Yahoo!’s branding disaster

Marissa Mayer is many things. A brand designer she is not.

After 30 days of change and countless dollars thrown at R&D, Yahoo! have unveiled their new logo. The past month showcased some options — most of which were bad — and unfortunately the end result is distinctly amateurish.

 

So what’s wrong?

Well to start with, in the context of a world waking up to the value of minimalism — if not flat design — Yahoo! have managed to date themselves overnight by embracing bevels reminiscent of stone carving; a skeuomorphic ornament best left in the 1990’s.

That carved stone look extends to the terminals, which are sharp and concave; except the ‘O’s which don’t have terminals, and the ‘!’ which does.

yahoo

They’ve based the logo on Optima, which may be a great choice for a lawyer, but seems deeply inappropriate for a daring young brand with an exclamation mark in its name.

What’s more, the team at Yahoo! have tweaked the letter forms badly: compare the original contrast on the horizontal and vertical strokes with the newly symmetrical diagonals on the ‘Y’ and ‘A'; this is a large part of the reason the left half of the logo feels heavier than the right.

We wanted there to be a mathematical consistency to the logo, really pulling it together into one coherent mark.

You’d think that if you were going to apply kerning inconsistently you’d get it right somewhere, just by chance, but they haven’t. Take a look at the ‘YA’, ‘AH’, ‘HO’ and ‘OO’ as pairs. Mayer has suggested that there’ll be some small refinements made in future, and the first thing that needs to be done is fixing the tracking.

All in all it feels as if the logo has been derived from mathematical rules rather than set by eye, and both the promo video Yahoo! have released and one of Mayer’s stated aims seem to support that conclusion:

 

How did this happen?

The answer is depressingly familiar:

On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :) — Marissa Mayer

The in-house design team at Yahoo! must have been thrilled to discover an enthusiastic amateur was calling the shots.

This situation is in my opinion the worst kind of exploitation, in which designers are treated as little more than a mouse, or a walking-talking substitute for a CEO’s lack of design education. I have a lot of time for Marissa Mayer, but on this occasion it seems her ego was calling the shots.

 

How can we avoid this ourselves?

The first rule of branding, in fact the first rule of design, is that it’s not about making something the CEO likes; it’s about making something appropriate for the brand. No one is saying that branding is easy, especially with a brand valued at billions of dollars, but that’s all the more reason not to knock it out on the kitchen table over the course of a weekend.

The answer is to bring in a trained professional, from outside the organization who can take objective, informed decisions.

In other words, hire a designer.

What do you think of Yahoo!’s new logo? Have you rebranded recently? Let us know in the comments.

  • Tim

    It’s not the worst logo they could’ve picked, but definitely not the best. I thought their previous logo was fine and didn’t need tampering.

    • http://autoflu.in/ Aashish Dhiman

      I think they don’t need to redesign their logo but to redesign the inferior services they provide.

      • Dinesh Singh

        well said!

    • http://nodws.com/ Nodws

      That’s like trying to decide from 2 shits which is the least disgusting

  • TheAL

    The thing about ‘flat design’ that is confusing me the most is how the community at large is defining it. Some seem to think “anything with flat colors making up the design, even if it conveys aspects of multiple dimensions, is flat.” Others seem to think that it has to be 100% completely flat: minimal as hell, no faux shadows or depth, an icon can only be just a white letter on a solid colored block. The community should make up its mind, which it likely never will. Personally, flat design isn’t exciting me. It’s nice. But it’s just another trend.

    • http://www.testshoot.com/ TestShoot

      Flat ui is flatline. Dead, dull, suck

    • http://www.justinmitchell.com.au/ Justin Mitchell

      My interpretation of flat design is more to do with the edges and the relationship edges have with surrounding elements and objects, regardless how they’re layered. Any design worth their salt isn’t going to re-create something from the 90’s and call it flat, and if they do they aren’t worth the money.

      Here’s an example of what I would call flat design:
      http://www.thevenueshop.com.au/

      It’s a project I recently completed: edges are flat and consistent, shapes and colours blend and seamlessly transition, some shadows and backgrounds to emphasis certain sections, but mostly flat.

      I’m a dev not a designer, but that’s at least my interpretation of it.

  • nyviii

    While I get where they were going with not having a flat (= un-trendy) logo, this is simply worst than not having one, similar to millions of others. Obviously as you point out at the end, they should have just hired an out-of-house designer/studio to get the branding worked out.

    It’s a shame though the 30 days of evolution was entertaining and good idea. Since the wacky name, logo structure and colour is what makes it Yahoo! they should have used those 30 logos to create a flexible dynamic identity.

