Logo Design Love

For graphic designers and all who love logos.

When all PR isn’t good PR

bad publicity

People tell us there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I’ve often wondered if they’re talking crap.

From time to time a logo comes along that gets people talking. More often than not, it’s because the design’s contentious, and has some designers bent out of shape about the agency, or the money involved. In their defence, agencies responsible for contentious designs might say the publicity gained simply adds to the effectiveness and memorability. But do you want to be remembered for a logo that receives more bad remarks than good?

Here are a few logos that surfaced this past year, ones that got the profession talking.

Italy logo

Italy logo design

Almost a year ago to the day, Italy launched a new national logo. The design agency who won the tender was London-based Landor. They came in for a fair amount of criticism. Justified?

What others are saying about Italy’s logo:

London 2012 logo

London 2012 logo design

We’ve not seen the last of the London 2012 logo, designed by Wolff Olins, considering it’s another four years until the event. When first revealed, the TV ad campaign caused some people to have epileptic fits — not helping the Olympic Committee’s cause, but not all designers are speaking out against this one. Can you see the positives? Has the negative publicity lead to greater memorability? Is there such a thing as negative publicity?

What others are saying about the London 2012 logo:

Animal Planet logo

Animal Planet logo design

Whilst only changing their logo for US-based audiences, the British design firm Dunning Eley Jones has conjured the Animal Planet a strange looking design that appears awkward and squeezed together. I have an idea what the designers wanted to portray, but I don’t think the finished logo meets the initial concept at all. International rollout of the new logo is expected this summer.

Armin at Brand New initiated an interesting discussion about this one: new Animal Planet logo on Brand New. One comment, from Danny Tanner, is picked out and quoted below:

“The signature seems conceptually sound. Wild unorganized, chiseled, sharp, and unpredictable. Kinda like what would happen if you put ten monkeys in your apartment and then left for the day.

“Formally it leaves a lot to be desired.”
— DANNY TANNER

What others are saying about the Animal Planet logo:

Wacom logo

Wacom logo design

Wacom’s new logo was created by Wolff Olins, the same agency who brought us the design for London 2012.

It’s original, I’ll give them that.

What others are saying about Wacom:

Xerox logo

Xerox logo design

Striving to be seen less as a ‘copier’ company, and more as a ‘total solutions’ organisation, Xerox (with Interbrand) redesigned their logo in-line with latest trends. Whether or not there’s no such thing as bad publicity, this is one I’d not want to be associated with. I’d love to see the other designs that were put forward.

What others are saying about the Xerox logo:

What’s your take?

When a logo brings attention from an otherwise uninterested crowd, as in some cases above, can it be deemed a success in spite of what many believe to be poor design?

Negative PR. Is there such a thing, or is all publicity beneficial?

Update: 24 July 2012
A particularly relevant blog post: Is all publicity good publicity?

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, second edition

46 appreciated comments

  1. The Italia logo is horrible and, although it doesn’t seem to hurt italy’s image a lot, it is definitely a lousy publicity to Landor Associates.

    As for the Xerox logo, maybe it isn’t as bad as i thought. I still miss the old logo, and i still think this one is not a good logo (like i said before in the Brand New comments), but it represents change, and if that was the designer’s goal, that goal was also achieved by the discussion it created.

    I don’t dislike the Animal Planet logo that much.

  2. none of these logos are extremely bad, but on the other hand neither of them are justified by the cost of spending so much money designing them and promoting the new brand.
    What I would really love to see is the other options for those logos, to see what were available choices, concepts to somehow understand why these logos were the ones that got finalized and approved in the end.

  3. Yeah, I agree with Blaise, publicity due to negative reactions from the public surely doesn’t help Landor….but it does put the company’s name out there, in front of potential clients they may have never got to with standard advertising….so, I’m kind of on the fence about this question. Whether this type of publicity is good or bad in teh grand scheme of things.

    After a few days of seeing the animal planet logo, it is slightly growing on me, and I also liked the way they have animated in flash on the website, where the sideways “m” drops in to animal sounds.

    But then again, they could have easily just got rid of the planet off of the old logo and maybe livened it up a bit…

  4. The only logo from the list that I think is actually bad is Italia’s. I can read the others fairly quickly, but that one just breaks the word in such a way that there is no connection to the original “t”. I don’t know what got over them…

    My favourite is London 2012. I think it’s original, it’s not as dull as the other logos for the O.Games, and it’s pretty adaptable. They just chose the wrong colour to go with, between all the others they could choose from (and that they’ve also been using).

