CR Blog

AOL becomes Aol.

Graphic Design

Posted by Patrick Burgoyne, 23 November 2009, 15:32    Permalink    Comments (62)

Wolff Olins New York has created a new identity for one of the internet's pioneering (but now ailing) brands, AOL

The brand, which introduced millions to the wonders of the world wide web, has struggled to stay relevant in recent years. A New York Times report reveals that AOL chairman and chief executive Tim Armstrong even considered dumping the AOL name altogether as it prepares to be spun off from Time Warner.

Instead, he asked Wolff Olins in New York to help turn it around. Wolff Olins' solution involves using a set of hundreds of different backgrounds to sit behind the new mark in which AOL is written Aol. (don't forget the full-stop).

Its use of interchangeable imagery is a similar approach to that employed by WO for New York whereby the basic logo could be filled with various images to add freshness, while the goldfish is somewhat reminiscent of a piece of work by one of WO's founders - Michael Wolff's logo for The Consortium.

More will be unveiled at the official launch on December 10.



Is this another brand that we will supposedly fall in love with over time?
Steve Leard
2009-11-23 16:09:12

same shit, different client.
2009-11-23 16:21:53

Don't get it, it just seems all to confusing! Should have been dumped.
Joel Cage
2009-11-23 16:23:11

Greig Anderson
2009-11-23 16:28:33

I instinctively like it, but with an undercurrent of unease. It'll be interesting to see it working in practice. With 'hundreds' of options it seems inevitable that some will work better than others and it risks the overuse of a few with the occasional anomaly, more fractured and confused than the laudable 'Aol. is everything' undercurrent of the idea. In its purest form I suppose no image would be used more than once. Which would be a) amazing and b) impossible to control. The brand guidelines are gonna be biblical in proportions.

AOL vs Aol. slightly grates too somehow. I can see the sense in terms of the more interesting typographic shape but as a word it's all but unpronounceable (Ayol?) and WO must be relying on people retaining the A-O-L even though the wordshape almost asks you to attempt a go at a word sound. There's a niggly bit of conflict there.

Love the dot though. What's not to like about the dot?

Mike Kendall
2009-11-23 16:32:33

When I saw this I thought it was a rebrand for the Association of Illustrators. I think the lower case 'L' will be confusing and could easily get mistaken for an I. However, the full-stop does help the 'L' look like an 'L' visually.
Oliver Bothwell
2009-11-23 16:40:23

Seems first level to me.
simon newman
2009-11-23 16:46:11

We here just don't get it. I particularly like the use of the infamous iStock goldfish - the staple symbol of suburban graphic design agencies of the 00's. Does anyone know the budget attached to this job?
Ian Thatcher
2009-11-23 17:03:37

There's a lot of this "the logo doesn't have to be a logo thing at the mo"... not to sure what to think of it...

The images above just look like a mood board
Mike Rotch
2009-11-23 17:06:19

Is this an early April fools joke?

Wolff Olins must be laughing all the way to the bank.
2009-11-23 17:06:48

Haven't seen the rest of the brand to fully comment, but if this were at one of the degree shows that we ll so often visit what would everyones initial response be?

I think I may have come to the conclusion that this particular student might have been a slacker?!?

Andy Russell
2009-11-23 17:39:09

In a image saturated world does AOL really need several images?

This seems to position Aol as being self referential to existing within the internet instead of carving out any identity of it's own.

Perhaps it will all come to life in new online services we are yet to discover/understand; however I'd question the motives of what's happening to date.
2009-11-23 18:10:13

2009-11-23 19:56:38

Good to see another lazy 'it can change and be adapted for whatever you want' logotype solution from WO.
2009-11-23 20:22:27

Yes but which one will they use on the free CD-ROM I hope to get in the post?
2009-11-23 21:01:56

I love Wolff Olins. They're one of the few agencies willing to take a risk in the face of same-old, boring, me-too identity work. For those of you saying it doesn't work, let's see your "superior" solution.
2009-11-23 21:17:52

Just, No
2009-11-23 21:59:14

adam Smith
2009-11-23 22:50:53

Wrong its.

Do you have an editor?
2009-11-24 01:17:46

its a bit random, but guess will have to wait till December 10 to get the full picture
2009-11-24 05:42:53

Caps lock off. " That's $130,000 please"
Ollie wolf
2009-11-24 09:19:01

I... don't get it. I just don't! This is a solution that WO and everybody else knows has been used before, yet AOL, sorry, Aol. are happy to have a rehash of an old idea? What's fresh and relevant about that?
I guess I'll have to wait until December 10 for the full picture :)
2009-11-24 09:20:39

2009-11-24 10:04:46

competition in the office, who can design a new AOL logo the quickest. first one under 25 seconds gets a biscuit !
well done green squiggler, custard cream or ginger snap?
peter file
2009-11-24 11:52:21

love it, it is just right
dani r
2009-11-24 13:05:45

I don't mind the type at all and have no problem at all with the new 'spelling'. It is true though that the images shown above scream 'mood board' - I would be surprised if these were used in the final applications.

