new AOL logoNew AOL logo, by Wolff Olins New York.

The company turned to Wolff Olins, who previous created logos for Wacom, (RED), and the London 2012 Olympics. Tim Armstrong, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AOL, said:

“The new AOL brand identity is a simple, confident logotype, revealed by ever-changing images. It’s one consistent logo with countless ways to reveal. The new brand identity will be fully unveiled on December 10, when AOL common stock begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

“Our new identity is uniquely dynamic. Our business is focused on creating world-class experiences for consumers and AOL is centered on creative and talented people – employees, partners, and advertisers. We have a clear strategy that we are passionate about and we plan on standing behind the AOL brand as we take the company into the next decade.”

Although the AOL logo itself will be constant, the backgrounds will change continuously in an effort to suggest the breadth of AOL’s content.

The period in the logo was added to suggest “confidence, completeness,” said Sam Wilson, managing director at the Wolff Olins New York office, by declaring that “AOL is the place to go for the best content online, period.”

Tim Armstrong said he liked to describe the period as “the AOL dot” because “the dot is the pivot point for what comes after AOL,” whether it’s email, websites or coming offerings that will “surprise people.”

Here’s a video of Armstrong taking about the new brand identity.

“The constantly changing images behind the logo are also intended to elicit surprise,” said Sam Wilson and Jordan Crane, creative director at Wolff Olins New York.

An advertising campaign to promote the new look is being considered, said Maureen Marquess, chief of staff at AOL in New York, as is the role to be played by the AOL brand character, known as the running man.

AOL running man logoAOL’s running man brand character

Whatever AOL does or does not do, Ms. Marquess said, there will be gibes from critics, whom she called “the snarkies” after the snarky comments they invariably make.

AOL logoAOL’s old logo

AOL logoAOL’s new logo

Call me one of “the snarkies,” but when I’m told a brand identity is “uniquely dynamic” my eyes start to glaze with thoughts of pumped-up marketing speak and telling clients what they want to hear.

Tony Spaeth, of the late Identity Works, dropped by with a comment that makes a lot of sense:

“The longterm problem here is the original name decision — America, On Line? Six syllables (which forced initials) plus a counterproductive meaning — the Web is inherently and joyously global, isn’t it? AOL should now have faced up to this fundamental identity problem, which has been compounded of late by a performance reputation problem, and fixed it with a name change.

“Instead, we have a design solution that diminishes, lower-cases, reverses and virtually hides the initials, as if apologizing for them. (It’s a visual equivalent of ‘if you have nothing to say, talk faster and louder.’)

“To be sure, mutable wordmarks (visual play, around consistent letterforms) can be fun. Certainly, MTV and Nickelodeon showed you can get away with it on television, and Google has shown it can work on the Web. But are these particular ‘Aol’ letterforms a strong enough visual anchor? Not clearly. Verbally, they are still a hole in the hull.

“And are we now expected to write not AOL but Aol? (I refuse to add the period, in text.) And thus to speak it as a-awl, or a-owl? The punctuation of the logo introduces uncertainty of the name in text applications… which is not a good a way to build a stronger brand.”

AOL chat elsewhere:


I’d be more interested in what they intend to do to become “the place to go for the best content online, period”

Isn’t this arse about tit? A new logo can’t make you “uniquely dynamic” (as opposed to dynamic in the same way as lots of other people, presumably). You have to offer something that’s unique and worthy.

Still, the old logo did need changing as it only really evokes 1999, lots of CDs in newspapers, expensive dial-up connections, a new browser layer and difficult–to–get–out–of contracts.

When I was at University, the name “Wolff Olins” was thrown around by the tutors quite a lot. I must say, though, that I’m unimpressed by the new ID.

I never knew the the Wolff Olins design team were responsible for the newer Wacom logo, but I’ve never been a fan of it either.

…and don’t get me started on the 2012 logo, hehe

Agh, I can’t help but look at the lowercase ‘l’ and not automatically read it as “lol.”

Fitting for the yesteryear of AOL though…

Oh. God. No.

The Emperors New Clothes strikes again. They must be laughing when they bank their cheques.

Way to copy Googles branding ideas as well.

