“Remarkably touchy lot, designers”

In his second CR column on new identity work, creative director James Greenfield suggests that the mainstream media’s knee-jerk and ill-informed reaction to logo design is an insult to one of our strongest creative exports. Graphic design needs to fight back.

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Welcome to brand hell
This week saw the release of new logo for The Met. Two weeks ago there was the refresh of the Premier League. Two weeks before that it was Uber. As the decade rolls on each branding project is met with an increasing amount of attention, scorn and, in some cases, ridicule. Most brand teams expect this feedback, accept it and shrug their shoulders at inevitable public backlash from ‘logo obsessed zombies’ as The Met director Thomas P Campbell termed them this week.

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The new identity for the Premier League by DesignStudio

The part which confuses me, however, is how much mainstream journalism is fuelling this collective ire and misunderstanding for the general public. From the cabbie telling me the new Premier League logo was crap and cost millions because he heard it on the BBC, to the Guardian setting up a competition to rebrand the Premier League because, in their words, “Frankly we think that you can do better…”.

Better, they believe, than the respected design company I was once creative director of; better than the team of people, with their collective hundreds of years of experience, who spent months working on this? Because it’s all a big joke, right?

The Guardian’s reader competition elicited some frankly pointless, unfunny riffs on the Premier League’s wealth and also some serious attempts (the genuinely funny part of the whole thing, in their pure stupidity). Yet the Guardian is a repeat offender with this brand of humour. In 2015, Andy Murray’s new logo by Aesop was met with the same idea alongside an insightful review from Paul Campbell that the new logo “just looks like a few black lines on a white background”. The BBC debuted a similar approach for the ultimate controversy logo, the 2012 London Olympics, with similarly dull results. What did either news organisation really get out of these exercises?

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Personally, I feel these ‘competitions’ are disrespectful and thinly veiled click-chasing by media outlets looking to sustain big visitor targets and create reader engagement. When I saw the Guardian’s most recent competition, I took to social media and got in touch with the head of sport for the Guardian and the Observer, Ian Prior, to ask him about this competition and why they felt compelled to run it.

A few tweets in, his response was “Remarkably touchy lot, designers?” suggesting later that I should “save my tears”. At the time, my reaction was of frustration and surprise. Here’s a serious leading newspaper treating our industry with a patronising pat on the head. They cover a myriad of topics to appeal to a broad set of tastes, yet it seems branding isn’t deserved of their attention beyond those pure lols.

We don’t see every new aeroplane, sports arena or digital product design met with such derision, the mainstream press lining up with “Crap, we think you could have done better!” Ian’s response and that of others led me to question ‘Why do they have issues discussing branding and why is it such a rich seam of scorn?’

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Wolff Olins ‘recently unveiled identity for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The logo (see top of post) has proved divisive on the internet

It’s just colours and shapes
I doubt there’s one definitive answer on why we’re the butt of this particular joke. One place I start though, is the thinking that graphic design is perceived to be easy. It’s colouring-in and a few shapes, slapping new logos on old brands, something anyone could do with the right software and some time.

The counterbalance is that we, as designers, don’t really help ourselves – could it be the fault of our egos? We often take ourselves so seriously, which, in turn, leads our own discussions into “I can do better” – not to mention the arguments about kerning, colour and which typeface is best. If we act like this online, in public, then maybe the press take their cues from that?

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I also believe that misperception is easy in our industry, which, ironically, is branding’s beauty – its simplicity, when it’s good, is also its key attack point. It’s why so many people miss the semiotic triggers which make them buy goods, engage with messages and watch content globally every day. Not every journalist lacks the insight or skill to talk about these important jobs with grace and understanding, however.

On wired.com, Margaret Rhodes wrote a long piece about The Met brand and its background. She concluded towards the end of the piece that “New logos will always and forever invoke knee-jerk reactions, but that’s all they are: sudden, involuntary, and, very often, personal. The true value of a new graphic identity only becomes apparent over time.”

This line struck a chord with me as it took me back to 1997 and Magaret Thatcher’s reaction to the British Airways World Image tail fins designed by Newell & Sorrell. Her disgust at their global appeal and the loss of the Union Jack showed how ahead of their time they were. I can’t begin to imagine the social media storm if that was to happen today.

