In transition? Keep your logo!

So, I noticed something yesterday — google+ is changing up their “look,” I guess, which means their logo has gone from cool to suck:

And they tried to muck up the +1 button, too:
I mean, I know it’s just opinion that these changes suck, but it seems to be a pretty common one. Common enough that someone even developed an extension so that (in your browser anyway) you see the old +1 buttons instead of the new ones. The backlash was strong enough that within 24 hours, it already looks like Google might be pulling back on implementing it.*
Personally, I feel like it’s the colors of the new logo that really muck it up. The old versions incorporated that distinctive bright, friendly Google blue and playfulness; the new versions are utilizing this weird orangey-red color that I don’t think anyone has ever associated with Google, ever. On top of that, the text itself seems to be moving away from a sense of being at once very fun and down-to-earth to a version that is businesslike and cold. To quote one user, “Damn thing looks like a warning, not an endorsement.”
In fact, moving away from colors and text that are friendly, inviting, playful, or soothing to bright colors and business like text seems to be a new design trend in internet logos. Looking at the designs, one senses that the companies are not trying to design logos that appear intimidating, businesslike, off-putting, and as though they are warning people away rather than inviting them to explore the service, it’s just an unhappy accident. Consider both Stumbleupon and Apple:
via Gizmodo
You can kind of see how these logos can be interpreted as futuristic and forward-thinking; incorporating elements of the old logo while sending a new message of youth and vibrancy and motion, or something. But instead, the overuse of orange/red tones, reducing and tightening of the text, the  utter flatness of them, and the complete reversal in color schemes combine to make each logo look like they’re not just moving forward, they are actually trying to shed their past.
In the case of Stumbleupon, they rolled out several changes to the site interface and UI at the same time they introduced the new logo and theme. Ultimately, I ended up leaving my account because the stumbles no longer seemed as random (15 cooking pages in a row, really?) and the advertising pages increased.
The Apple logo incorporates the familiar apple, and it’s not entirely a warning red/orange, that’s just the first impression. Looking at it more closely, it’s like a paint palette of colors. I’d like to know what Apple fans think. The Gizmodo article linked seemed to mostly like it because, “I like it because first off, I’m not homophobic. Second, I like color.” (actual comment). I once saw a mock-up of an Apple logo that incorporate the colored stripes from version one with the glossy, rounded “texture” of version three, and I’ve always liked that one — it was both clean and retro. This messy paint palette seems antithetical to the restrained, minimalist ethic that Steve Jobs was famous for. Perhaps that’s the goal?
I guess what it comes down to is that I think changing a familiar, reassuring and beloved logo in a time of shift and change is a bad idea. Unfortunately, it’s also a common one — for some reason, when company or service undergoes massive internal changes or rolls out innovative new products and services, they often change their logos. This is such a common practice, no-one really questions it — we know we’ll accept the logo eventually and move on. It was annoying, but not that big of deal when the companies in question were Pepsi or Nike — even if people didn’t like the logo changes, they still bought the product.
But in the case of internet branding, where the logo is almost synonymous with the service and company, I think it’s just in general a really bad marketing choice. In the case of Apple, they probably should have waited until after at least one product that was never under the influence of Jobs was released. Not an iPhone update or new iteration of iPad, but a brand new product conceived, designed, and created entirely without the influence of Steve Jobs. Why? Because the company went downhill once before in the absence of Jobs, and the message they need to be sending after his death is not one of change, but one of reassurance. They need to be letting Apple customers know their commitment to Jobs’ vision and the perfect product is not going to change.
In the case of Stumbleupon, they rolled out a harsh new logo and color scheme at the same time they changed the UI and certain aspects of the service itself (it seemed to become more advertiser-heavy). Often, when internet corporations do this, they offer an option for the user to stay with the old scheme for a little while. Instead, they should just roll out the changes more slowly. Instead of shocking users with UI changes and logo changes and color scheme changes all at once, companies should be choosing one constant and keeping that as a bridge between the old and the new.
This is where Google is mis-stepping, too. They’re rolling out massive changes in their services, privacy policies, and general user experiences. There are rumors swirling that they’re now too corporate, that their mandate of, “Don’t be evil,” has been forgotten along the road to success. Even as new users join the Google experience, old and dedicated users flake away, disappointed at the changes. Even though it’s small and seemingly unnecessary, messing with a logo in the midst of this upheaval is just . . . bad news. You need that common thread, that link from the past to the future throughout the time of changes. Resist the urge, no matter how strong or how efficient doing both at once would be, to change your look while you’re changing your services or internal company.
*edit: I thought google was pulling back on implementing the new button because the websites I went to were pretty evenly divided between red and blue buttons, and more than a few Google sites were sporting the blue button (help pages, etc.) A day or so has passed, though, and the red button continues to spread, so it looks like I was mistaken about that. 

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