Honestly, this could be a joke blog, is it a joke? Please say it’s a joke.

Wow. I was surprised to hear AOL were still in business, let alone they got a controversial new logo design. ;)

To be honest though, I’m going to say I don’t mind it – like I did with the London 2012 id (and I still stand by that assessment btw).

We live in a digital age of on-screen pixels, and AOL (so they would like you to believe) are leaders in this brave new world. So to throw out a few of the traditional rules and to try new dynamic approaches to establishing identity are welcome to me :)

Agreed. It’s difficult to look at botched rebrandings like this one when there are so many talented designers out there who could’ve done a superior job.

I can just see their ‘brand guidelines document’ ….

1. The Aol. logo must always have the text slightly overlapping the edge of the background graphic.

2. The Aol. logo must never have the ‘dot’ obscured or out of sight on the background graphic.

3. The Aol. logo must always be used in some crappy fontface like Arial or whatever it is.

4. The Aol. logo must never be used in colour, only as a ‘cut out’ from it’s background graphic.

“Blah blah blah …. trying to sound important and ‘properly branded even though it’s god awful’ ….blah blah…”

I don’t see it as a “new dynamic approach”.

We were trying to get these sorts of concepts past our tutor in my first year as a design student over 10 years ago, it didn’t cut it then and it really doesn’t cut it now…in my opinion.

I worked on a previous identity for AOL which never saw the light of day as they were swallowed up in a large merger. The idea was similar where the identity worked with lots of different images but it was held together in a tight framework.

Wolf Olins seem to be the Chapman Brothers of corporate identity at the moment, everything they do seems to be controversial. I’ve seen one of their presentations and they are exceptional at selling ideas, but somehow with the Olympics and this identity feel like a fad/fashion rather than an identity that will last the test of time.

Perhaps the fact that people are talking about it is a good thing. We may find out that having a logo that is hated is actually good as in the long run no-one really gives a monkeys and it got the company loads of free pr!

God help us if that proves out to be true!

For those who commented first, I’ve just updated the post with a short video showing AOL’s CEO talking about the rebrand.

Lee’s comment nails it for me. This is a controversial identity. Is that negative for the future of AOL, or positive in a time when the company is going through a huge change and is spending on PR? That’s open to debate, but like the previous design for London 2012, we’re sure to have a very split opinion.

Leon brings up a more relevant point. What an enormous task it is to have AOL be “the place to go for the best content online, period.” Granted, I’m not in America, and my only experience with AOL was inserting an old dial-up CD into a PC, hoping to connect to this new thing called the Internet, but I never hear the company mentioned by my friends across the water.

There was some debate about whether to even keep the brand name, and questions about if it would be better to create a new one:

Gabe Fried, chief executive at Streambank in Needham, Mass., a financial advisory firm focused on intellectual property assets, said the new identity must start changing perceptions of AOL as “a brand for the technological laggard.”

Although the AOL name “needs to be reinvigorated,” Mr. Fried said, “to abandon it would be an incredibly costly mistake.”

Jonah Disend, chief executive at Redscout, a brand strategy agency in New York owned by MDC Partners, disagreed.

“I would get rid of the parent brand and dissolve AOL,” Mr. Disend said. “The assets are stronger on their own.”

The problem is that AOL is “the My Little Pony of Internet brands, for when you’re starting out online,” he added. “The last thing you want to be is a nostalgic brand in a category that’s all about the future.”

Mr. Adamson of Landor said he would give a makeover of the AOL brand “one good try” before giving up on it.

After all, he said, “I have an AOL account.”


“. Wolf Olins have you guys lost the plot or what…put the pipe down!”

Ha ha! … wipes tears…

Yes there are some very valid points about the issue of being a nostaligic brand in an industry that needs to be seen as progressive, but still, this is not the ‘way forward’.

Surely with regards to branding, one would work with that ‘nostalgia’ in terms of being seen as a solid dependable brand that has stood the test of time.

Rather trying to pretend to be something brand spanking new and failing miserably – and then probably inevitably leading to a completely new name.

The Mac Vs PC adverts come to mind using Peep Show guys, a brand campaign like this could be used in reverse (ie we are the godfathers of the internet explosion and that’s a good thing) to work ‘with’ the nostaligia instead of against it.

