PayPal’s new logo fails to impress

This week saw PayPal reveal a redesign of several key brand elements, including their first logo redesign for seven years. The new look is expected to roll out worldwide in the coming weeks.

However, despite PayPal’s marketing spin, the new logo bears all of the hallmarks of a design that was arrived at on a whim and rationalised after the fact.

Brand continuity is a big issue for PayPal: significant change would leave thousands of websites bearing the old PayPal branding dated and less trusted. Anyone using PayPal’s embed code can relax, the branding will be updated automatically, but the tens of thousands of businesses that use third-party carts may find their checkouts looking outdated.

Broadly speaking the new logo, which consists of a wordmark and monogram, are in keeping with the previous incarnation. The pseudo italic lean is an ill-conceived metaphor for progress and dynamism, and the increased diagonal stress on the ‘y’ makes the shape tilt drunkenly in the middle, but considering the existing brand recognition—which is PayPal’s primary asset if you discount its eBay monopoly—the team at Fuseproject (who designed the new look) were wise to retain the feature.

We want this update to confer a sense of momentum that embodies our vision of optimism, progress and empowerment. For our name, we chose a typeface, colors and shapes that are simpler, richer and more vibrant.

The new logo uses a modified form of Futura, and this is my first issue with the new design: Futura is a geometric sans-serif engineered rather than drawn; it’s a fine typeface, but it communicates nothing about human connectivity. PayPal say they want to emphasise the human aspect of their business, but no amount of rounded corners will change the typeface’s underlying aesthetics.

The wordmark itself has been poorly executed. It’s normal that letterspace varies; kerning can correct some issues, as can ligatures; but the incompatibility of some letter combinations means that variable spacing is inevitable. The only approach is for whitespace to be optically balanced.

web

The new logo online.

In PayPal’s case several combinations are problematic: ‘Pa’ leaves a hole beneath the ‘P’, and the angle of the strokes on the ‘y’ cause excess space between it and both the ‘a’ and ‘P’. In fact the only combination that doesn’t present a problem to a designer is the ‘al’ combination.

It’s ironic then, that it’s precisely the ‘al’ characters that cause the problem in the new design. Because extra whitespace leaks into every other letter combination, the correct spacing between the ‘a’ and the ‘l’ is optically incorrect. The final letterspace in the word is too tight, and once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.

email

The new logo in email.

Connecting people to people is what we do. We’ve redesigned our “double P” monogram to reflect this connection.

The rationale for the monogram is that the ‘P’s with filled counters will be more recognizable from a distance. Certainly, in combination with the more saturated color palette, the monogram feels more like a financial service than the previous logo; it wouldn’t be out of place on an ATM, and there’s more than a nod towards the ubiquitous MasterCard/Maestro branding.

A lot of designers are querying the third color generated by the overlapping ‘P’s, stating that it’s too difficult to spot, or that it looks like a printing error. However, it’s the one part of the monogram I actually like, it allows the shapes to hint at the missing counters and I think the shape would be considerably less legible without it.

comparison

PayPal’s logo, old and new.

Where the monogram falls down is depth. The darker ‘P’s bowl is larger—although strangely the stems are the same size—bringing the shape forward into the foreground ahead of the lighter ‘P’. But the darker ‘P’ is a darker tone, causing it to recede behind the lighter ‘P’. But the darker ‘P’ is closer in tone to the third color so it appears to overlap the lighter ‘P’. But the only sharp corner in the outline is the bottom right of the darker ‘P’s stem, making it appear that the lighter ‘P’ overlaps the darker.

The overall effect is a logo that is literally fighting with itself; an apt metaphor for anyone who has ever had to wade through PayPal’s woeful documentation, but hardly the message the redesign was intended to communicate.

Ultimately, PayPal is a globally successful corporation, with enough money to continue to dominate the market. Most people will simply never notice this change in branding. However, it’s disappointing to see yet another large tech firm make basic design errors in a key piece of their visual identity.

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  • Tim

    I agree. A pointless waste of time changing their logo. The old version was fine for what it was. On top of that, in this time of security hacks and holes, people need a sense of online companies they can trust. The PayPal logo was something they recognized and gave them that trust. Now, they’ve changed the logo and people may think they are at the wrong website or using a fake payment service. They will have to look twice to make sure they are on PayPal’s website. This was poor execution and definitely poor timing.

  • http://twitter.com/lauriehawkins89 Laurie Hawkins

    I agree, the new design is NOT as nice. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words so eloquently.

  • Kirk Hansen

    Old one looked much better in my opinion.