  5. In my opinion, the Animal Planet logo isn’t bad. I like the green, the diversity and the wildness. I don’t really care it breaks typographic laws.

    I think there’s such a thing as bad publicity. Getting noticed isn’t everything. Depending on the branch, a company’s logo could generate negative feelings and thus direct customers to alternatives. And what about merchandising?

    I think it’s a better idea to be positively noticed, but that’s harder and might costs more money.

  6. Yaili, likewise, I don’t think the Italia logo did Landor any favours, although searching for positives, at least it’s simple.

    Diogo, regarding Xerox, what would worry me is that in two years it’ll appear dated, whereas the older design would last. On the plus side, I do like the type treatment, and think Interbrand achieved the friendlier look they were going for.

    Blaise, “Getting noticed isn’t everything.” I too believe that some publicity can be more damaging than not — that a brand can need a complete overhaul before recovering. BTCellnet comes to mind. It was changed to O2, successfully in my opinion.

    Vivien, great point about the budget. I’d also love to see the variations that were pitched, and to know the reasoning behind particular choices.

    Brian, the Animal Planet logo has grown on me too, even though a lesser adaptation of the old logo could have saved a lot of design hours. It’s a fresh look.

  7. The Italia logo and the 2012 London logo shares both 1 very important need… people involved with the event and the country needs to feel proud of it!
    While the 2012 logo will get all the bad publicity it wants and the shock value that Wolf Olins certainly desired… at the end the logo will never be appreciated by anyone and we will look like a dirt spot on every branded elements. It is an extremely easy to remember logo… will it leave good aesthetic memories?… I am not so sure…

    Animal planet is an excellent logo… many ways to interpret it all fitting very well with animals and wilderness… and a lot of playful things to do with it in terms of animation.

    Wacom is a mistery… not bad, not great… original… maybe… not sure.

    Xerox got a really bad deal with interbrand… let’s take the last trend and see if it holds… we just take $2.25M for our brillant 2.0 brand strategy… please come back to us next year if the glossy look is not in fashion anymore…

  8. In my mind, the Wacom logo is by far the worst offender. For a company that profits off of professional designers, they’re hardly appealing to their target audience with this Photoshop-for-dummies, beginner-level attempt.

    The new Xerox mark just gets a shoulder-shrug. It’s not awful to look at, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a slave to current design trends, not to mention an Xbox wannabe.

    As a lot of people have already said, the Animal Planet logo has benefited from a second look, and from some added touches like the subtle pattern in the lettering. I’m starting to like it more and more.

  9. You didn’t list the discussion on davidairey.com about the 2012 logo! Sure stirred up a passion didn’t it?

    I thought the T in Italia was an F at first and I couldn’t understand what it was saying. It’s… cute. But is that what Italy wants to say to the world? “I’m cute”?

    Animal Planet… I haven’t seen that new logo (not that I watch much TV). But “awkward and squeezed together” describes it perfectly. It feels stretched at points too (I and L). I think I wouldn’t mind it so much if that M wasn’t on its side. It’s the only letter that does that and it seems like they were just trying to fill space. It’s not that the logo breaks typographic laws as Blaise mentioned, it’s that it breaks a design law (in a bad way), in that you shouldn’t have only one element that is different from the rest because it takes attention away from the whole and the viewer focuses on only that one bit which is different.

    While I don’t mind the Wacom logo so much, I’m also not sure what it’s supposed to be. You would think that such a high end company would want a logo that embodies what it produces a little more.

    I think the best example above (because for me it drew the most emotional response) is the 2012 logo. I only remember it with disgust and yes, I remember it, but in a very negative light. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

  10. David,

    I wrote a post mentioning both the Olympics and Xerox logos just a couple of weeks ago: Repeat After Me: I Do Not Need a Logo.

    I have intense love for many logos, but those two and Italy’s are on my hit list. Xerox’s is so derivative I can’t believe it made it out of the many committees it must have been slapped together by. It wouldn’t have made it out of a college brainstorming session when I was in school. The London Olympics? Just trash. So much has already been said about that one. The gobbledegook meaning they claim for it is nowhere to be seen.

    On the other hand, I like, and immediately understood and connected with, Animal Planet’s logo.

    I think Mae West said all publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right (?). The publciity might be good, but once you get your notoriety the idea is to be discovered—hidden gem becomes overnight sensation.