I see amusing adverts in my minds eye …. with that retro dial up noise featuring, we’d all love it. Remind us that they’ve been around for ever, dependable etc, then show us how they’ve changed and what the ‘new aol’ is all about – then keep ramming home that message alongside a decent logo instead of this debacle.

As an identity, it’s far too ambiguous to even be considered a logo, right?

The only seemingly definitive feature is an image which it will reverse out from – which seems more a graphic implementation than anything else – like reaching the finish line before tying your laces.

Sure it may become more identifiable based on the 3 tier heights of the characters – a Cap, x-height lowercase and cap height lowercase – certainly creates a unique visual rhythm, but I’m not so sure about the success of this.

I fear another “re-design” in a couple of years or so.

I like the notion behind it, but it’s just too vague and eclectic. A wide selection of tailor-made elements would have been more ownable – how long will it take for someone to brand-jack the identity?

love it. it is modern new, and fresh. I can see the older generations not liking it. But who cares about older generations when they are just going to die in the next 20 years. all they do is complain.

Really? It sounds like they want to make crap sound interesting. What is the point of redesigning something and explaining how cool it is when is not. How can these people sleep at night?

It’s modern, fresh? I believe, the marketing team did that.
What makes this logo unique? The typography is unreadable and the images are just… anyway.

Thanks lol for the new logo or… it’s Aol, I’m sorry.

Hmm. Well I am pretty sure people have confused the words logo and type. That is some type on-top of an image. Kudos. So now, anytime someone puts that font on-top of an image it could be misconstrued as your brand. Great for brand retention. HAHA.

I think Awol. would be more accurate because the logo is Absent without leave.

Like you, Aaron, I’d no idea AOL was still in business. Good luck to the company, I say, and of course all opinions are welcome here. Fair play for sticking to your guns with the London 2012 logo. I’m doing likewise with the opposite take. I almost warmed to it a little. Almost. Any news on your own redesign?

Chad, I’m wondering if an all lowercase name might be more appropriate: aol. Because when I see Aol. I can’t help but associate the ‘l’ with an uppercase ‘i’, which then makes me think of either ‘lol’ or ‘aoi’.

The problem here was the original name decision — America, On Line? Six syllables (which forced initials) and a counterproductive meaning; the Web is inherently and joyously global, isn’t it? AOL should have faced up this fundamental identity problem and fixed it with a name change. Instead, we have a design solution that diminishes, lower-cases, reverses and virtually hides the initials, as if apologizing for them. And are we now expected to write not AOL but Aol (I refuse to use the period)? And to speak it, a-owl or a-oll?

Visual play, around consistent letterforms, is fun and certainly MTV showed you can get away with it on television, and Google has shown it can work on the Web. Are these “Aol.” letterforms a strong enough visual anchor? Maybe. But verbally, they are still a hole in the hull.

Thanks for weighing in, Tony. Your explanation helps me form a decision, and I agree, changing the name seems like the right move. That is, at least, when you compare a name-change with the lower-casing of the original.

I now read “a-oll.” Not “a-o-l.”

Well, I would hardly call these a ‘logo’, just goes to show that even big names (well old big names) can completely mess up their identity. I would also be confused as to how to read this, it certainly doesn’t distinguish itself as ‘A-O-L’ more like ‘a-oll’.

I like what they’ve done with the old logo, I think it’s a good move forward with what they have. But haven’t they ever considered changing their name? Does “AOL” really have any value or identity? I still think “cheap CD’s in the mail”.

David I agree with you and Tony. I think it reads not as A-O-L but A-ole. Which isn’t great. The period seems really off when it reads that way. I also think like you has said above that the L reads as an uppercase I as well. All in all its just bad for whatever they have in store for their brand. There is no brand recognition or anything to remind you its AOL.

Add me to the “snarkie” list. This brand is a train wreck.

I had hoped the video would offer a different perspective on the brand but it’s just as cliche’ as the logo treatments.

I like the type treatment of the acronym. The differing letter heights and the period have a nice rhythm and are interesting to look at. I don’t have a problem with it resembling L33T. Too bad it’s all lost when the logo is reversed out of the images.