  • http://tobiasbleckert.se/ Tobias Bleckert

    Ha! That’s great. This just got me thinking, how new is the logo? I have an email from september 2013 with this exact logo, and another mail from april 2014 with another logo. What’s going on?

    • Charlotte

      Probably because the logo is hosted somewhere and they replaced it with the new one! Your emails will automatically update :)

  • http://Dopelists.com/ Dominik Serafin

    Besides failed logic I kinda like it more than the old logo

  • Dré Swaby

    I don’t get why the new design is such a big deal. Speaking from a designers POV the overlapping of the P’s is transcendent and effective. Compared to the last logo it’s a creative step up and it forces the viewer to think. As for the text I prefer the pervious version of the semi serif font design with the curved ‘a’ unlike the new font which clearly resembles the Futura family.

    Speaking from a consumers POV I would bxtch about PayPal’s reach/availability in stores. Sure I’ve been to Office Depot and was amazed when I realized I could complete my purchase using PayPal… But then I hop on over to Walmart, a very poplar place for people to shop and I’m disappointed that places like these do not provide the services that PayPal has to offer. So I say get out there ole buddy ole pal… PayPal that is lol.

  • Ben White

    This isn’t absolutely terrible…but it’s not really good either. You’d think a well-known company and brand like this would put more effort in (or at least as much effort as they put into the 1 minute long video).

  • jenny

    $5 fiverr job can do better than this

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

      I’m not sure I’d go that far lol

  • gt3themes

    It looks odd. One step back to the dinosaur time :)

  • http://www.martinspierings.nl Martin Spierings

    Won’t be surprised if they change the logo to have the left P light and the right P dark…

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

      Me either, I think this will end up being a half-way house and they’ll rework this logo in the next year or two once they have feedback from the community.

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

    There is certainly a lot of science in terms of both psychology and physics that defines design principles. When it comes to typography (the only point in the article that I used the term ‘correct’) those principles are clearer than in most other areas because language has a formally defined structure.

    I frankly couldn’t care less if the project was awarded to me or not, it’s just badly executed. There are countless projects that aren’t awarded to me that are superbly executed. Of course that’s only my opinion, but I’m as entitled to both hold and share opinions as anyone else.

    If you don’t agree, then by all means write an article that counterpoints this one.

    • http://ikario.fr/ ikario

      Well havn’t time to wrote article : in fact i’m not even designer (mostly technical and social sciences) and your critcal about PP looks argumented and well thinking…

      BUT

      Badly PP or not, i can say that : cognitive science is young science (less than 50year) and many scientist object themself (and even more between different academic…

    • rj

      What is her problem? Looks like the design company found your write up considering her comment has 9 likes…. The comment below, I couldn’t even understand. It looks like thry were trying to put the p’s together as of they were coming up toward each other from a flat grounded position or are linked at the corner of the bowl and the leg and are being moved away from each other outward or vice verse….not out to the side. I can’t explain it well. If that is what they were doing its a cool Ides but the p’s need to be at a much more obvious angle if that’s the case. Kudos

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

    There are plenty of excellent redesigns. The MailChimp redesign was brilliantly handled and universally approved of.

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

    Really? I’d love to know where you disagree.

    The article you’ve linked to rehashes PayPal’s marketing spiel, but I don’t think I’ve read a good critique in favour of the new design.

    • Lauri Kieksi

      I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the notion of Brand New “rehashing marketing spiel”. I think you come down so hard on the new PayPal logo, it’s hard to see the good arguments from the vitriol. There’s some very solid points, but it’s hard to completely agree with them when you’re entirely glossing over the fact that the new logo (along with the other new identity elements) is a marked improvement over what they had.

      Or are you really arguing that the stacked, rounded P’s of old, with their mismatched corner radii, exuded trustworthiness? Just reading the article, without seeing the old version, one would be pushed to think they had a veritable diamond on their hands previously, and crapped all over it.

      Not sure where the depth argument is coming from, since things become less saturated the further they are from the eye since air has mass.

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

        It’s hard to see why you would think this is vitriolic—I do not have, nor have I ever had any connection to PayPal. (Other than the PayPal account that I’m sure we all have.)

        I’m arguing, as I think is clear, that the new logo is poorly designed. I don’t think much of the previous logo, but at least it had some built-up recognition, which balanced a lot of its faults from a business point of view—this is a design blog and that’s what we do.

        The depth of argument is pretty clear, I can’t go into more depth than to clearly explain what is wrong.

      • John

        Sorry Benjie, Lauri summed it up nicely.

