I woke up this morning to log onto my Yahoo account and had a double take of Yahoo’s logo. I paused and asked myself, “Is that Optima?”. Apparently Yahoo changed their logo a couple days ago but I normally check my email via my smart phone.
Anyway, I feel very mixed about this new logotype. I also feel that the logo itself feels the same way. Did Yahoo need a fresh look? Yes. Am I glad they stuck with purple? Yes. Does this logotype most likely reflect all the chaos and changing policies going on at headquarters behind office doors? Yes. Do I think designing a logo to be equal parts “corporate” and “whimsical” is a bad idea? Yes. To my knowledge, Google is the only major corporation that has pulled that look off successfully, but the reasons why that works for them goes far beyond what you see on your browser.
Many corporate businesses stay clear of the color purple, so I give Yahoo credit for staying true to their roots in that aspect. Hues of purple evoke a wide range of hidden meanings so most businesses stay clear of it. In fact, at work, my marketing team and I joke and commonly say, “I think that would look better in mauve”. But color aside, Yahoo went with the typeface Optima, which is unique in its own right. Optima is a hybrid of a serif and sanserif. A typographical contradiction if you will. Most typefaces are either one or the other. Interesting enough, John McCain had used Optima in his 2008 US Presidential campaign. I always thought that choice in type made a lot of sense as a political candidate because it tries to please everyone by staying in the middle and not taking a clearly defined stance. As a result, you often please no one. No need to recap that election. True, McCain’s competition that year did have a very strong, iconic logo. But I digress.
CEO Marissa Mayer stated, “We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo! – whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history.” Well, “fresh” is basically inherent whenever you release something new. “Modern” is too subjective, so throw that term away. (Side note, Optima was designed by Hermann Zapf in the mid-1950s.) “Whimsical”? I get the exclamation point. But other than that, the style is fairly straight forward. Text not lining up on the baseline and an “O” a few point sizes larger than the other looks more like a mistake than whimsical, but I’ll classify that under “a nod to” to give them the benefit of the doubt. “Sophisticated” is a nice, simple term for “there are problems that we wish not to discuss”. And the “nod to our history” seems like a full on bow.
My biggest question for Yahoo would be why didn’t they take this opportunity to reinvent themselves? Your biggest competition is Google. Be bold. A design facelift, which this is more or less, is just a bandage over a broken bone. A shot of 5-Hour Energy at best.
Over all, I do think the new logo is cleaner and a big step up from what they had before, but I felt there was so much more potential. Maybe what increased that notion was that Yahoo intern, Max Ma, released a Yahoo concept logo on his personal website. (Below.) Now this better exemplifies 2013 “fresh and corporate” that still gives nod to their history and has a youthful-whimsical element to it. Well executed Max. I will be on the lookout for more of your designs.