AOL’s problems are much bigger than a new brand could hope to fix, although this brand seems to capture those problems nicely.

Whoops, meant to say it looks terrible over the poorly chosen stock photos, but it is way more interesting in the video clip. Something about the reveal…it works better when it is fleeting.

Step one. Hire some over priced studio. Step two. Charge a motsa for some so called research and development. Set three. Go play golf instead and get the junior intern to do it. Step four. Intern buys some istockphoto pics and drops some type on it. Stand back and watch the s…t storm…great exposure…pure genius. These guys are actually very clever, as we have all fallen for the same trap they did with bart and Lisa’s get together lol

I was never a user of AOL, but I surely do not have to be one to see that this looks like a freshmen year graphic design student who has designed this. It looks like Ollins and co couldn’t meet at one end regarding wether they should use a frowning fish or a 3 year old’s fridge flubbery doodle.

This has got to be a marketing ploy, get everyone talking and remind them they are still there. Then when they have something to offer they can get a decent brand mark. Trying to be positive here!

I think they paid for marketing fluff not design

With this, and Wacom, and 2012, maybe WO is trying to force a sea change in what we consider a logo to be. It could be that they’re so far ahead of everyone else they appear to be crazy. Or maybe they are crazy. Or maybe they like the publicity.

honestly, it looks like something I could make on Microsoft Word in about 2 minutes. What a huge lack of creativity. Hopefully they didn’t pay for this

I’m definitely on the bandwagon with having the parent brand name changed. There is a lot of history with the name, but it’s limiting with their re-branding efforts.

Tony made a good point with the name being America On-Line, when it is in fact a global arena. I think the choices made with the name don’t make too much sense, as far as using “Aol.” vs “AOL.” The play to “lol” must have been considered, but properly, the new logo is not truly an acronym. Maybe they considered sticking with “AOL” for so long because they didn’t want to sound national? AOL is not spelled out anywhere on the home page.

I had to laugh at David’s comment about the CD and hooking up to this so-called “internet.” AOL was packaged with a lot of computers, so it was readily available. And if you didn’t have it pre-installed on your computer, you had no problem getting a CD. They littered the planet with them. Probably something they may be regretting, as that is a big part of how I see the company.

I think United Online is a company we may be hearing about sooner or later. They own companies like NetZero, Juno, and They’re approach is so out-dated. These are companies that try to sell flash for cheap, but never listen to what customers really want. Just a little out of touch.


I see ‘Aioli’. Although it’s a delicious sauce, personally I think it’s a garbage excuse for a brand. If you’re going to stick to a logotype, it’s got to be a strong, recognisable form. Mixed upper and lowercase ambiguous sans serif typeface no. 75 just doesn’t cut it.
If they’re actually planning to go through with this, they need to seriously reconsider the choices of image backdrops as well. A badly cropped hand, what looks like a poorly magic-wand selected whirlpool, a candy afro and a 2-year-old’s scribble where the negative space makes the period look like a comma? Jesus Christ.

This logo concept is coming to picture, when Google started it with changing the logo based on the occasion. Now it’s the next big shot playing with the dynamic logo concept.

It’s time for us to switch to the dynamic logo concept.

Austin has a point. This is a very easy logo to hate or make fun of, but then, most new things are hated or made fun of initially.

This AOL logo system doesn’t appeal to me (although I loved 2012), but there’s a feeling in the pit of my stomach that this is the kind of approach that any graphic designer who wants to keep having a career over the next 5-20 years needs to be paying attention to.

Pfff!! What a horrible logo!! I hate to think how much Aol have paid for it…

It means nothing, transmits nothing, could be anything.

The imprementation with the background images is poor and confusing, could have been done by any first year graphic design student.

Aol, please think again….

Am I the only one who thinks the logo is alright?
I will agree it hardly has meaning. The *dot* at the end is not a very unique idea, but ok.

Still i think the new logo has a fresh approach.
modern and simple.