    These bad logos have no staying power in the mind of the public, and are not going to help their companies become overnight sensations.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  11. I actually like the “Xerox logo”, all I can say about “Wolff Olins” is that the whole company must be on drugs….

    The “Animal Planet logo” I also dont mind. Something different but could be used for years (apart from the web 2.0 shade).

  12. How about the New York City logo? That was the worst yet.

    http://www.nycvisit.com/

    I lived in NY (Brooklyn to be exact) for ten years. This logo totally doesn’t represent the energy, diversity and positive side of New York City.

  13. For the NYC logo, this is another Olins masterpiece… I think we begin to recognize the style.

  14. Didik

    My thoughts on the Italy logo:

    If I were not born in this world and suddenly looking at the Italy logo, I will spell it “Ifalia”. Why is the typeface between “i” and “alia” was made different?

    Overall, I think it’s quite simple, but not so good looking.

  15. Chaitanya,

    For as big as their name recognition is, Xerox is and has been for some time a company in BIG trouble. They really could have used the revitalization of a great new mark… or any revitalization. Being discussed as out of it and boring is something they were already pretty good at, and it’s odd that their new mark should reinforce that part of their brand Perception.

    I agree with you that for smaller companies who can’t throw another several hundred thousand at the problem… an unremarkable logo is part of that slippery slope to nowhere.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  16. mark

    Dave, unrelated to this post but I though it interesting… the link to “the design encyclopedia” made me smile. In the header image they mention that the best way to keep informed with them is through rss. check the font and tell me if to you it also reads…

    “…through our ass…”

    might just be the way it is displayed in my browser but it stopped me for a minute while I checked it.

  17. Kelly, I visited and left a comment (in disagreement with some points). It’d be interesting to have a look behind Xerox’s new design — to see how many people had input. For me, Animal Planet is the most effective of the five.

    Amanda Jo, not awful to look at, but stuck with latest trends, and it’s not an improvement. If you’re going to change, at least take a step in the right direction.

    Lauren, the 2012 logo kicked-up a fuss on my other site. I can see how you’d mistake the ‘T’ for ‘F’ in Italia. Not great. I’m with you on 2012.

    Yael, the NYC design had me confused. Thanks for your take.

    Jermayn, while I like the Xerox type, I don’t like the symbol. It won’t serve them for long.

    Chaitanya, I’m on the fence about the brand. Do you buy Xerox? You mention they’ve made a good impression in the market. It’s clear that their new identity was to draw themselves away from being known simply as a ‘copier’ company, but how effective has that been?

  18. For companies like Xerox, it’s not a big problem even if anything like this got some attention since they already made a good mark in the market. Moreover the ‘bad’ actually works as ‘good’ by grabbing some attention.

    But for start-ups and small or mid sized companies, many times ‘bad’ works as ‘bad’ only.
    Especially for prestigious events like olympics, where all eyes are on.

  19. Frank

    Being a logo designer myself, i wonder what has happened to some rules and principles of our craft that i thought were written in stone, like:

    – A logo should also work in b/w
    – A logo should’nt be too trendy(unless it’s for time-limited product)
    – A logo should be able to last for at least 5 years because of rebranding costs
    – A logo should work in small sizes just as well as in big size
    – A logo should be able to stand for itself, preferrably even without the company name
    – A logo should have a relation to the core strength/values/competencies/business nature and/or the company name

    And so on…

    Not limited to the logos shown above i lately see a trend towards logos that violate one or more of mentioned criteria, be it the logo doesn’t mean anything, it’s too detaled for small sizes or b/w, is too trendy etc etc.

    What surprises me is the “Emperor’s new clothes” effect not coming from little unknown agencies but some of the biggest names in this industry.It seems a lot of these agencies break the rules just for the sake of breaking them or maybe because they want to cross over to “art” and get recognition for that (?) but not because a strategy would really demand a breaking of the rules.

    Nothing against breaking the laws of good design from time to time but i still think a logo in the first place has a function and should have a strategic purpose and shouldn’t be mistaken for art.

    This trend really worries me.

  20. David> That’s sounds like a good idea to develop a bit more on Olins… after all it’s them who are creating so much brouhaha around logo design these days. It’s obviously the “controversial strategy” they are playing with using logos… but in the case of 2012 London, I think it’s a bit getting out of hands from what they expected. Being controversial is highly valued in the western world… but in the eastern and asian one what we consider a value turns easily into a sin or disrespect… Designing an olympic logo is about talking to the rest of the world while representing your own culture… Obviously while the controversial strategy plays out very well in the western world… Olins & the London committee have yet to see how it will plays out with the rest of the world.
    I am just fascinated how they are able to get acceptance on such designs… if they are not great designers they must be great lawyers. When was the last time we heard a brand designer making so much noise about a logo…?

