Thursday, June 04, 2009

Annoying Trends

I was reading the New York Times on Sunday. They had an interesting article about how some well known brands had changed their logos and trademarks in recent years.

The theme of the article is how many of these corporations are going for a "kinder, gentler" approach to their new logos. Soft colors, lower case letters, and bits of flowery flare are the main features. What bothers me about the trend is how similar all these new logos are to each other. Meant to be empathetic to the plight of the average Americans financial struggles, It comes across as patronizing and dull.

Walmart probably needed to change its logo because of its somewhat negative reputation, and I think they did a good job. The old one was okay but represents the Walmart of low pay, ruthless business techniques, and cheaply made products. The new one seems to be an attempt to make right with their critics. Changes are a coming, so let's start with the logo, add a sun like icon that can be applied to house products. Lighten the blue color to evoke sky and water and people might think you are environmentalists.

Kraft, on the other hand has one of the best known logos in history. Almost up there with Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Ford. As far as I know they haven't been having financial difficulties or controversy that warranted a change in their logo. Regardless, They came up with a bland all lower case corporate logo and a really bizarre icon that looks like an exploding butterfly. What this has to do with food is beyond my limited thinking. The only thing they kept from the old logo is the color blue for the Kraft name and the red from the stylized box, to form a smile, or is it a smirk, that maybe suggests that the exploding butterfly is food gunk, colorful food gunk.

Speaking of color, the new Cheer logo is an improvement over the old in that it does two things that the old one doesn't. One, it evokes what the product does with its swirl of color, suggesting it cleans clothes and keeps the color intact. The gradiated blue looks like water in a front loading washer. The logo is a little feminine but that's the target demographic. The font is a little more distinctive than the others, though I like the old font's compressed lettering a little better.

Stop & Shop had a decent logo going on but the business itself has gone through some confusing changes and acquisitions in the last twenty years. I thought it went out of business with Bradlees.It needed to reintroduce itself to the Northeastern public. The new logo is terrific. The words Stop & Shop is a little dull but the colorful bowls tossed out of the big yellow bowl makes me think of a tossed salad. Since organic, fresh food is a continuing asset for supermarkets, Stop & Shop has the opportunity to break into the "Whole Foods" like market. The logo works for that purpose.

Superfresh is a company I'm unaware of, but the old logo is typical of the 80's trend of making logos as boring as possible. The new one is not quite as dull, It's more corporate than grocery like. It is better, though. It uses two muted colors that evoke water and plants, cleverly using the same shape that suggests on one side, a water drop and the other side, a leaf.

Sysco is the quintessential heartless corporation who is the largest distributor of food in North America. Anyone who has worked in restaurants is familiar with Sysco and its logo is very iconic. The box icon that accompanies it has the Sysco name hidden in it. Now, Sysco maybe thinks it needed to soften their image like Wal-Mart did. They went even softer than WalMart and eliminated their box icon. They softened the blue color, went mostly lowercase and eliminated the serifs, they added a leaf to suggest food but really, Sysco is best known for frozen fried food and canned goods, not fresh vegetables. Ultimately it is unmemorable, dully corporate, and compared to the other logos a cliche. They lost their identity.

QuickChek made an unnecessary lateral move in changing their logo. The old one is solid, the slant and the red line suggests speed. The new one again uses a Trebuchet like font, and a leaf that makes a green "O" into a "Q". I think losing the red bar eliminated their brand identity. I never regarded QuickChek as either evil or lacking an identity to make the change. Their change probably won't inspire a Tropicana like rebellion.

Now, Blackwater IS an evil organization, so evil they eliminated their name from their logo all together. They changed it to the ultimate generic name Xe, which looks like the stock symbol for Xerox or the periodic table symbol for Xenon. Blackwater's old logo looks like a right winger's wet dream of shooting bears in the foot. In reality it's a vigilante group started by a trust fund kid, that helped arm terrorists in South America, convinced the Bush administration to pay them to privatize some military duties, but with an added expense and more disastrous results. They got exposed for what they were and a name change became necessary. The old logo is spooky, like something a survivalist group would come up with. The new one, who knows, I didn't until I read this article. It's hard, corporately dull but maybe they hope they could trick Obama with the name change to continue to use their services. Keep hope alive.

This trend semmed to start when at&t reinvented itself a few years ago as a cellphone service provider. They kept the same color scheme as their old logo but went lowercase because it relates to texting on a cell phone.

Pepsi is guilty of this too, Then again they always change their logo every decade or so. Everyone now feels they have to follow suit which bugs me in that no one wants to stand out from other companies with their new logos. It's like we're only seeing one person's vision for corporate identity. Is the market for graphic designers that small these days?

1 comment:

Joey B said...

Good observations, Steve. I always liked Stop & Shop, because it was so obvious but in a kitschy way, and actually a simple straightforward design. But it was more the co. that needed an image update and the tossed salad/tossed bowls organic-y looking logo is quite effective.
Blackwater becomes Xe? (shudder) I don't even want to know why...