This approach worked for MTV, but the ever-changing logo was the type itself, not the background. And putting a period after one cap and two lowercase letters really adds to the confusion. Is it an acronym, a statement, or did the ‘O’ hole fall out and roll over to the ‘L’? Kudos for exploration and pushing the envelope, but this is poor execution, amateurish, and lacks purpose and logic.

The period seems abstract to me. Meaning, it was intended to have no meaning or function (as it would w/ an acronym), but perhaps to add balance in someone’s mind. Have you been in those meanings where idea builds on top of idea when the original idea should have been stopped. “Add a period, see what that looks like.” And everyone’s so tired of looking at it that it almost seems brilliant.

I wonder what the younger gen would think of it, having no previous experience with the barage of mailed CD’s, little running man, and “You’ve Got Mail.”

It almost appears that the company simply wanted to play it safe for now. Take the opposite extreme of being known for specifics mentioned above that previously marked them, and being known for nothing specific. When one wants to reach so many types of people and forms of life (as evidenced in their varied choice of images), take the motto of “commit to nothing.” The white letters, the plain font, the ever exchanged image. And like someone mentioned, even if this is not the answer, perhaps it’s at least a thought/point that future designers should pay attention to. Will a once major company actually be so confused in what they want to stand for, and what their future in the market will be that they consent to (or perhaps lead designers in) being so generic that they will pay a nonbranding? If the company gives nothing specific to communicate in a logo, then what is a designer’s task? Lead the way in telling the company what they stand for or visually regergitate what was given to them?

The name debate also brings up a point. Google is a name that previously referred to nothing, but is now used as a verb. AOL referred to specifics; do they now feel trapped? Changing their name would almost bring them to being a different company entirely. They seemed to find their reasons for wanting to retain, at the heart, who they started out to be.

Perhaps they did like the movement found in the kinesthetic images, and they liked that they were not locked into a people group with the vague color and font, but I wonder if a designer could not incorporate movement (though not so obvious like the running man–maybe just in an illusion created by texture) and all-encompassing features into a more defined logo. If they are to stick with the name, I would like to see them acknowledge it rather than bury it without pride. It speaks confusion from within, and their future success or failure will determine if this new logo release was to be a sign.

It is simple and clean, but it completely ignores the prestige of AOL. Putting it in lower-case makes the design look tacky and unbalanced. This makes me look at AOL more than the old junk, but I still dont want to use AOL. Someone at Wolff Olins should be able to change that!
I swear, the world of design is going dowhill

This design is clearly a lot more controversial than it is “innovative” and “confident”. The overwhelming simplicity of the design and frankly random usage of pictures is confusing and doesn’t relate to what AOL actually do or stand for as a company, I think it’s just plain baffling.

I’d have to agree with Amanda Vlahakis’s comment, as this seems to sum up the whole identity crisis that AOL seem to be suffering with this new branding. They simply should have worked on the nostalgia factor! AOL are known to be one of the first internet providers, and so much could have been done that revolves around this theme, all the time reinstating their vast experience and the fact they were at the forefront of the internet revolution.

It will be worth seeing what happens next with this identity branding, if it goes ahead as planned, maybe there will be some last minute design changes!

David, a very interesting post. As for the logo itself, not a big fan, but what really gets me riled is the application they put to it.

The word Aol imposed over various (and seemingly random) words is neither clever, nor is it visually appealing.

I could say a million things about this rebranding, but I will leave it at this: This is not a logo. This is a collection of stock imagery with type on top. The only aspect I find impressive is that they were actually able to sell this in.

I don’t hate it at all, there are too many witch hunts on the internet these days. Whenever anyone puts their neck on the line and tries to create something different or unique they seem to be ridiculed.

I can’t help but feel that half of the comments on here are just jumping on the bandwagon – I’d love to see individual reactions without the public furore.

Let’s not attack design for trying or even being different or unique – otherwise what will we end up with? A world of boring design.

am so bored with Wolff Olins pulling the same old tired rabbit out of its dusty hat..

Look at the London 2012 Olympics logo, and the branding of New York City. ‘The logotype serves as a window into infinite possibilities’ they say. But what they’re really doing is letting the images that they place around or within the logotype speak for the brand instead of the logo speaking for the brand itself. It shows a serious lack of creative capacity on their part in my opinion.