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Photo by Adrian Pingstone, August 2005, Wikipedia

Some launches are more controversial than others, of course, depending on how invested the public are in the project. In the Premier League’s case, the richest football league in the world faces accusations of a lack of connection with fans – they are treated less like fans and more like customers – against a backdrop of record breaking TV money and fan ticket protests.

All valid concerns, as the world’s most supported game skirts around the moral limit of capital and what should be for profit or not. But I think some journalists let this affect their own take on the new logo by letting their feelings about the brand’s actions cloud their reading of the new visual brand.

The author Thomas E Patterson wrote around this ‘personal infection’ in journalism in his 2013 book Informing the News. He argues the desperate need for thorough journalism that doesn’t use facts without context, doesn’t let personal theories get in the way, that stands up to scrutiny.

Now, I’m not saying design reviews are as important as democracy, justice and social liberty, but for the 500,000 people directly employed by design in the UK, contributing 7% of GDP, well, some respect and understanding wouldn’t go amiss.

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The age of entitlement
If we take a step back from the topic and look at the wider trends of the digital revolution then the role of the ‘self’ plays an interesting part in this story. We live in an age of connection where millennials pour every thought into the world through the powerful computer that’s in every pocket. (In his excellent book Anti-Fragile the essayist and risk analyst, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, discusses the increasing ingratitude of the masses in this globalised digital age: his is an analysis of randomness and the over-confidence that many in this century display.)

If all designers can talk about is colours or kerning values or how with five minutes of their own time this logo could have been so much better, then how do they expect people who run organisations to take them seriously as people who can make a really valuable contribution to their business? Let alone the press who need to sell more papers and adverts, whilst wondering what’s going to happen in the face of dwindling reader numbers.

There’s also an observation on my part that it’s a lot of younger commentators who are doing the damage. Their lack of experience and excitement around a launch causes them to fire off tweets and comments without considering how it would feel if others were discussing their own work. The golden rule for people fresh out of college – those people you’re attacking could one day be your team mates. How would it feel reading those tweets out to them in person?

We live in a perfect storm where time-poor journalists misinterpret easy work created by overly sensitive designers with over-inflated senses of their own place in the world. A situation not helped when one of our own threatens to sue a well respected designer because his obscure geometric theatre logo looks like the new Tokyo 2020 logo. That story did so much damage to us a collective group and led most of the people I know to be deeply frustrated. Triangles, squares and circles are the building blocks of the most basic of identities and nothing, literally nothing, is original.

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Time to break the cycle
All designers can be guilty of moments of indulgence, lacking self awareness in our pursuit of perceived control and perfection. Are we just boring ego manics? I don’t think so. If any other collective endeavour was treated with such repeated contempt, how would their union or representing body respond? We need to represent our values, stop being so nice and own the conversation by being a bit more up-in-arms. Maybe it’s time a body such as D&AD owned this conversation and showed mainstream journalism it’s time to take our design endeavours seriously.

In these uncertain times here’s a booming export the whole world looks to us for, one which delivers a great career to our young people and is working to be diverse and inclusive. Graphic design – it’s mainly pens, just like journalism was.

James Greenfield is founder and creative director of Koto. He tweets @gradiate. See studiokoto.co and @studiokoto. His first CR column, on the recent Uber rebrand, is here.

  • alex_tea

    It’s not just branding projects that get misconstrued by the mainstream press, there’s a huge lack of understanding of what design entails across the whole industry.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2310191/And-award-goes-boring-com-Government-website-beats-100-named-worlds-best-design.html

    • hellomuller

      Exactly. Its both the lack of understanding, coupled with the increasing accessibility of design (and the tools used) which gives a lot of people the idea they understand the underlying mechanics because everyone understands what text and graphic shapes are. Anyone who’s played around in any design app will have drawn a circle with some text — and its easy to make the mental leap from there; not to mention the pervasive idea that if it looks simple, it must have taken 10 minutes and shouldn’t cost anything (see Paula Sher’s famous City logo story).

      Then there’s the fact that graphic design is largely seen as the poor cousin in design: a mass-market low art form (even though there are many antecedents to prove otherwise). A glance at the Design section on The Guardian will see a heavy slant towards anything but graphics.

      And ego is everywhere — yes graphic designers do talk haughty about *their craft*, but you find that in any design discipline.