    Frank> These rules you are citing do not apply so much anymore… while it still important to keep them in mind while producing a logo. But new technology, the fact that a logo will be animated and played around to give a sense of “attitude” integrates new rules of designing. One of them is “allow playfulness”. Logo rules have been set when computer did not exist and printing a document was not a common fact… you could not allow yourself to mess up… that’s why you have these very strict guidelines for simple logos such as 3M and Bell. But now limits have greatly expanded… breaking rules is fun too.

  21. Frank

    @Gregory:

    I kind of disagree, just because a logo these days can be animated and such (well i guess they could already do that in the Fifties in a way..) doesn’t make the rules less important.Actually it doesn’t change a thing – as long as old technology does still exist in everyday life like copy machines etc rules like “should work in b/w as well” still do apply.And of course when it comes to principles like “should have a meaning” etc these rules will probably always apply no matter what technology is available becaue these principles are not about technology but strategy.

  22. Frank> I am not saying “forget the rule and just do whatever photoshop allows you to do technically”. I am saying logos are evoluating in a much more complex world than during the 50’s and 60’s.
    There is so many logos these days… You can not just be a “memorable identificator stamps” for the product or the company… you also have to find some ways to “differentiate”… Doing what Xerox is doing is obviously the wrong way to put it mildly. But breaking rules is one way to differentiate and Animal Planet does it well, while London is inappropriate.
    I am on the fence with the NYC logo… there is something in it that actually represent well the toughness, character and tar covered city of NY. I think this logo have a chance to really grow on people after sometime.

  23. Talking about badly designed logos, how about the South African 2010 FIFA World Cup logo http://img154.imageshack.us/img154/6731/fifa2010logo0gl.gif

    Although, having written an essay on this in comparison with the FIFA Worl Cup logos through the ages, the only one that I feel was designed well was the Japan / Korea one.

  24. Frank,

    Good of you to leave your thoughts, a lot of which I agree with. I believe it’s important to keep an eye on latest trends, but feel that logos shouldn’t be designed with them in mind. Trends will come and go, and companies such as Xerox will end up spending more money than is necessary for the sake of a short-term fix (if you can call it a fix).

    Gregory,

    I think it says a lot about the London Olympics brand when television viewers here in the UK suffered epileptic seizures when watching their advertising. Is there really anything to worry about with other cultures though? I can’t see how the 2012 logo would cause upset, but perhaps you have more of an insight than I do.

    I’m interested to know which of the rules Frank mentioned you don’t think apply so much anymore. I feel that they’re just as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.

    Hila,

    That 2010 World Cup logo is horrendous. I can imagine the meeting, “Can we put this here? Oh, add that too. Don’t forget this.” I’m not too keen on the Korea / Japan World Cup logo either, and think there’s too much happening with the type treatment.

    Interesting that Germany and South Africa both incorporate the Japan / Korea logo inside their own. What’s that about?

  25. Apparently it’s the “world cup badge”.

    To answer the original question though, bad design can be good…for good design. What do I mean? When something so public is badly designed, it inspires good design.

    Here is an example of how the world cup logo did it (not all the logos are great but a lot are)
    http://www.notthe2010logo.co.za/all_logos.php

  26. Ah right, the ‘badge’ explains it, but if it’s in the brief to include the ‘badge’ I think the brief needs changed.

    I had a look at those alternative 2010 logos, and there’s only one I thought was a good idea:

    http://www.notthe2010logo.co.za/upbeat_logo.php?logo_id=57

  27. I come from a PR family – my dad had a career in PR, my mom was a PR specialist, and my sister ran her own advertising and PR firm. Around our house we were always told that there was no such thing a truly bad PR. My mom once told me – always make sure they spell your name correctly, even if it’s for a news item about being arrested. Most people will only remember that your name was in the paper and not that it was for a negative purpose.

    All the logos in question above have brought so much press and Internet attention to the clients and the design firms – and free publicity is not necessarily a bad thing at all.

  28. Jeff, thanks for giving your take. I’d read that statement before, about making sure they spell your name right. I think it was in a ProBlogger post about making sure they spell your web address right.

