). Probably won't happen though.

3. It's fun when 70's logos become modern (or should I say, post-modern) too fast. I think the black and blue is odd, the tree is okay with the colors, but they really are trying too hard to make the money/tree connection. Most people won't catch it though. It's better than the money/old-rich-white-dude connection they had before.

On Sep.13.2004 at 12:20 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

The Living masthead layout makes much more sense to me now. But I loved the old "g" and at first glance hated the new one. But with the rounding-out of the tittle's, it all does seem to coordinate well together.

I like the new Sears logo a lot for staying very true to the original logo (same font) and changing/adding attributes (lowercase/swoosh) that immediately say "we still recognize our history but we're not stuck in the past". Of late, too many rebranding "stratagies" seem to abandon the old brands' equity by either using all new fonts or unsuccessfully keeping the wrong elements in the new logo. My only complaint for Sears is that the "r" looks very funny to me as the top seems much too thick. There's just not enough space in that top crevice.

I could read the old MBNA logo fairly easily, but now I can't. My eyes either want to go to the negative space in the "b" or the "a" first, or the colorful money-growing tree on the right. If the tree were on the left, then I could read the logo from left-to-right as I am supposed to do.

On Sep.13.2004 at 12:21 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

JonSel, Marian, Felix.

How insightful, all are correct and with my line of thinking.

Martha Stewart, Squared Identity,understandably lost some prominence. The new logotype is less prominent. Make Sense, brings less attention to her name. While the company responsitions itself.

Sears The underline doesn't inhance the Identity. It's so PASSE' Albeit a Meaningless Crutch.

The only Swoosh if you want to call it that; I am endeard to. Are the Identities for Whirl Pool, Screen Gems, United, and Nike.

The trend with underlining Logotypes began with Darrell Hayden's Visa Identity.

I love Hayden's Visa Identity Solution. Original.

I vehemently hate copy cats.


I understand your jubilation having to look at the Sears Tower everyday in Chicago. Any change will probably be a good one or a step in the right direction.

I wonder if Sears will change the Identity on the Tower? If they do, document it and post on S.U.

From an Identity Standpoint. The aforemention Guru's are correctomundo in reference to Sears.

MBNA It's about time. Great makeover. Friendlier Design. Will have as much longevity as the former Identity.


Ask Tony Asher about Darrell Hayden.

He's a Big Fish Alumni.

On Sep.13.2004 at 02:09 PM
David V.’s comment is:

DesignMaven Wrote: MBNA It's about time. Great makeover. Friendlier Design. Will have as much longevity as the former Identity.

A little TOO friendly, no? It just seems like such a shallow and blatant attempt at "see? We're a WARM and FUZZY company!" The old star-wars-reminiscent style MBNA logo struck terror into the hearts of 90% of its customers, because they knew it from their (often overdue) credit card bills, and it won't be long before the new logo has the same effect, happy-tree or no happy-tree. Kind of like dressing prison guards up in clown suits, they may look friendlier but the prisoners will only be fooled for about 2 seconds, if even that long, and the second the guard hits them with the taser the squeaky nose will lose its effectiveness.

On Sep.13.2004 at 02:26 PM
Tom B’s comment is:

I'm not sure the new MBNA logo is the best solution (in fact it's a bit pathetic) but I'm glad they've finally got rid of the oblique M and the left-handed-oblique A sloping in opposite directions. I've always hated this. It looks like it starts at both ends and crashes together unconfortably in the middle. Sort of books on a shelf with no bookends - ugly and untidy.

Regarding the new logo, though: I understand the trend of making financial sevices appear more friendly, but this shouldn't equate to making them look wimpy and ineffectual.

One of my favourite financial brands is Smile, the on-line offshoot of the Co-operative bank. A good example of branding that isn't just about a logo.

On Sep.13.2004 at 04:01 PM
Josh Williams’s comment is:

All three are better than their predecessors, but the Sears swoosh is the biggest mistake, distracting from the more powerful (yet still softer) option of simply using the text. It actually cheapens the brand.

MBNA is a huge improvement. Whether or not you care for the tree of many colors is your own call.

Living should have simply removed Martha all together.

On Sep.13.2004 at 04:37 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

David V:

Thanks for the laugh. Certainly, don't mean that in a snide way.

Seems MBNA is a Paper Tiger compared to these Preditors.

Did I say Preditors.

I meant Cre...

Load this link into your browser.