      Designing a building or furniture looks more complex than a logo, so in the public eye it looks like it’s worth it.

  • There’s a similar story in the US, but the coverage is different. Instead of being mindlessly incendiary, the mainstream press here — even other-wise enlightened sources like The New York Times — will run superficial, after-the-fact coverage, citing a few well-known designers and presenting the issue when it “matters” to average readers. A bit of lip service to appease the business press and the arts press alike. Just a way for them to say “Oh yea, this happened. Some people are upset, I guess.” The press operates different in Britain, as does the design industry. From my experience, the average European cares more about design, arts, architecture, etc. and those industries have a higher level of coverage in the press — for better or for worse.

  • Zef

    “We don’t see every new aeroplane, sports arena or digital product design met with such derision” Err yes we do.

    What about Qatar’s stadium being an Accidental Vagina, or the new Airship being branded as a giant bum, or every new building that springs up in London being met with derision and silly nicknames.

    Coming from a designer, I am constantly grossed out by what a high opinion we all seem to have of ourselves and our profession.

    • Zef

      It’s arrogant to assume the the average person should give a shit about design or branding. Why should they? We deserve no more respect than bakers.

      • Zef

        Or Bee Keepers.

      • Christian Bonato

        But bread is eaten by one person or a family, over one day.
        A brand identity is for many people to see and interact with, repeatedly, over years.
        Not exactly the same job, even if I agree that the starification of Johnny Ive and others make us all look as we’re full of ourselves.
        The current trend of flat design is a disservice to us all. Not that flat design is bad per se, but the examples shown in the article all look like unfinished stuff. In the end, it comes down to the clients, where more and more MBA are taking decisions with no artistic or design capabilities at all. You can be the greatest designer in the world, but if the boss’s daughter prefers it orange, orange it’s going to be.
        Of course, in downtown dinners, you’ll come up with some invented rationale about the orange choice.

    • gradiate

      The key word is “Every”. I agree there’s plenty of buildings that are met with derision. The nicknames are affection in London.

  • The 5 Stages of New Logo Reaction work their magic…always. Believe in the process. lol http://creativebobbie.com/post/139796360898/5-stages-of-new-logo-reaction

  • Mark

    We don’t see every new aeroplane, sports arena or digital product design met with such derision, the mainstream press lining up with “Crap, we think you could have done better!” Ian’s response and that of others led me to question ‘Why do they have issues discussing branding and why is it such a rich seam of scorn?’

    Sorry, that is just your view. Before I was designer I worked in the construction world and with many many years under my belt from draughtsman to projects manger. We have mainstream views in different ways, huge amount of periodicals that are not in your view for those certain aspects. The design world speaks the design world, the architecture world might overlap on that and so on and so on. Stop being naive about this and look at the larger picture. I’m sick of the bullshit that design has become and to be honest many are to blame. Honestly, the the new Logotype is not catastrophe and works quite well in certain applications.

  • As a group whose work is in the public space, we deserve the right to voice our opinions and critique the work of our peers. All other professions do it, some extremely publicly, in some fashion. As with any group, we too have those who speak before thinking, but they’re entitled to their opinions as well.

  • Mike Andrews

    For some big, public facing projects, isn’t it just a fact that the general public are key stakeholders in the brand? Premier League is a perfect example where the fans feel like they own the brand. In this sense they’re less like an audience and more like a client. So is it just something we have to accept, that with the changing and opening nature of media and culture through technology, we have to be more open about our processes?
    I say this with some apprehension as I’m aware of the huge tanker of worms it could open, but do we have to entertain the idea of involving the public at an earlier stage? Perhaps not going as far as to let everyone have their two cents in the concept phase, but in making the process more open through documentation, people may feel more part of it and so less likely to over-react. Then, in the event of a launch the agency/client is able to refer to the key decisions made in public along the way…

    • James Burbidge

      I think you’re wrong

      • Mike Andrews

        thanks m8

  • I think it’s a good thing that the merits of a rebranding or logo can be discussed openly. Sure, some of the comments may be ungrounded. But others are from respected peers. In the case of The Met logo, for example, type guru erik spiekermann tweeted: “Just bad lettering. Too many versions of the same shapes. Branding concept may be right, but this logo really sucks.” This kind of public criticism can be uncomfortable to hear but if the work is solid, then what is there to fear?