  29. I’ve been banging my head against this issue of late as well and after initially reacting very seriously against the London 2012 logo design i took a step back and reassessed my thoughts and perspective.

    I think it’s very difficult to say what good & bad design is in absolute terms. As designers we sometimes expect people to think our opinion should be the most important but often times we are biased. I think there are attempts being made on a number of fronts to bring about a new visual language, one which breaks from the norms.

    Lets be honest, it’s only a matter of time before design and visual style experiences a serious shift into unknown territory. This is the nature of culture and language, that things keep evolving and changing if only just to stay interesting. If we all agreed on design we might eventually find ourselves in a cookie cutter world where everything looks the same.

    I have my own thoughts on the designs discussed in this article form a designers perspective, but i think sometimes designers need to see things through the eyes of everybody else.

  30. “If we all agreed on design we might eventually find ourselves in a cookie cutter world where everything looks the same.”

    Great point, nomad.

    Although when you say that “sometimes designers need to see things through the eyes of everybody else” I think it’s important to take the target audience into consideration.

  31. Frank

    “I think it’s very difficult to say what good & bad design is in absolute terms.”

    Absolutely.Then again, design isn’t to be mistaken for art where it’s even harder to to determine what is good or bad art.At least, certain areas in design have a defined *business* purpose, like the fields of corporate design and more specific, logo design.So to judge the quality of a logo is not just a matter of likes or dislikes nor the question of “if it sells”.It’s rather a matter of certain strategic goals that have been met with a design or not.As outlined in my earlier post, logos have certain criterias that *have to* be met otherwise a logo will not work as a logo, no matter how high the artistic quality of the design. So at least in the terms of logo design I think it’s not too hard to say what is a good logo and what is not as we have some rules that are independent from trends and which simply originate from the very nature of logos and the reasons why there are logos at all. Just take a look at Leslie Cabarga’s great book “Logo, Font & Lettering Bible” and compare the great samples of german logos from the time of around 1913 to nowadays timeless logos such as Nikes’ swoosh, Paul Rands work etc and you’ll see there is a reason for mentioned rules and criteria.

    So what i see today with all these “2.0” and “artistic” logos and why i partially critisize them is not because i would dislike them in an artistic sense; it’s because a lot of them fail the non-artistic, strategic standards.

  32. Hi Frank,

    “…in the terms of logo design I think it’s not too hard to say what is a good logo and what is not as we have some rules that are independent from trends and which simply originate from the very nature of logos and the reasons why there are logos at all.”

    Absolutely. Thanks also for the book recommendation, too. I hadn’t seen that one.

  33. Nathan

    Bad logos for publicity? Not my cuppa tea. Sure theyll get the publicity when the logo and branding is initially announced but then they have to live with it till the next time they re-brand. During that time the poorly designed logo “may” have a negative impact on business as the public could possibly perceive the business as unprofessional with such a poorly designed logo.
    Its funny how Wolff Olins appears twice in the above article. They must have really good sales people.

  34. Armando Fontes

    London 2012 has 4 years to heat our hearts… and time is passing by.

  35. panasit

    the real pain to look at is Wacom’s logo. I think I can actually grow into Italia. And I like the London 2012 logo. Xerox’s logo isn’t bad (nor is it good), it’s just that people like the old design more.

  36. i see a limp penis in the italia logo..

  37. dru

    Thank you Sean. I thought I was the only one. I’m very surprised no one else saw it.

  38. frank

    i think the london olympic logo has something to do with the england flag

  39. Soctane

    Do you want publicity or a brand? Publicity is just people talking about you. A brand is when they engage with you. Let’s go back to school for a minute. The stinky kid from math class and or skanky kid from behind the bleachers got lots of publicity on the playground. But it was that sweet kid with the day long smile that stole your heart.

  40. Monica

    Hmm!

    I think both Wacom and 2012 London Olympics logos are really bad. They look like the one that made them just started doing graphics after working as a policeman and now that is retired, designs logos for local small business. It lacks stile and inspiration. In other words the two logos are really bad. it’s sad that this kind of monstrosities appear on the market, made by gurus, that all young designers look at as role models. It looks like they’re making a full out of everything and everybody. Ohhhh yes… and they are paid huge amount of money for a work that doesn’t worth the money and that just because lots of people appreciate more a name or an agency than their work worth at this moment, because too little have the courage to say that they are really bad.

    All the best to you all. : )

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