On Sep.13.2004 at 05:20 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> I like the new Sears logo a lot for staying very true to the original logo

Being a stickler for execution, I find the Sears logo to be an absolute travesty. Yes, it stays "true" to the original logo, but the characteristics that made the original work so well are completely bastardized in this new version. In the uppercase version the white dividing line worked really well because it created a very obvious symmetry in the letters; in this new version the white line wreaks havoc in every letter, except for the "s"s.

This logo does nothing to further the brand. I am more than sure that most people will never realize that Sears switched from uppercase to lowercase, and the red swoosh is so generic that it does nothing to make Sears unique. Really, really lame effort.

The only goal this logo achieves is mediocrity.

On Sep.13.2004 at 05:41 PM
frank’s comment is:

yeah I think it's pretty unanimous that

the Sears logo really sucks.

Out of curiousity, does anybody know who

redesigned the new Sears logo?

on that train of thought...how bout

the MBNA logo?

On Sep.13.2004 at 10:36 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

I disliked the old Sears logo and I dislike the new Sears logo. There was a slightly different version before the previous one where the inline did a really peculiar thing as it turned on the S. I really disliked that one. If Helvetica Black Italic was meant to have an inline, God would have made it that way.

They should return to their really old logo: just upper and lower case Century Schoolbook in a rectangle. Don't laugh, it would look pretty damn hip these days.

On Sep.13.2004 at 11:25 PM
Su’s comment is:

1. Eh.

2. Ew.

3. Ew.

If the magazine wanted to downplay the Martha connection, they probably should've just gotten rid of it. They're not fooling anyone. Plus, I keep reading it as [Night of the] "Living Martha Stewart" now.

A solid lowercase "Sears" on its own might've been okay. The inline looks hideous. Everyone else has already said the swoosh makes no damn sense, not that it's exactly common that any logo swoosh makes sense, but hey.

Michael: Yes, much nicer. What did you think of the other, extra-fancy inline one?

Also, Ooh. The packrat wants.

I see a tree full of candy, too. Sure, the old logo looked dated, but it's not like the new one seems modern to me, either, plus I've always had a problem with lowercase acronyms; just doesn't seem right. Also, there's eight colors in that thing. I'm sure the usage guidelines are lots of fun.

On Sep.14.2004 at 04:13 AM
Michael H.’s comment is:

Hmmm... after reading everyone's reasons for disliking the Sears logo I realized that myself (being a stickler for longevity in logo's) wasn't really listening to my gut reaction: it did still look dated. But I wasn't sure whether or not that reaction was from an early childhood memory of the first time I saw the logo: as large letters on top of their section of a strip mall that only old people went to (along with Montgomery Ward's). So with that (and the history behind Sears) I only think of Sears itself as being dated and not as a place to shop... therefor the logo always seemed appropriate to me. When I think of power tools and accessories I think of DeWalt and Black & Decker at Lowe's.

As far as "Martha Stewart" still being the in the Living masthead, I imagine this is just a transitional phase and her name will be gone in 6-9 months.

DesignMaven said:

Did I say Preditors.

I meant Cre...

That's clever DesignMaven, and thanks for the link.

On Sep.14.2004 at 08:14 AM
szkat’s comment is:

when i worked on a Sears account, they recognized the sentiments expressed by Michael H.; they said, "we know we're like the Honda of this market. We want to be the BMW." and yet no one i know, including myself, can put their finger on what exactly keeps their reputation in a place that's "they're alright, but i'd rather not shop there. old people shop there."

my grandparents shopped at Montgomery Ward's too, and Field's. they read the Chicago Tribune, which i read on sundays. so how does Sears break free of that perception???

as far as knowing who designed it, the best guess i can come up with is in-house. the Sears HQ facility is immense, including their marketing department. they concepted this Christmas tree for the holiday season last year, it was a stylized tree that originated from a doodle done by one of the people there. i had to recreate it in illustrator, and next thing you know we're implementing it in all of our direct marketing media and it's smeared all over the stores. and it was someone's rough sketch, like hey-how-bout-this. i have to wonder if the swoosh is of a similar invention.

but the question remains: can Sears be something else? i'd love to see people concept ideas in the logo smackdown. maybe we should start an article on this. suggestions for Sears.

i also think most of the criticisms of the other logos run in a narrow vein and i think i agree with those veins. "eh." was a good response.

