(This is a repost from my Google+ account)
Everyone and their grandma has been chiming in with their opinion the last few days when DC unveiled their new logo, and subsequent application designs.
As a designer who has his fingers in both pies, the design and comics industry (and yes, DC is — or maybe after this was — a client), I naturally have an opinion on the new logo and I’ve been equally guilty of tweeting my thoughts, but you can only say so much with 140 characters, so here goes:
I’m not sold on it. Its a very interesting beast this one, and while I see what it aspires to, I feel it falls flat in many ways. First though, the positives.
- Its designed by Landor, who I think do some great work. Its refreshing to see DC outsourcing their company branding and strategy to a brand agency that lives “outside” of comics. I always harp on about comics living in a bubble and being too self-referential when it comes to design, so hiring a brand agency that works across industries is a good thing, and brings a fresh eye to the task. It doesn’t look like comics, and as mentioned in the press release, it looks mature and can stand side-by-side with popular entertainment brands and TV idents for example.
- The new brand is as much a statement of intent as a visual overhaul. It looks contemporary, its designed to live in an age where consumption of entertainment via digital platforms and devices is becoming the standard (if its not already in some areas). Its designed to be ‘alive’, to be animated, and be part of (what I assume) a push by DC to carve a niche in screen-based entertainment (which would include comics).
- Its a flexible brand. The identity is designed as a container, and can be easily adopted to create sub-strands within the brand without losing any brand equity.
So yes, I do see a good side to it. I’ve never been a fan of the previous ‘detergent’ logo that was launched in 2005, even though that one retained some of the ‘comic book’ qualities in its design, I didn’t think it fitted the DC brand. Especially after the New 52 relaunch in September 2011 when different textures and colour ways were applied to it to differentiate the families of books (for example all the Superman comics have a blue and red DC logo, Batman books are dark and gritty, etc) it felt a bit forced. The new logo allows for easy colour marking and extra textures to make the logo stand out as a character in itself.
But. Put together, all those elements don’t make for a great identity. And here’s why:
- Its designed by Landor, who are not known for their entertainment branding. They excel at branding FMCG and big corporates (yes, I’m aware DC, or its parent Warner, is a corporate entity and comics can be seen as FMCG), but I believe the new identity is a bit too cold, too corporate for a company like DC. Its utilitarian and sterile. Even adding effects and textures doesn’t change the fact that its a very austere design that needs an effect applied to make it enticing.
- The typography under the logo mark is poor. I get the Gotham reference, but is it really the most appropriate typeface? The lockup doesn’t work either — breaking it up on 2 lines (possibly so they can swap comics with whatever they need), and from the moment it is applied to a cover, it needs to move into a very awkward position next to the mark, because that has been pushed to the spine (silver lining: it does create more space to place the cover logo).
- Speaking of cover applications. The logo can - as far as I see it - only be applied using flat/gradient colours. All the fancy textures that bring the mark to life will compete with the cover art and will make it illegible. Placing the logo flush also eliminates the clear ‘D’ shape, so what you see at a glance is a ‘C’ under a half peeled sticker. Every application I’ve seen so far needs ‘DC COMICS’ with the mark to be clear. There is not a unique signifier in the design that says “Thats DC Comics”.
(As an aside, Marvel has an incredibly strong brand mark. Simple, adaptable and instantly recognisable)
- The peeled back sticker is a tired gimmick, no matter if you try to sell it as revealing a secret identity. Coming from a design agency like Landor I find that bit disappointing. The same goes for the ‘logo as container’ concept — its an easy solution to sell multiple applications, from cities to TV channels (the rhetoric of familiarity in design doesn’t work because you’re just adding noise).
- Why does a logo aimed at moving image, and more importantly portable devices, use the equivalent of a page flip? Surely there are more interesting visual cues appropriate for the ‘digital age’ (like for example The New Aesthetic), or do people still flip pages on screens?
And lastly, I feel its a shame DC didn’t stay closer to home and look in its own back yard for ideas for their rebrand, even if it was just top level consulting. You might think “Aah, now you’re going to blow your own trumpet Muller!”, but thats not what I’m implying. Comics work with a lot of outside design talent, and they all live and breathe comics, but also design in all its forms (trumpet!), and that is what I believe is needed in cases like this — not a corporate makeover but an insight into what works as modern design and appropriate for comics, cartoons, toys, etc (personally Rian Hughes springs to mind).
Of course, a big corporation will always seek out another big corporation to do business with, and not the small(er) independents. I would have loved to see what agencies like Wolff Olins or Moving Brands would have done with it.
Happy to be proved wrong in the long term, but as it stands this is it.