Gap to pull new logo

Gap North America president Marka Hansen has confirmed that the company is to abandon the new logo launched last week after it attracted a storm of criticism

Gap North America president Marka Hansen has confirmed that the company is to abandon the new logo launched last week after it attracted a storm of criticism

The new logo was created by New York consultancy Laird & Partners. After it appeared unannounced on Gap’s website there was much speculation over whether it was genuine or simply a means of generating debate. However, Hansen appeared to confirm that the logo was genuine in a piece for the Huffington Post last week in which she said that “We chose this design as it’s more contemporary and current. It honors our heritage through the blue box while still taking it forward.”

It was then suggested that Gap customers could join in the debate around the new design by suggesting their own versions: “Now, given the passionate outpouring from customers that followed, we’ve decided to engage in the dialogue, take their feedback on board and work together as we move ahead and evolve to the next phase of Gap,” Hansen said. “…We plan to ask people to share their designs with us as well…We’ll explain specifics on how everyone can share designs in a few days.”

Overnight, however, AdAge has reported that Gap will be returning to its old design. This was confirmed in the following statement from Hansen:

“Since we rolled out an updated version of our logo last week on our Website, we’ve seen an outpouring of comments from customers and the online community in support of the iconic blue box logo.

“Last week, we moved quickly to address the feedback and began exploring how we could tap into all of the passion. Ultimately, we’ve learned just how much energy there is around our brand. All roads were leading us back to the blue box, so we’ve made the decision not to use the new logo on any further.

“At Gap brand, our customers have always come first. We’ve been listening to and watching all of the comments this past week. We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back. So we’ve made the decision to do just that – we will bring it back across all channels.

“In the meantime, the website will go back to our iconic blue box logo and, for Holiday, we’ll turn our blue box red for our seasonal campaign.

“We’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community. This wasn’t the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing.

“There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way.”

This is the second time that a major US-based brand has retreated from a redesign in the face of online opposition, after Tropicana famously pulled its new Arnell-designed packaging.

So what’s the lesson here? Has Gap shown an admirable ability to listen to its customers or has it merely bowed to mob rule – assuming that the whole thing wasn’t simply a giant PR stunt.

Regular readers of this blog will know that change is almost always met with hostility online, even (especially) from fellow designers. But often the same work that was openly derided becomes years, even months later, first accepted and then loved. It takes time for people to get used to the new. The Guardian redesign, for example, was the subject of hundreds of hysterically critical online comments: a year later it won a D&AD Gold (not that D&AD is the be-all and end-all in these matters). And when the Cadbury Gorilla ad was first screened internally to the company’s senior management, the marketing director was told in no uncertain terms that the commercial would never be allowed to see the light of day. Once it was eventually screened, Dairy Milk sales shot up, it generated a return on investment about three times the average and suddenly Cadbury was telling everyone how much they loved it.

The new Gap Logo may not have been very well designed but, assuming we haven’t all been had, a precedent has been set that must be worrying for anyone involved in this business. In this case, negative reaction may have been justified but many other landmark projects would have been similarly killed if a brave client hadn’t ridden out the first waves of criticism. If clients are going to fold at the first negative Tweet, or if a self-selecting, vociferous minority are allowed to hold sway, what chance has any challenging or genuinely radical work of getting through in the future?

And a word of sympathy too for Laird & Partners. Presumably they would have presented many different solutions. Gap chose this one. Now Laird has been hung out to dry.

What a mess.

Incidentally, Brand New has a great summary of ‘Gapgate’ so far here

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