Just because a big group of people have the same opinion, it doesn’t mean that they are copying each other.

Maybe it just means that the design is considered poor by 99% of people and that’s just the fact of it rather than it being a witch hunt.

It’s not being attacked for being different or unique (plenty of other unique designs are ‘not’ attacked after all), its being panned because it a poor design.

Ah, AOL… reminiscent of their early days of glory. The new logo is a mess. Conveys nothing and utterly unimpressive. Needs more thinking. I hope they are listening.

So, no one is going to comment on the fact that Wolff Olins has already done this before…? Twice…? A sucky logotype offset by pretty pictures to create a ‘brand’. That is not a brand! Unless you are branding a stock photography company. I’m going to pull my hair out..

I’m keen to see how this logo stands the test of time. Maybe in 5 years time, this could be the best brand ever created! although probably not!!

I hate this new thing. Why do I want a stupid paint blob, shoe, etc. I was in LOVE with the design I had and all the old designs. If this is gonna be the way it looks, without the choice of the beautiful art pages they had before, I am finding a new homepage! I hate white. It is boring. You can’t call that crap blobs art.

I agree with you on the logo ‘packaging’ being enjoyable, but that is an entire different aspect of the system. With all the nice videos and treatments (and some not so nice), it’s safe to say you can insert just about any logotype in it’s place and still have the same impact. I am guilty of jumping the gun many times and sort of over-reacting to the logotype only, like most of us. In that sense, I could echo what many of your readers have already stated. If you really break it down to Brand purpose, it comes down to profitability. You can add all the buzz words of the industry like, consumer traction, brand churches (starbucks/apple), yada yada, in the end it’s still about profits. These days we have come to align ourselves with the brands we choose so I think for those that fit the new ‘future’ vision of Aol. will justify it. While it’s true that if something looks better, the more we will desire it, in this case, I think Aol. has overlooked the product and focused more on the packaging.

Who’s to say this early if it’s a wise move.

I know, if I’m buying chewing gum, the package does most of the convincing for me, rarely have I looked at the ingredients.

In the end, the numbers will tell.

I agree. You could insert just about any logotype in there, but it would need to be short, and basic, to be legible at a fleeting glance. Hence the split decisions from designers.

I’ve just read a nice, relevant discussion over on Brand Republic. You might like it, too: What good is outrage?

Sigh. Is this what branding evolving into? Or reverting to? To my eyes, this isn’t fresh or invigorating; it doesn’t communicate any positive quality that comes readily to mind, and it certainly isn’t memorable in an enjoyable or even good way! Am people really supposed to be driven to their computers mumbling excitedly, “Aol.Aol.Aol!!”??!!! Gimme a break, mon!

OOPS. Got some typos in there. I’ll be more coherent and chalk the above to snarkiness! Yes, controversy creates buzz and we are buzzing, aren’t we? At the end of the day however, if even this new school of thought, as it seems, is produces this kind of identity work, and getting paid for it… then that’s the way the cookie crumbles. If Aol. manages to become profitable once more… If potential clients are ‘inspired’ by this… Designers who are truly craftsmen and women must raise the bar in what they offer their clients and continue to educate them, regardless of trending.

I think that this completely loses the point it was properly trying to make, i am sure it was a good idea on paper but once on computer and implementing they should of discarded. The type is confusing with the dot. why did they need a full stop? why? whats the point, aol is not a sentence but a brand name, a full stop is not required and who decided to lowercase it. The random images that appear behind it make it all seem thrown together a bit like the London logo. I think in today’s logos people are trying to hard to think outside the box, a logo is meant to last generations, they will be re branding in a year i bet, meaning Wolf Ollins lost aol valuable money, time, and credibility. To me a logo is timeless and clever and does not need rebranding for at least 5 years or more.

I think someone needs to be sacked at that design agency before they make any more mistakes.

I’ve been studying symbolism, and the old AOL logo was pretty suspicious reference to the Illuminati. The new logo also looks suspicious, and could be a reference to the devil’s horns. I dont know AOL, what are you?

I believe I’m late to the party but I agree with the rest. The new logo (well, “new” from 13 years ago) is as ugly as it gets.

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