I’m not a designer. So there’s that.
I work with them a lot, though– most of them for longer than 10 years. We still like each other too. I know this because after all these years I still don’t have to pay the a-hole rate.
The Gap logo controversy presents a good learning opportunity for designers and those who manage them.
New logos are change. Everybody hates change. Despite the rhetorical power of “new” there will always be those who will cry “FAIL” every time convention is changed. Pepsi’s re-branding was met with the same derision as Gap’s. Every time Facebook changes UI, people freak. Everyone thinks they could do it better. Here’s why they probably couldn’t:
1) There is a reason there are no monuments to committees. People dilute each other’s vision–they need to in order to have a sense of ownership in it. Brands are important,. People who work on them want to own a piece– to be able to say “I was a part of that”.
2) The Gap is very big. Size makes any change proportionately riskier. As revisions cycles pass, there is a tendency to make things safer– to not change things too much.
3) Helvetica is safe and ubiquitous. So much so, they made a movie about it. Helvetica is socialist democracy in typeface. We all know this subconsciously–so we see the new logo in its Helvetica commonness and a small part of us recoils. Gigantic Gap assimilates us in to it. If we like Gap we’re certainly suspicious of the fact that many others like it too. The use of Helvetica in corporate identity just confirms the “you are like everyone else” problem. Nobody wants to think they are just like everyone else–even when they really do. We were all teenagers once.
I don’t know if these are legitimate reasons to actually reject Gap’s new identity outright– but, I know they are at the root of the outrage. Personally, I think there are enough Helvetica logos. Who cares? That is precisely the rationale that is likely used to justify it: Helvetica is proven, easy to read and highly conventional– just like the Gap
Beyond getting what you pay for, what to learn from this?:
1) Designs don’t get better after the 3rd revision they just get different. Most designers listen to your feedback with the intent of pleasing you. If they haven’t after the third time either you don’t know what you want or you have the wrong designer.
2). Write an awesomely thorough creative brief. Justify your strategy. Make sure you articulate with great clarity what you want your customer to understand.
3.) Trust the people you hired to do their best. You hired them because of their ability. Don’t place the risk of change on the shoulder of your designer. They didn’t make the strategic decision to change. You (or your boss) did.
4) That said, insist your designers justify their choices. Why Blue? Why a bold typeface? How do their creative decisions support the strategic goals articulated in the creative brief? These are reasonable questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them.
5) Find two things you like for every one thing you don’t. Opposition creates meaning for designers (and everyone else) so both positive and negative feedback is important. Negative feedback is helpful but can sap creative energy. Boost it with positive feedback. Be specific about what you like and don’t and why. Vague criticism is very expensive.
6) If you believe “you’ll know it when you see it” you are fooling yourself. Design is not porn and you are not Justice Potter Stewart. Love at first sight is romantic but rare. Eureka moments are more scarce than people realize. Suspicious? Think about your three favorite, most enduring songs. Did you love ANY of them the first time you heard them? It takes time to internalize changes that you believe will be permanent. Let things sit a bit before you decide that third revision won’t work.
7) Since instinct is unlikely to cut it all by itself, set objective criteria for approval. testing customer reaction is fine- just understand customers don’t like change anymore than anyone else. It is highly unlikely that any customer said “Gap needs a new logo” in any research. Still you can use aesthetic criteria: simple, clean, contemporary, classic, etc. If your criteria seem at odds, identify attributes that the seemingly opposing criteria share and focus on them.
You can get a better result closer to your vision if you can articulate it. If you can’t, researchers and planners are here to help. Whatever you think of the Gap logo, you can use the shared experience of its launch to improve communications between talent and management.
Tonight, AdAge had an update Gap to Scrap New Logo Design