        You are entitled to your opinion, I have never seen an example of your design expertise so not sure how much you have dabbled in branding – but this article (particularly the ‘depth’ remarks) sounds like the brand design equivalent of someone kicking tires in a car yard.

        PS – Brand New is definitely an authority on this subject – you should read it more often! ;)

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

        Sorry John, you too are entitled to your opinion, but basic principles aren’t subjective.

        If you actually use your eyes, instead of relying on a questionable source for your views, you’ll find you agree with me.

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

        Just noticed your reference to saturation at the end. You’re absolutely correct that saturation decreases over distance, however, saturation and lightness are not the same thing.

        Quite apart from the fact that the two ‘P’s here have approximately the same saturation, when the focal range is optically reduced due to proximity (the scale of the two ‘P’s indicates their proximity) depth is determined by lightness—because your eyes perceive shades as shadow.

        You can see the difference by comparing almost any still life, with almost any landscape painting.

  • Tim

    Nancy, obviously you are not a graphic designer.

    • Theracoon

      Troll

      • Tim

        So you think this PayPal logo is an improvement?

  • Lex Luthor

    Awful.

  • Rackers

    Seriously do people really think the original logo had that much thought put into it. If it was the other way round we would be saying the same thing. When I see either logo i just think car parking. The one thing I would agree with is that the depth of field on the new one is all wrong. Maybe that’s what they wanted. Still doesn’t plum the depths of the Gap logo fiasco.

  • wahaha

    It’s the Pied Piper logo y’all!

    • Grancy_Nace

      The old logo was closer to the Pied Piper logo than this new one.

  • http://squareapple.co.uk/ Kieron Smith

    :)

  • Dugarbandier

    The overlapping P symbol is utter codswallop. Nothing terribly wrong with the logotype though, you’re losing the plot a bit there :)

  • David

    It looks like the upper dark blue “P” is humping the light blue “P”

  • http://carninja.com Niel

    My main problem with the new design is that it doesn’t work well in black and white. All good logos have clear distinctions that allow them to look good and maintain the brand message when used in all black, or all white.

    What PayPal should be spending time redesigning, rather than their home page and logo, is the entire user interface of their actual application. It wouldn’t take much to update it so it doesn’t transport you to the 90’s every time you log in.

    • Alex V

      Speaking of the 90s, the black and white argument used to work when color printing was expensive, but arguing for monochromatic logos these days is like arguing for the web safe color palette.

      Further, Paypal is rolling out a redesigned interface to some users, even if you haven’t seen it yet. The new logo is part of an overall redesign.

      • Clint Nielsen

        Valid point – however, if the ident won’t work in black and white, it probably won’t work well ‘reversed out’ which is necessary for brands to be adaptable to not only OOH and print environments, but also when used in environments where the ident owner has little to no control over the outcome.

        Brands need to be highly flexible and adaptable to ALL scenarios.

      • http://www.alterpride.org/ Randall Krause

        Niel and Clint hit the nail on the head. The more adaptable a design, the better, esp. for a company as prominent as PayPal that needs to ensure their branding is readily identifiable regardless of where or how it is to be used. The logo would be almost useless on a dark blue credit card, for example.

  • http://www.johnfront.com Ivan Tsankov

    I don’t find the new logo innovative in some way except that it’s mobile oriented now and has a metro look. Same thing for eBay.

  • http://www.designfacet.com/ Sean Jamshidi

    Some one please hit me. Who are these designers?

  • Tim

    You forgot Gap and JC Penny

  • http://www.aponpost.com/ Aponpost

    Previous logo was very nice. I do not know why they changed it.

  • http://www.eclecticradio.nl Jasper

    The dashboard still looks the same after logging in, which makes this abonimation of a logo stand out like a sore thumb.

  • robingee

    Saying “grow up lol” is SOOOO IRONIC

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

    Anyone who repeats PayPal’s own rhetoric almost verbatim is a questionable source. Full stop.

    As for my professionalism, I’ve written an article explaining what I think is wrong. Naturally, not everyone will agree but I’ve yet to hear a response from you that isn’t copy and pasted from someone else’s blog.

  • designcouch

    Got a good laugh at this the other night watching Silicon Valley on HBO. They more or less create this exact logo for their startup (Pied Piper) while lamenting that it’s the most standard logo technique in the valley. Good stuff.

  • amnecia

    Your description of the weaknesses and imbalances in the logo is spot-on, and exactly my reaction (the capital Ps relative to the As…very problematic). And relativity matters, too–and you addressed that well. I was really surprised that this logo was not designed in-house–by a developer. Seriously.

  • Rgbskills

    The old logo looks better :))