    • marshallbananaaa

      The problem is that most people involved in the dust-up around The Met are not type gurus, don’t know who Mr. Spiekermann is, and don’t care. That they agree with supposed experts is incidental. The tone of the conversation is still toxic to our industry.

  • DC

    It seems apparent when a newspaper or (in particular an) industry platform (such as CR) reports on a rebrand it is often seen by the public as an acknowledgement of it being ‘good’. And is in part why because of this, people opt to comment if they do not agree with this fact.

    In a lot of cases why else would they show it? From the amount of creative design being produced daily why would it be showcased unless it was of worth? Obviously major rebrand projects will often get showcased as will those which were created by agencies of ‘notable stock’ – regardless of the result – which again gives people the ‘need’ to comment as these are considered to have more worth by those of worth.

    Then there’s the ‘worth’ of the comment. Sometimes accepted (If by someone of ‘notable stock’) to the tit-for-tat comments by those in the design community who all know better than their fellow peer, to the pointless ‘I could have done that in 10min in Word’ which are always best ignored.

    If a comment is relayed with an appropriate rationale then why is it a problem? People are paid to review and give star ratings to other forms of creativity so why is it inappropriate for it to happen in design? Quite often it is the bull**** rationales, justifications and the smoke & mirror animations that accompany the visuals that are more questionable.

    Then there is the “you cannot judge an identity until it has been given the appropriate time and seen across all of the relevant touchpoints”. Whereas there is truth in this, shouldn’t a logo still be able to hold its own ‘on it’s own’ and isn’t the concept of time simply a case of ‘it will blow over’ or ‘they’ll get used to it’ – like that dodgy shade of magnolia you painted the kitchen which you don’t even notice or think about in six months time?

    Remember: “Everyone is a Designer!”

  • Carlos Braña

    Although, It is usually true that as time passes acceptance for a new image grows, it would be naive to think that these experiences don’t left behind some attitude towards design criticism. A butterfly effect changing the perception that people in other industries have about design and how it’s judged.

    Seems to me that the conversation is more about the impact of indiscriminate critics over the industry of graphic design. It’s not a matter of how designers perceive their place in the professional “status quo”, nor about “good” or “bad” design, but whose voices are heard, how knowledgable is their opinion and how it’s expressed.

    An industry driven by outside, ill-informed, voices is a one way rode to a culture of disagreement and pre-canned low value solutions.

    We need to be more prudent at the time to discuss design. At the end of the day, journalists are going to go for the controversial headline and readers are going to remember that cheeky quote or tweet. If we don’t have knowledgable and educational speech, who will?

  • Albert

    Although I agree with most of the article, I disagree with the statement “the mainstream media’s knee-jerk and ill-informed reaction to logo design is an insult to graphic design”. And some other issues.
    For about two decades now, the (graphic) design industry has been following the advertising industry by losing much of its common sense. Many logos by top design firms are comparable with shampoo, or washing powder, advertisements done by top advertising agencies. Bland, but perfectly crafted creative output that lacks true inspiration and gets sold to clients based on company credentials, and award show merit, rather than good design in itself.
    Some notes on the logos discussed in this article that rightfully deserve the criticism they get.
    THE MET seems stuck in development. An intern had this idea of connecting everything, and the account director assumed it was the final proposal.
    The Premiere League has now a lion that looks like a monkey. Someone quickly dropped a poorly cut paper crown on top of it and presto, it is done.
    The British Airways tail fin design by Newell & Sorrell looks like the cheap gift wrapping paper that you pick up at the souvenir shop before boarding your flight. Time has not proven them to be the next big achievement in groundbreaking design, so the initial critique turns out to be spot on.
    The critique on the London 2012 Olympics logo was all legit because the logo was shit. No matter how hard the people at Wolff Olins were defending it. No matter how hard every Wolff Olins groupie declared it was amazing, it was not.
    The “Andy Murray 77” logo is a different thing altogether. This logo hardly got any criticism from within the design community, and the Guardian contest showed that independent (amateur) designers did not deliver a better logo, at all.
    My point is that designers have to learn how to deal with criticism and how to handle it, depending on the source. If someone like Erik Spiekermann tweets that your logo is shit, it is shit. If Premiere League fans do not like the new logo, it means you, as a designer, failed to translate the Premiere League spirit in detail – therefore it is shit.
    When you get criticised by your peers it means you are doing something wrong. When the criticism comes from users, customers, consumers, fans, journalists, bloggers, whatever, you better learn how to judge that kind of criticism and how to counter it, if that is needed.
    Great logos stir up emotions and always prove to be classics in no time. Never think a logo is great solely because it causes outrage. Never justify half-arsed design by thinking a logo is great solely because it causes outrage, or because you are privileged to be working at Wolff Olins, Landor, Futurebrand, etc.
    Final note on “knee-jerk”. No presentation ever comes without knee-jerks.
    Final note on “ill-informed”. A logo is what it is: a logo. Consumers, customers, etc, will NOT see your “mind-boggling-super-awesome” video on Vimeo that explains your brand development and how your “super-creative-mind-powers” resulted in that particular logo design.
    Fight for good design, not for megalomaniacs.

