We can learn a lot from logo successes but perhaps even more from embarrassing logo failures. We’ll show you seven crash-and-burn logo examples that can teach us something about getting it right.
Here’s a sneak preview of a few well-known logo failures:
- Bing. Old logo showed poor choice of lettering.
- London Olympics 2012 logo. Crazily complex. And ugly.
- Gap. New logo erased this brand’s classic personality.
- Kids Exchange logo. Cursed kerning (letter spacing).
- Hilton. Poor alignment among graphic elements in layout.
- Mastercard. New logo has too many colors and shadings.
- AOL. New logo lacks strength, clarity. Amateurish design.
Why is getting your logo right so important? It’s crucial because your logo is the living essence of your brand. It tells people at a glance who you are — kind of like your clothes and hairstyle wrapped in one.
Chances are, you dress for success because you want to attract customers. You want people to feel comfortable doing business with you and buying from you. That is why your branding and its boiled-down essence, your logo, has to be “just so.” You have to get it right.
Some businesses do get it right. Memorable Starbucks and FedEx logos come to mind. Their design reflects the personality of the business with a balance of content, layout, color, lettering (in some cases), and other attributes. The overall effect works. Your logo can too, without spending a zillion dollars as these companies did!
But how do some logos fall short? Let us now explore seven logo failures and how to avoid them.
Logo Fail #1: Bing
Back in 2009, this was Bing’s logo, which was poorly designed. The search engine giant was going for a modern look, but the typography simply didn’t work. Maybe they were trying to copy Google with this look, but the design clearly needed a second opinion.
After many graphics professionals ridiculed the design, Bing refreshed it with a cleaner look.
The lesson here is be careful about your choice of lettering (typography). And make sure your design matches your company’s mission.
The new Bing logo is not just cleaner, but also displays well on the web and on small smartphone screens — a plus when well over half of people access the web on a mobile device.
LESSON: If you are trying to emulate a successful design, know that getting it right may be harder than it looks.
Logo Fail #2: 2012 London Olympics
Seriously, what’s going on here? The color scheme, the out-of-place text and the shape of the logo as a whole, brilliantly combine to make a total failure. I get that they were striving for greater simplicity by making the rings white. Traditionally they are blue, black, red, yellow and green, reflecting colors found in many national flags. Here, that flavor of inclusion, diversity and cooperation gets lost. No part of this logo says, “Hey, this is the largest international sporting event ever!” Better luck next time, Olympics.
This example shows how easy it is to inadvertently suck meaning out your visual branding, and especially your logo.
LESSON: Don’t always listen to experts. Apply common sense to graphic design decisions, especially for your logo.
Logo Fail #3: Gap
Remember when Gap changed its iconic logo to this nondescript design? This new logo takes the classic flavor of Gap and downgrades it to some sort of random store you might see in a plaza of a local market. Instead of the original white-on-blue logo, they replaced it with new black letters next to a blue box that butchers their branding. It lacks distinction — major mistake by Gap’s marketing team.
LESSON: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! That’s especially true when you have a brand and logo that work really well. Resist the urge to make changes for their own sake.
Logo Fail #4: Kids Exchange
What an embarrassment! The spacing of letters (what design professionals call “kerning”) makes it easy to read the company name as “Kid Sex Change”. Word spacing and overall typography are key elements in logo design. Letter spacing affects the look and feel of your brand.
LESSON: Before you finalize your logo: please, check the kerning!
Logo Fail #5: Hilton
Many people mistakenly believe symmetrical design is necessarily beautiful. It’s not. In both fine art and commercial graphics, making your layout just a bit off-kilter adds visual interest. It can make the difference between “good” and “great”.
Hilton took that lesson to heart … and completely misapplied it. In this layout, Hilton’s famous logo symbol should align with the name “Hilton”. Offsetting the symbol looks like a careless mistake.
It wasn’t. It was a carefully thought-out mistake. A miserable fail.
LESSON: Stay sensitive to when a symmetric or aligned design works best — and when making a graphic element off-center can add flavor, personality, and eye-catching appeal.
Logo Fail #6: Mastercard
Mastercard changed its corporate identity, leaving its traditional red and yellow in the past. The company opted for this design, which execs likely thought was more modern-looking. Regardless: there’s too much going on here. Too many colors, too many swirls and shadings.
Notice that the old logo had strength of simplicity. With a pencil, you could easily doodle its two overlapping circles. This new, weaker logo? Impossible!
Check out the old logo:
LESSON: Ignore simplicity’s strength at your peril!
Logo Fail #7: AOL
One word: Yikes! What was AOL thinking with this rebrand? From the suspect font to the ugly green color that replaced their traditional blue, this redesign was putrid. It certainly doesn’t screen major telecommunications company. Context matters here: If your brand is professional, stay professional; If you brand is playful, keep it playful.
LESSON: When your logo design is drafted, take a step back. Put it aside. Try to come back to it with fresh eyes. See if you can absorb the overall effect, the impact, and see if it really works as a whole.