    Or at the very least use some of these http://mashable.com/2013/08/13/99designs-yahoo-logo/ which have charm or an idea to go on, while retaining what yahoo! makes yahoo!

  • Alex

    It’s not a disaster but not memorable either.

    “meh” probably sums it up.

  • Daniel Wiklund

    I think the worst part of this new rebrand/redesign is not that the logo uses bevels and that the font they chose doesn’t go with brand-values of yahoo (but i agree on those points)

    The biggest problem is that it seems that nobody took into consideration, where 99% of yahoo’s users is going to see the new logo (the top left corner of the yahoo website) – Here the bevel look is completely lost due to the small size of the logo and the “weakness” of the bevel. Instead the logo just looks a bit blurry and pixelated – and i’m definitely not saying that the bevel should have been stronger :)

  • Alexandru

    It’s like they gave this job to the devs and fired all the designers. This logo looks terrible from any point you look at it.

    • Dania Schneider

      Well, they kinda-sorta did. The CEO designed it.

  • Vlad

    “On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)” for that alone I’m taking everything and switching to outlook, she’s the worst kind of boss you could have. Leave the fu.cking design to designers Marissa, you don’t see us trying to be Yahoo’s CEO…

  • http://myskins.org/ Envira

    I would design that logo for free, if she would have mailed me.

  • Patrick Grey

    ….and everyone is talking about Yahoo! (!) The run up to this was to get everyone talking about the company. The outcome has been the same. I suspect we will see a back down, a ‘we are listening’ and a redesign in a wee while. Might be wrong of course and this _is_ actually a massive mistake.

  • http://www.rafaelarmstrong.com/ rcarmstrong

    A couple of points–
    1) I don’t think folks would be up in arms as much had Mayer not made the asinine remark about Illustrator. If you take that out of the equation, the whole thing comes down to a “meh”.
    2) With that said, I have been preaching the first rule of branding/design for a number of years– to no avail, unfortunately. You need to have an audience that is open and receptive enough to that idea. Otherwise, the whole endeavor becomes Sisyphean.

  • Jason Rose

    Do you think she’ll use Optima when she updates her resume?

  • Jon Edenstein

    I’m rolling my eyes at how much attention this ridiculous “story” is getting.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      It’s not really surprising that designers are passionate about design.

      But is it Syria? No, of course not.

    • Matt Clark

      One of the biggest brands re-branding. Of course that’s going to get attention. Especially in the design world.
      Remember how much attention GAP got when they re-branded. It’s to be expected, it’s big news in the design world when large corporations re-brand.

    • Jason Rose

      A company with a market cap of 28 billion dollars had their logo redesigned by the CEO. That’s a story.

  • Terry Bruce Herring II

    I honestly don’t see why everyone is butchering this logo. I agree it doesn’t really fit the brand but I wasn’t a huge fan of the original logo. I like that it has a clean modern look to it.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      I’m onboard with the need for a redesign, but in defence of the original logo, it was original from well before Yahoo! was successful. Today, there isn’t a designer on the planet they couldn’t afford.

      • “MaxxFordham”

        Oh, yeah, I can see what you’re saying.

  • Pieter Staaks

    Foolish! We all where a starter in the begin and she got there to make that logo. You should rather be smiling then laughing. Flat design is just a trend and seriously don’t make your logo flat design. Logo’s last longer then just a trend. Yes my logo is flat but that was before flat design. Get your own calls seriously a good design is always better then a trend design. Look at Google their logo if you ask me it could be a good thing for promoting clowns but no I wouldn’t chance it if I owned Google since people know it looks like that. You can renew your logo yet you can’t chance your logo completely. And by how far I know Yahoo they will chance it whenever they wish and that can be tomorrow but it could be next year.

    And who calls the rules on flat design? That’s definition of stupidity.

    • Andreas Mitschke

      “We all where a starter in the begin and she got there to make that logo”, but nobody would be so self-absorbed to redesign a web-age-old $10B logo in 3 days…

  • viduTHALAi

    The curvy edges and bevel & emboss are ugly.
    it’s really really true, well said.
    (The first rule of branding, in fact the first rule of design, is that it’s not about making something the CEO likes; it’s about making something appropriate for the brand. )

  • http://www.abbasarezoo.co.uk/ Abbas Arezoo

    I think the use of the word “disaster” sums up the current trend of the over critical design community.

    This isn’t a disaster. Design is very subjective. People need to stop over-reacting. There’s no need to be so precious about it.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      Design is objective, style is subjective.

      It’s fine to have different opinions on the color, the tracking is less debatable.