  • smallritual

    What I see running through most of these rebranding controversies is that the public have their own sense of what a brand is and stands for, and react badly to that narrative being overthrown, even if for the best of reasons.

    For instance, in the case of the Premier League I’m hearing ‘tradition’ ‘English’ ‘proud’ and of course ‘football’ – and the old logo had these referents in an explicit way but the new one doesn’t. I don’t blame the designers for this kind of misalignment with public expectation, because it is generally the client that wants to move on and engage with new markets and audiences. The risk is that they fail to take the public with them on that journey – because the public didn’t realise that there was a journey, or actively disagree with the direction.

    Openness about the process (and I mean process, not preliminary designs) might help – perhaps even during the process, though that would be delicate to manage. It also helps to have public explanations and support from the client themselves, in active ownership of the work they’ve commissioned, rather than leaving it to the designers to be accused of foisting their own pet ideas onto a hoodwinked client.

  • Hywel Edwards

    Just seems to be a logo from a bad Lettering artist. The second half ‘MET’ is a thoroughly awkward blend. Difficult to see it become iconic but doubtless it will

  • fiascodesign

    Great piece James. I wrote something similar about the knee-jerk reaction to logo design back in 2013 after the Yahoo! rebrand: http://fiascodesign.co.uk/calm-down-dear-its-a-logo-design/

    I think what you mentioned here about the perception of graphic design is exactly right: “One place I start though, is the thinking that graphic design is perceived to be easy. It’s colouring-in and a few shapes, slapping new logos on old brands, something anyone could do with the right software and some time.”

    As an industry we should be doing more to explain/illustrate the creative process, as this is what adds value to the final output. Just like Interbrand did recently for the Sydney Opera House rebrand (http://standapart.com.au/) or DesignStudio for Airbnb (https://www.wearedesignstudio.com/works/airbnb-process/), it’s the design process that’s most valuable. A greater understanding of how this works I’m sure would help to combat these sorts of knee-jerk reactions from popular press.

    • CG

      Following Paul’s comment about the (mis)use of the word ‘brand’ – the Sydney Opera House project was developing their existing brand identity not rebranding…

  • Paul Bailey

    Well considered piece James and some good points. For me it all hinges on ‘understanding’. Does the public understand the work and thinking (and hours) that goes into a new brand identity (not just logo) such as The Met or The Premier League? Does the public understand the semiotic and cultural references that the designers are using in their designs? Does the public understand the full strategy and plan for the brand that the new brand identity is in part reflecting? Of course they don’t.

    However, the understanding issue isn’t just coming from the public, it comes from other professionals too. I would say (and this is a huge assumption so don’t quote me) that the vast majority of commenters online to new brand identity projects are designers. Their comments are very often subjective, and also ‘craft-based’ such as the kerning is wrong, the letterforms look wrong, etc. The problem is, they don’t understand the brief, but how could they as they don’t know what it was!

    This issue of understanding isn’t simply one for the public or other professionals. The industry itself doesn’t help matters. For one thing, what we mean when we refer to the term ‘brand’ is many and varied. Also, the work involved in developing a brand should be so diverse, from researching audience behaviours and perceptions, to analysing the brand history and current environment. In developing a brand skills from sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, marketing, and design all come in to play. Yet many newly developed brands are relaunched by showing a few versions of a logo and some colours.