If you click through to the NY Times article it links off to some quite nice slow-mo vids that reveal the mark from it's white-on-white setting. In situ I can really see them working.

I'll be very interested to see what the full rollout will entails.
2009-11-24 13:20:03

Given its mass popularity (and widespread overuse), perhaps a name change to 'lol' would have been more appropriate.
2009-11-24 13:51:17

Given its mass popularity (and widespread overuse), perhaps a name change to 'lol' would have been more appropriate.
2009-11-24 13:54:06

Just checked, has gone :-(!
2009-11-24 13:56:29

half-toned metal salutes. nuff said
stephen mclaughlin
2009-11-24 13:58:55

Mmm, aioli. With chips.
Ed Wright
2009-11-24 14:16:00

Is the juxtaposition of the Neville Brody article pure coincidence!
Jonathan Roberts
2009-11-24 14:21:43

more like lol......
2009-11-24 14:28:14

A load of COCK

Sorry I meant Cock.
2009-11-24 14:38:22

The goldfish reminds me of that credit card! Shame AOL, sorry I mean Aol "period" (That's what they call the full stop) is the worst internet provider out there!
2009-11-24 15:00:41

It's going to take more than a flexible logo to save America Online.
Matt Power
2009-11-24 15:11:06

Goldfish are undoubtedly beautiful and Michael Wolf does love 'em. He left Addison with one as their logo after his consultancy with them too. (And yes I know he is not a director of WO anymore, even though he was the only one with the guts to defend their 2010 Olympics brand on TV.)

These variable image ideas sound a good idea but seldom work in practise - ref. Newell and Sorrells now defunct British Airways ethnic tail fins. That's no reason not to continue to strive to push boundaries, but I seriously doubt this will save Aol. from probable oblivion.
Steve Hutton
2009-11-24 15:25:06

How much money was spent on this half baked first year design student naive mood board of confused ideas and obviousness...?
2009-11-24 15:28:39

Why is everyone obsessed with how much it cost? Whether a logo cost £100 or £1million it makes no difference to it being good or not. Critique is not a money based exercise.

As for those slagging the logo off with little constructive in their criticism how about having the balls to write it under your own name and linking your site? Or maybe looking at it then commenting tomorrow when you have had a chance to think about it properly.

Personally really like the marque and its executions. Strong thinking behind what the web is and how we see and interact with it. Look forward to seeing a full application and how it works graphically.
James Greenfield
2009-11-24 16:05:32

A.O.L is an acronym. Does an acronym need a full point, or are we meant to start referring to them affectionately as "Ayole" from now on...
Orbit Lesser
2009-11-24 16:11:54

@Orbit True it started off as one but America Online means little to those outside the states, a case of a brand morphing maybe? There's no rules. I imagine everyone just refers to it as A O L which it still says.
James Greenfield
2009-11-24 16:22:45

1. It reads "ay oh eye"
2. It has a full stop as part of its name. How is that going to read in the middle of a sentence? Let's just mess around with punctuation for fun, shall we? Have the lessons of Hear'Say been forgotten already?
3. So we can just make up any old AoI. background we want now, right? How about the letters on a little brown pile of dog mess? No? Better check the brand guidelines under the section called "Come up with your own background as long as it's something OW and the Aol. committee agree looks on message."
Hard Candy
2009-11-24 16:23:30

1. It reads "ay oh eye"
2. It has a full stop as part of its name. How is that going to read in the middle of a sentence? Let's just mess around with punctuation for fun, shall we? Have the lessons of Hear'Say been forgotten already?
3. So we can just make up any old AoI. background we want now, right? How about the letters on a little brown pile of dog mess? No? Better check the brand guidelines under the section called "Come up with your own background as long as it's something OW and the Aol. committee agree looks on message."
Hard Candy
2009-11-24 16:28:38

Watch the video "headbanger" on NYT website. I think a part of the identity, that the background image/object defines the logo, is more obvious here as the logo disappear on the white background.
Still not sure what I think of the whole idea though. Will wait till I've seen the idea put to work.
2009-11-24 16:33:09

they should have picked one picture. confusing
2009-11-24 17:02:07

OMFG. I have that Goldfish™ backed up on my external. But then I worked there....