      • http://www.tylerbrownvisuals.com/ Tyler Brown

        What’s so objective about design? It’s an irrefutable fact that there is garbage out there that us “designers” say isn’t good but people genuinely like.

        How many times have you seen someone have a terribly dated, poor UI webstie built for them exclaiming, “I LOVE it! My designer did such a good job!!”

        I will get on board and say it reeks of an older style, but I don’t see this hurting their bottom line one bit.

      • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        Design is objective because it solves visual problems, and those problems, by definition have solutions. There may be more than one solution, but there are ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’.

        Most of the time people don’t like good design because they don’t notice it.

        Styling (which can be a tool for designers) is entirely subjective and is what people ‘like’.

    • “MaxxFordham”

      Haha, yeah, now THERE ya go! So many designers must just think they’re such BIG “hot shots”!

  • James Cooper

    Couldn’t agree more, Benjie. I’ve experienced this kind of “ooh, I can use Illustrator/P’shop, why don’t we do this…” nonsense from managers and clients before. A little knowledge (with quite a lot of emphasis on the “little”) truly is a dangerous thing. She’s managed to not only date the brand and open it up to ridicule, but move it further away from the ‘cool brand’ moniker they’re so clearly chasing.

    Note to bosses everywhere: Look at Apple, Breitling, Lamboghini. See what they did? The way the design communicates the brand and links to the target demographic? Well, guess what, they didn’t get the CEO to knock it up between golf rounds. No, they hired talented, experienced designers, listened to them, trusted them and reaped the rewards. Maybe there’s something you could learn there, huh?

    In summation: The 90s called, they want their font and P’shop filter back…

    • “MaxxFordham”

      So in other words, those companies’ CEOs didn’t hire *themselves* for their design work, huh? Well, that kind of action might not have been a bad idea if the CEO actually *did* actually double as a fully educated, true designer too! Huh?

  • Kyle

    “is that it’s not about making something the CEO likes; it’s about making something appropriate for the brand”… This is the ideal, but a lot of times it doesn’t work like this. When a ceo forces their idea on you, you can’t simply say “no” and do what’s best in the eyes of the designer.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      Absolutely Kyle, and that’s why I blame Mayer; her staff can’t ignore her instructions, but her responsibility is to delegate the task to an appropriate employee or contractor. She’s CEO, that’s her role.

  • Tom

    Very dull out dated. Another reason why Yahoo will never get close to Google. She needs to go.

    • “MaxxFordham”

      “Dull,” huh? I thought that bevel looks pretty sharp, actually. Any sharper and it would just about be a knife! Right?

  • Tim

    Agreed!

  • Tim

    Let’s all not forget that the Iskra font being used on this site for headlines and subheads is NOT the best choice of font either. I would call that a Web Designer Depot Disaster.

    • “MaxxFordham”

      LOL! :-D

  • Donal McCarthy

    Flat design is a reaction to the fact that today’s software enables amateurs to knock something like the new Yahoo logo out in a few hours.

  • http://enfuzed.com/ Enfuzed

    It’s trendy…15 years ago

  • Rakel

    My biggest beef is that the logo is way too skinny, and lacks character. Their homepage design is a disaster. They need to hire some more talented designers!

  • anomalia

    They shouldn’t have make the new logo at all; the old one was good it only required some tweaks to make it look more like today. They should concentrate on the homepage itself. It’s still unappealing, too crowded and colors are terrible. As Google did with throwing everything from the start page except the logo and search bar, Yahoo! should also find something to deversify itself from the competition(like Bing is trying with the background pictures and also minimal look) and the current site is far from that.

  • http://www.alexmurphy.com/ Alex Murphy

    oh snap, does MM stand for Marissa Mayer or for Micro Manager?

  • suhelakapoor

    The logo is okay… not bad… but they could have done better…

  • bgbs

    Another logo botched for being too generic. Most today’s logo redesigns, as done by tropicana, gap, microsoft…etc, lost their character. Yahoo is another one to follow

    The problem I have with the whole 30 logos in 30 days business, is that if you’re teasing the internet community with 30 logos, at least let the internet vote on it.

  • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

    In the context branding is appropriate because the logo forms a significant part of the visual branding and provides both context and cues for other elements — Even if you prefer to use the term ‘logo’, I don’t think that logo can be held in isolation.

  • Sretsok

    Might as well have used Papyrus and called it a day.

  • uidesignguide

    I like it, I don’t love it. It’s accomplished the true goal getting people talking about Yahoo.

  • Michael Meininger

    Hmmm, YAHOO is still around??? kidding :p

    The bevel is not on par with the current minimal trends but that is just a texture. Overall, it’s a cleaner shape than the previous but for some reason I don’t like it as much.

  • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

    OK Mr. Pendantic :)

    Mayer’s job is to delegate the task of delegating the task. The buck stops with her.

  • Conor

    Does anyone else notice this is a lot like the beveled Catull font that google uses for its logo?

  • http://thesocialjoint.com/ Lucretia M Pruitt

    Really? Do you use or not use Google, Facebook, Yahoo or any other site because of the LOGO?? How about the service? No amount of logo design is going to make up for a bad service, or lack of design detract from a really awesome one.
    UX, UI, Site design – those are reasons to bring in killer designers. But spending thousands to come up with this one, the Gap’s rebranding and all of the others? Meh.

  • BEE

    I believe day 25 was more suitable for the brand, it was modern n friendly.

  • Alan

    This is disastrous – like something you’d find next to the Nivea face cream in the cosmetics aisle of Target.

    Why are we abolishing every single thread of personality in the game?

    And hire a designer? That’s sorta degrading to the in-house staff at yahoo. And to all in-house designers. Are they not worthy designers because they don’t work at some posh agency?

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      In-house design is terribly hard to get right because it’s almost impossible to be objective.

      There’s nothing wrong with being an in-house designer — congratulations on being good enough to get a monthly paycheck — but typically it produces weak branding, which is a highly specialised field.

      The point in this case is that Marissa Mayer didn’t trust her own staff to do the job, but instead of hiring someone she did trust, she had a go herself.

      I doubt any of the in-house design team at Yahoo! want their names on this.

  • http://GraphicNeed.com/ M.Aswad Mehtab

    Now a days there are 2 methods of going viral .
    1- Absolutely stunning Way
    2- Absolutely Controversial way

    Since the 2nd one is easy one so Yahoo went that way … every one now knows a big company re-branded , and which one it is ? oh yea Yahoo !! let go to the site and check out .. Success !!

  • Mofooo
  • http://theperfectnose.wordpress.com/ theperfectnose

    Would’ve been awesome if you’d made the effort to find out the actual brand designer involved rather invoking Marissa Mayer as the be all and end all of all things Yahoo. =S

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      We did. It was Marissa Mayer with assistance from the in-house design team at Yahoo! which is kind of the problem.

      • http://theperfectnose.wordpress.com/ theperfectnose

        From what I can find they ‘floated’ (whatever that means) 30 different logos and picked the current one based on user/reader response. Do you have any links to articles with Mayer’s actual input?

      • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        No, they didn’t. The new logo was not featured in the 30 days of change and then chosen based on popularity.

        The links are in the article above.

  • Tucker Monticelli

    I really like it, it harkens to the past but also looks very modern, it can last a very long time, which is what you want in a logo. Its very bold and still playful, the curves are fun but soft and the contrast used in the embossing looks great. I love it haters gon hate.

  • Alex

    Am I the only one who likes it? Personally, I’m sick of flat design, and for f*ck’s sake the previous logo was horrible, you just were used to it.

  • Tony

    Pretty boring design. They can, and hopefully will, do better.

  • BobinDC

    I would love to know what ridiculous amount of money they spent.

  • Rafael Quint

    she’s a genius. here’s the thing. this is something that makes no difference (are you gonna switch from y to gmail because of it?) but everyone has an opinion about. like i read somewhere, you know who changed logos 4 years ago? aol. did you hear about it? me neither. no one cared. everybody is talking about yahoo, i bet thousands of teens have just heard about it for the first time. she got people talking about it for 33 days and counting. yahoo has more traffic than google in the U.S., has the best photo-sharing service (now with infinite storage, which made me go back to using it) and even has a brand-new, young, huge social network. seems like their lifetime graph is turning from a mountain to a camel!!

  • rit10

    The old one was really appealing…new one…its not just happening.

    http://rit-artworld.blogspot.in/

  • ClauGFX

    DISASTEEEERRR !!!!

  • http://www.testshoot.com/ TestShoot

    As a former Yahoo I am not thrilled. I liked the fun original one, this just seems to go along with the mail and homepage redesign. They both kinda stink and I was not the only person to voice displeasure, but she had to do something, sadly this is what we got.

  • James

    SNAP!

  • Courtney Jordan

    As a Typographer i’m a little disappointed with Yahoo!’s new logo. When I first looked at it, I felt it was made within Photoshop with added filters (a 2 min job). It has an outdated look and worst of all the letters are not kerned properly. However with simple adjustments the logo could be saved by first removing the chisel/bevel look, kerning the text, and adjusting the size of the letters to removing the off-kilter effect. I’d ever recommend changing the font face as it doesn’t balance with the rest of the page, maybe even explore a font stack to ensure fonts balance with one another. Either way if she would like a more suitable logo i’d re-design it for free.