On Sep.14.2004 at 09:05 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> If Helvetica Black Italic was meant to have an inline, God would have made it that way.

Darn it… I wish I could enter the poster contest.

On Sep.14.2004 at 11:30 AM
Joshua H.’s comment is:

Yeah - I'd have to agree with the Sears' swoosh. It seems like a desperate attempt to reclaim customers with a "new and exciting" logo like K-Mart did a few years ago.

The MBNA logo...meh...back to the drawing board please...

Paul Rand once stated, "In our business there is an insidious thing called 'making a living'. A lot of studios have a lot of people who have nothing to do, so they have to keep them busy.

"So what they will do is knock other design studios or write letters to clients (that happened to me many times) a studio decides to re-do the ABC account, not because, or any reason, for no other fact that they wanted to get a job, and to keep their studio busy. So they tried, they had a survey and (I did not expect to be getting into this) they made a survey and discovered that of the four or three big broadcasting companies, ABC, NBC, and CBS, that ABC did not have something that is alive. There was no chicken or coots, or eyes. It was something inanimate.

"Therefore, if you follow that kind of peculiar reasoning you would decide we better get something in here, a snake or a rabbit or something. It is a long story, in the end the client, the company was just bought by one of these conglomerates. The client was worried. He hired a bunch of designers to do new logos. This is true, and for some reason, I never saw what they did, but they were rejected. Another guy from an agency decided, well why do not we go to an art school, you know like this (ASU). Maybe there is some genius running around, you know, like Mozart or Hayden or Beethoven, maybe this is the way to do it.

"Well, they did it and got nothing but junk. After all that they decided to do a survey of the logo that I did (ABC) the results were enormously favorable to the company because it has enormous recognition almost 100% recognition. They immediately stopped. That is the reason you still have ABC, except that they are screwing around with it, they make it thin and ruin the drawing, but it is still ABC. This is what happens in our business." | ARTICLE

Once you've been using a logo for awhile, it might be bad, but you have customer recognition. I remember something else Rand stated once. Something all the lines of that what makes a logo work isn't always the design. It's the business. A lot of bad companies have great logos, but you don't care - because they're horrible companies. And some great companies have horrible companies, but you don't care, because you like the company.

On Sep.15.2004 at 03:10 PM
MisterKen’s comment is:

see that, Martha goes off to prison and the magazine goes all to hell in one issue.

perhaps the title has changed as well

'Livin g' with the sassy apostrophe missing from the title! What up G?! Those gals from the Hamptons wanna come off all street and urban.

did anyone else take offense to the weird bullet points at the side? lowecase, Initial caps and ALL CAPS! Now all we need is italics and underlined to really work that layout program!

You GO girls! Play graphic designer until that witch gets outta da' joint!

On Sep.15.2004 at 05:15 PM
heather’s comment is:

to add to the mix, i just ran across this in Elle magazine:

i'm not sure how long ago Noxema launched this...


On Sep.16.2004 at 09:07 AM
szkat’s comment is:

eh. i'm pretty tired of seeing that sneeze-colored green. as if garnier fructisse (sp?) wasn't blinding enough first thing in the morning. thankfully, it all plays into my hawaiian themed bathroom.

it's interesting that i see that dropped O and think, "they're trying to make me think they use more oxygen than the average soap."

also worth noting are the fine lines around the dots in the label. i saw a presentation at the STEP/stretch conference in Chicago about branding, and this guy had at least a dozen examples of logos that were tired, then they went through the "spin machine" and came out the other side with similar lines and swooshes and other things that were basically compsed of a streamlined version of the logo situated in a contrast colored oval outline. kind of the quick-fix of logoland.

On Sep.16.2004 at 09:32 AM
Ben Wexlar’s comment is:

I can't help but think that a bunch of grumpy corporate suits saw a bunch of great ideas for new identities for each of these groups and still chose the crappiest ones, or the ones that brought only a minor upgrade to the brand instead of a cohesive one, leaving us with an incomplete feel to each one. There was some serious equity with the color square/bar with Martha Stewart on it, and as for the typeface used: why fix what ain't broken? I understand they wanted a "friendlier look," but as everyone has said, the new "g" is hideous and the look seems so cliche.

MBNA went drifted so far from shore that I am confusing their new logo/identity with a neighborhood after-school children's program instead.