Having recently seen the superb Michael & Wally (in no particular order) YouTube interviews on CR I think if any one of you is reading this in the bath lets have your comments please.

It's so bad, it's good.

Back to the shop....
2009-11-24 17:32:59

stay safe. push no boundaries. recycle old ideas—an appropriate branding strategy for AOL. Say nothing, be nothing, do nothing, mean nothing.
Don Kline
2009-11-24 17:44:14

Unclear, unreadable. Is this a joke?
2009-11-24 18:13:40

AOL isn't an acronym. Laser and Radar are acronyms, BBC and USA etc. are initials.

Sorry, couldn't help myself. As for the identity, GregM's comment made me lol.
2009-11-24 19:57:17

I think most of my initial reactions have been covered (how do you say it, why the punctuation, doesn't that make communication harder when talking about the brand etc????)... of more concern though is what is this new design trying to communicate about the brand and how does that fit into a strategy to turn around their fortunes; it is, after all, an "ailing" brand.

I question the relevance of any of these 'multiple master' designs or are they hoping by using just about any image you care to think of, that they're covering all the bases and at least one will somehow become relevant to each of their customers and stakeholders?

I know that the logo is just one part of branding / re-branding, but it is the 'face' the company wears from now on to great the world... say hello to Aol. Any one laughing?

We'll wait and see.
2009-11-25 11:05:41

I wonder how much AOL (sorry Aol.) have paid for this? Just another in the series of 'charge the earth, deliver not a lot' in the best tradition of WO bullshit.
Roger Mann
2009-11-25 12:01:25

Emperors new clothes.
2009-11-25 13:42:02

Can you patch over a perennially bad business model with a new brand (that's just the old name with some fresh identity that has little relation to anything), and then hope everyone believes you've changed? Discuss.

Sorry but I don't think I can believe in this one.
Gavin Martin
2009-11-25 18:04:04

hmm i dont like it. i dont get it, looks like its taken 5 mins to make... blah
2009-11-25 23:30:37

1. It is an acryonym and this is why: Online is one word.
2. The 'L' definitely looks like an 'I'.
2b It would have been a better logo for the Association of Illustrators.
3. Given it some thought and I'm fairly certain it's pronounced "a-hole". Unfortunate really.

(It's nice to see Microsoft Paint getting a bit of a work out though...)
2009-11-26 12:26:39

I'm sure it was probably a "fresh idea" when they started it 10 years ago...
2009-11-26 13:59:05

I don't wish to appear pedantic, but...

There still seems to be some confusion about AOL (or Aol.) being referred to as an acronym... it's not, it's an abbreviation, a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase (whether "online" is one word or not. Kay – as you say, if it were, it would come out as "a-hole" or something similar)!

An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words and therefore can be said as a word – NATO, SCUBA, RADAR, FUBAR... how do you say the 3 letters AOL as one word? You don't. You say the letters individually and phonetically as Ay-oh-el.
2009-11-26 18:31:48

As an identity it seems very flexible, but I question whether in the long run its ownable or relevant. I can't help feeling Tim Armstrong made the wrong decision, from a brand perspective, by keeping the name. Whilst America Online has plenty of equity inside the states, I'm not sure how much it has outside or in new markets. I haven't got anything against the yanks, but I wouldn't subsribe to a brand that has America in its name.
kevin blackburn
2009-11-29 00:20:54

I think the actual text Aol. is perfect
It captures the essence of the blunt humour currently in fashion with things like failblog or whatever it's called and lolcats etc.

Well, most of them do. The blue paint one just makes it look like...a big computer company in need of a timely woman carrying a large hammer.

and the hand one is just 'crums'. Which is my new, uncensor-able way of saying shit.
2009-11-29 19:02:56

i just don't see how a different background image becomes neither a conceptual nor a graphical element of a logo. At best, it's the application of a logo to visual situations.If removed, what is left is the lettering Aol. which is "okay" i guess but fairly weak.
2009-12-01 18:23:35

The "All-modular-100%flexible" logo is an old branding phantasm.
2009-12-01 19:24:23

Dont get it. Ned to see more. I suppose they are going for the unconventional online logo route. Seems to work for allot of other companies. Orange. etc who prefer to work online. but there direct mailer's look a bit shoddy.

Are these the logos, or do they separate and evolve and work as secondary graphics as well. If they are just static logos it will look a bit school boy. ? What gwan Wolff an Olins???

Also looks extremely youthful. What market are they aiming for?
Guy Baggs
2009-12-13 06:05:49

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