  • Isis Marques

    Hi, Jason! I completely understand you. I think the “flat design” as a “language” is a trend. This flat as we know today will go at some point, as the reflections of 2008 are gone. But you just touched the right point: the principles that flat brings are come to stay. Today I read this quote:

    “If you want to see the future of software UI design, look to the history of print design.” – John Gruber

    It’s just sooo true.
    I’ve seen some critiques to the bevel in the yahoo logo as if the ony problem was that they didn’t go for something flat. But this is not the point. All the great logos we have today are first designed to work in black and white, then in colors and textures. So, having no texture is not being “trendy” or just following flat design. It means design for the simple, with restrictions in mind: if it works in bw, probably it will work in other applications too.

    People sometimes treats flat as if it was born yesterday, when it’s present in a big part of the history of arts and typo, and now it’s finally translated to digital.

    As I think the interfaces will have more and more “if you can see, you can touch” it minimizes the need for textures and volume. It doesn’t mean that it will not exist anymore, just that we have more possibilities to play with. =)

  • http://speiderschneider.blogspot.com Speider Schneider

    I wonder how the design team felt when the glib CEO announced they would be working all weekend with her alongside?

  • http://www.jv21.com/ John V. Keogh

    The logo isn’t the branding. The branding is what people feel about Yahoo after Flickr was crippled by removing the navigation, maps, information and after PhotoForge was removed from the app store.

  • marcus

    completely agree the yahoo re-branding has been a complete disaster along with several discussions over the years such as closing their chat service which was a marketing pull factor for their brand and user base now people are struggling to find a reason to use yahoo at all. The CEO of yahoo needs to be fired forget that woman’s name but she has created disaster upon disaster for yahoo. Bring back the chat service at least I would suggest.

  • jj

    land se…

  • jyo208

    My favorite was on Day 2 (http://www.yahoo.com/dailylogo). It held a better friendly spirit and energy for the word “yahoo” and feels much more modern.

  • Carly Parker

    Why fix something that’s not even broken to begin with? Yahoo! should’ve stuck with the previous logo.

  • ICE778

    Your logo is fine as said prior, you just don’t get it so I will put it simple. Give us crack so we are addicted ( figuratively of course ) and keep needing more. this is the first step and the last in your marketing.
    Now: don’t be selfish in a negative way, be selfish in a positive way and see how we the people flock to yahoo!.

    PS. word of advise stop using advertisers who are out of touch with your NOW customers and if you are out of touch give some one else the marketing reign.
    NOW WOW US.
    THIS INFO DID NOT COST THE MILLIONS YOU SPEND BUT WILL BRING THE MILLIONS YOU NEED.

  • Swava

    i’ve just realized they are still using the old logo mark that looks like in the yahoo messenger. if they will redesign this with that symmetrical, optima font of “Y”, i don’t know.

    Also, i’ve noticed the small logo of yahoo in the tab, the Y inside that rectangular shape. it’s more awful. they should be consistent with their design and theme.

    I can’t still find a way to accept their new look. Too bad.

  • “MaxxFordham”

    Well, she admitted that she’s not a pro at design, so yeah, we know that. But this doesn’t mean that *all* CEOs can only be good at one thing (running companies financially). So let’s not just be making some kind of blanket statement against logos that are designed by their company’s CEO just because you think this one is a “failure.”

  • “MaxxFordham”

    Haha, the “leading Y”? Was there another Y sitting in there somewhere that needed differentiation?

    • http://about.me/evanjacobs Evan Jacobs

      What crawled up your culottes?

  • “MaxxFordham”

    The “absence of *any kind* of personality”? Doesn’t the leaning ! mean anything to you?

    • penina

      [snort]

  • “MaxxFordham”

    …Assuming the company even *has* a creative director.

  • “MaxxFordham”

    Oh, come on! Try to be at least a *little* optimistic about this, huh? ;-D

  • “MaxxFordham”

    Okay, so then it’s not *nothing more* than that, really.

  • “MaxxFordham”

    Yahoo!’s first logo is also almost 20 years old, though. They had their purple for as long as FedEx had theirs, didn’t they? They started off with purple, if I remember right, then went to the red, and then back to the purple. I don’t think you can just say that they were trying to steal an idea from Federal Express.

  • designgauge

    Great write-up – completely agree. The concave end-points, thin weight, and dated typographical source font do nothing to give the impression that Yahoo is up to date.

  • skoallio voll

    BRING BACK YAHOO AVATARS

  • disqus_K6A0GPra0D

    every time i see the new yahoo logo i want to die. what a failure. so sad.