    So what I’m saying is. People don’t understand what goes into developing a brand. Other professionals don’t understand what went into developing a specific brand. The industry doesn’t seem to understand how to successfully explain how we develop a brand.

    OR

    Maybe the public and other professional designers just like moaning and are actually averse to change. And only when they’ve had a moan and they’ve got used to the new brand, in their own time, will they ‘understand’ it.

  • Gareth J

    This article kind of highlights that “touchy” side of a designer’s thinking, so does nothing really to disagree with the point made by Ian Prior.

    Unless every new logo/brand is supplied with documentation of its journey from brief to delivery in terms that can be understood by everyone including those outside of the design industry then just accept that there will always be confusion, disagreements, misunderstandings, even mockery of the end result. Its art, it’s subjective, it’s both good and bad to all kinds of people for a plethora of reasons.

    We are taught to present, explain and critique in education from a young age, it’s healthy, it allows us to learn and distinguish between constructive criticism and ignorant nonsense. Accept that we live in a world where everyone is entitled to an opinion, so either use it to your advantage or move on.

    • “Its art, it’s subjective”
      Wrong! No wonder we have a problem if this is being repeated everywhere, even by some from the industry. Design is a 100% highly specialised craft, period.

      • Gareth J

        That’s basically saying “the outcome is always right, anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong, period”.

        Pretty narrow minded and ignorant of people’s particular relationship with an institution or organisation. If it evokes an emotional response then it’s subjective, opinions will differ.

        I respect the craft, and I have great appreciation for the abilities/skills of those of us within it, but the job of designers is not to stand in front of an audience and make specific statements that are definitively either true or false, it’s to tell stories, or capture people’s attention or imagination within a particular topic, sometimes in a handful of pixels, it’s a percentage game, success is a difficult thing to measure. The happiest we can hope to be is having met the demands of the client, brief and the majority of consumers/customers etc to the best of our abilities.

        • Not at all ignorant. I’m speaking from a perspective of twenty years in the design industry.
          To me, it boils down to a simple IF: if the product or service answers a given problem then it’s craft. Whether you design a leaflet for a local music gig or a car, it’s craft, it’s science. It surely triggers emotional response because it has been engineered this way.

      • Heliskinki

        I disagree with you RE design not being partly subjective. Yes it is a specialised craft, but not 100% – you could write software to create great graphic design if that was the case, but it isn’t.

        Case in point – when working on a logo recently, there was an element of the logo that in theory, should have been centred within a container, but it just didn’t look right – I ended up positioning it by eye, deliberately off-centre as the balance was right this way. No piece of software could have ever worked that out.

        • If you’re talking about optical alignment, then such software already exists and it’s not that difficult to achieve even more sophisticated algorithms programmatically.

  • paradoX187

    Awesome read.

  • James Smith

    Graphic designer bemoans journalists suggesting people have a go at design whilst he has a go at journalism…

  • CG

    Isn’t it just a case of design fulfills an objective but will always be viewed by a subjective audience…?

    An audience who we want to:
    1. Like the logo visually (or failing that)
    2. Find it appropriate for its purpose (or failing that)
    3. Enhances the company / organisation / product & its values (or failing that)
    4. Appreciates how it works / will work on all touchpoints (or failing that)
    5. At least understand the logo & its rationale (or failing that)
    6. Will just get used to it being there over time… (until the next time).

  • Deep Sea Diving Club

    In this digital world of immediacy, where click-through rates, likes and shares determine how successful something is, theres not a huge amount of time for context – or balanced argument, or detailed rationale come to think of it. And I think this goes some way to explain the wave of negative response to large-scale projects such as Design Studio’s PL rebrand and Wolf Olin’s MET identity (from layman, anyway).

    It doesn’t help that social platforms give everyone a voice, no matter how insulting or flippant it might be. But the fact that design is making its way more and more into mainstream media can only be a good thing – so long as websites like this exist to contextualise and promote rational discussion.