Sears, on the other hand, needed this. For some reason, they managed to keep the double lines of their Star Wars-esque old logo and apply it to a mixed case logotype. Unfortunately, someone — most likely not a designer — approved the red swoosh in order to feel trendy. Too bad it has no relevance to Sears, whatsoever.

On Sep.18.2004 at 07:01 PM
Nary’s comment is:

I totally agree with you, Ben, MBNA looks like it wants to get into the child day care business. you know, getting them while they're young - debt for toddlers...

I think it's a consensus that the swoosh sucks. As for making Living friendly-looking, maybe they shoulda used Comic Sans. Just kidding!

Nary ducks as ripe tomatoes are thrown her way

On Sep.19.2004 at 12:45 AM
Sam Sherwood’s comment is:

So, I was perusing the paper this morning, and there happened to be a Sears ad (I know... big surprise!). The swoosh is actually missing, replaced by their tagline, 'Good Life. Great Price.' So, I'm betting the swoosh is only meant for their online presence. Not that this makes it any better, but you probably won't be seeing that particular nastiness on any buildings anytime soon.

The lowercase, on the other hand, is still there. It certainly feels more friendly, but I didn't much care for either of the two originals. Hopefully it's just a stepping stone into something more easy on the ol' peepers.

On Sep.19.2004 at 01:37 PM
heather’s comment is:

not true. the swoosh was present for an on-air campaign i saw this weekend. but they used the whole logo in white (including swoosh). however, it didn't help to tie the two marks together in any way.

On Sep.20.2004 at 11:20 AM
Sam Sherwood’s comment is:

Hmmmm... funky. So, they either choose to employ a cheesey tagline OR a cliche graphic. I bet they figure the usage of both should be saved for emergencies only.

There's a big red button under glass somewhere labeled, "DEPLOY SWOOSH AND SLOGAN". Naturally, it takes two senior level marketers to activate.

On Sep.20.2004 at 06:26 PM
Todd Dominey’s comment is:

Totally agree with the majority on Sears and (especially) MBNA (the after-school program swipe was spot-on), but I partially disagree on jailbird Martha.

For one, it took a lot of nerve to drop the colored-corner-box treatment. Like it or not, it's a very recognizable, eye-catching tool that distinguished the rag from all others. The cover simply doesn't look the same without it (in a good way).

Second, I like the (obvious relegation) of Martha's name to the right of the 'i'. It feels integrated with the title, instead of an appendage.

Third, I like the more condensed type, their taller x-height, and most importantly the rounded dots on the i's. It's less clunky, softer.

As for that g......well, it harmonizes pretty well with the 'n', but it sure is fugly. At first I thought it was pretty nice, but the longer I look at it the uglier it becomes.

On Sep.23.2004 at 11:48 AM
Ryan P’s comment is:

I'm trying to find out which firm designed the Visa logo that has the "swoosh" beneath it. Then I saw the following comment from Design Maven:

"The trend with underlining Logotypes began with Darrell Hayden's Visa Identity."

Who is Darrell Hayden, and what firm does he / did he work for at the time? Does anybody know?

On Jan.20.2005 at 12:15 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

I'm not sure who Darrell Hayden is, but I'm pretty sure the Visa with swoosh was done by Landor in San Francisco.

On Jan.20.2005 at 01:55 PM
brian’s comment is:

MBNA is ready to lauch their regretful new mark on the Superbowl this weekend. Here is the follow-up website:


The spot from the Helm Agency, New York featuring Gladys Knight can be seen here:

AdAge TV Commercials of Note

On Feb.03.2005 at 04:16 AM
Sparky Carlyle’s comment is:

"Gladys Knight and the Rugby team"

A classic example of a "who cares" spot. The average person ( I am one of them) is too busy mentally dissing the commercial that the name recognition gets nowhere.

On Mar.08.2005 at 01:36 AM
Haig Bedrossian’s comment is:

mbna - have you seen the tagline? "If your into it, we're into it."

what the heck does that mean? certainly not a descriptor to "mba" opps!, i mean "mbna".

found a flash tour that used their new idenity (bottom of their site shows new logo, click that)

On Mar.08.2005 at 09:32 AM
Mark’s comment is:

1.Martha Stewart living's logo needs to fix the "g"

2.The new Sears logo can live without the red "swoosh"

3.MBNA's new logo. My comment GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD!

mbna's logo looks too childish when I saw its new commercial I could not relate it to as a credit card company.

On Aug.18.2005 at 02:36 PM