  • peteherb

    Interesting to see the level of response to this one! One thing these branding storms highlight for me is the need (and lack of) solid, trusted design journalism. If the Design industry is going to ‘fight back’, explain, critique or justify the design process then we need informed and trusted voices putting the discussion out there for the public’s edification. Unfortunately I see Design journalism as something in steady decline (the likes of CR & Eye Mag notwithstanding)

  • Collins_dan

    Interesting points. I think the Premier League logo attracted scorn because it looks North American, akin to NFL brands, and as such, connects it to what most fans hate about the league – it’s increasing commercialisation and loss of history and soul. I think, therefore, it was the wrong kind of logo, with the wrong semiotic triggers. Though brand identities are far more than just logos, the logo is always going to be the most visible element, and the first thing that triggers something in people’s minds. It represents the wrong thing, it would appear. So inasmuch as that the competition is disrespectful, I think they do have a point regarding the contextual decision making behind the new programme.

    The issue raised regarding press reporting standards is important, but not suprising. The mainstream media trivialises everything it doesn’t like – just look at how Jeremy Corbyn is presented. The antidote, as always, is to respond with straight-forward argument, providing the context that was omitted. This involves, as you say, looking at brand identities through the eyes of the public, not as creators. We need to think about outcomes. The Premier League identity was mis-judged, because it was designed without taking into account the hostility towards the corporate takeover of football. The outcome is derision on behalf of fans who don’t like where the league is going (http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/mar/02/the-fiver-european-super-league-not-this-again).

    The Met logo, on the other hand, feels different (or actually Herb Lubalin-esque), and is subject to the shock of the new. That’s a good thing because people will remember it. Erik Spiekermann should know better and he talks too much anyway. It just breaks *his* rules of typography, which are founded on great experience but certainly not the gold standard.

    In short, I think this is a good article, and should open up further debate of this kind. Debate that isn’t limited to the comments panel. Debate that speaks with context, common sense and honesty about visual language’s role in commerce and society.

  • Emma Scott-Child

    James, I think it’s really important that you’ve mentioned the industry working to be more diverse and inclusive. Looking at all the responses here, I think I might be the first woman in the industry to leave a comment. Perhaps this has something to do with the perception?
    As a hugely male dominated industry, the role of ego and deflecting criticism without emotion has become almost as important and creative talent. If you look at the number of female design graduates Vs senior designers 10 years later, you’d be wondering where they all went. The answer has a lot to do with the male dominated, ego driven culture of design agencies. It’s a shame that this culture means a lot of talented female designers move on to other things. – That’s not to say that women can’t be egocentric too, but I wonder if the culture and reputation of our industry would be the same if it were more balanced between the sexes?

    • Christian Bonato

      Who cares about the reputation of our industry?
      Such reputation is caused by inflated budgets, which headlines makes look like they’re the norm.
      In an era that promotes the common man as a creative, he feels entitled to give his opinion, and more so if he has a painful job ; Compared to ours, no matter how many week hours we do, most of the times his job looks like shit. Yes, we’re privileged to hold a pencil and make a living out of it.
      In such a situation, no wonder people are demanding for something astounding.
      No wonder heads inflate as balloons. But sex wars has nothing to do with it.
      Women prove that they can be as stupid and self-centered as men.
      And I’m sorry to see this sometimes as the only achievement of genders equality.
      Lots of women adopt men’s flaws, but rarely do we see a man adopting women’s qualities.
      In the end, it’s not specific to the design industry, the problem is all over the world.

  • Well, I’m sorry, but many logoes remain a mess, the 1997 BA and 2012 Olympics included. Time has not mellowed my views on them.

    Praise to Pentagram for their 1992 logo for British Waterways, which they successfully tweaked 20 years later for its successor, the Canal & River Trust. Retaining a familiar theme while completely refreshing it, a rare and remarkable success.

  • Stefan Gustafsson

    Just having watched the Uber video on how they arrived at their business idea from wanting to bring “bits and atoms together”! Are you kidding me? It feels like it takes itself serious to a laughable level. I agree with Gareth J below in that I very much respect the craft, I think it’s important, and we also have to realize that we are not ending world hunger here.

  • Chris Kelly

    Great bunch

    I spent a lot of time on the bottom half of the internet communicating with people (without being a dick) on the subject of the London 2012 olympic logo. It got a lot of heat and negativity that ultimately disappeared once things kicked off. The media tried to bring it up again as a ‘controversial logo’ as the mark appeared across the capital. Most people ignored it at that point.

    So much of being a designer is about education. I’m glad I dont have to explain to people why they need a website and what a website is anymore. I’m also glad that I dont get a bunch of people shouting when a site gets updated (yet?!), unlike the world of branding.