Logos are a must-have for any brand. They visually communicate a brand’s unique selling point (USP) and are responsible for communicating a brand’s values to the public. Yet, sometimes even the biggest brands fail with their logo designs.
Let’s take a look at some infamous logo design fails, and their consequences.
Logo mistakes made by famous companies and how they solved them
Google is famous for innovating the online world. They also aren’t afraid to adjust their logo every time their designers consider it has a flaw. Google’s latest rebranding took place in 2015 and introduced even interactive branding elements. You can dig into Google and other company logo stories on LogoRealm.
There was a brief time in Google’s logo history when it resembled its main competitor, Yahoo. Similar to Yahoo, the Google logo featured an exclamation mark. Since there weren’t too many search engines back in October 1998, the resemblance was too visible.
Graphic designers removed the exclamation mark in May 1999, only one year after the initial change. They also decreased shadows, and slightly changed the color hue.
Google continues to surprise as its latest rebranding campaign includes a intentional mistake—or original approach—of the letters’ construction. The e is tilted, instead of being horizontal. However, this intentional mistake distinguishes Google as risk takers, and has also inspired Lenovo to choose a tilted e as well.
Gap is a retail brand which has managed to survive and be successful thanks to affordable product pricing and brand consistency. However, their logo journey reveals that when your customers know you well, you should be careful when introducing them to different visuals than they are used to.
Gap decided to change their logo back in 2010. Having been known for their original logo, the public responded negatively to the new look. Moreover, according to an Ipsos Observer study, 80% of Gap’s customers didn’t even notice that the brand changed its logo. The new logo was simple and shy, and didn’t compare to the original design.
Six days after the logo change, Gap returned to its original, bold and attractive logo. This was a quick and costly change for Gap, costing the brand a total of $100 million.
The Marriott Hotels brand logo was supposed to convey exclusivity and carry a unified symbol which looks good on buildings but also on products such as shampoos or pillows.
Somehow, Marriott lost its idea somewhere along the way and ended up with a logo which repeated the symbolic M. It needed a simpler approach.
Marriott’s new signature logo was launched in 2014 and impressed the branding world. Marriott pushed its M symbol in front and managed to simplify its message. Although you can still find the old logo on the hotel chain’s website, you can enjoy the new Marriott logo and monogram almost everywhere else.
NASA has three logos that are visible on its website. However, NASA is more than a brand as it represents science and global visibility. Its meatball logo is known all over the world and sums up everything you know about NASA. The term meatball, which is also used to describe a specific landing system, stuck with this logo because of its round shape.
Between 1975 and 1992, NASA showed off a logo which was meant to be simple and modern. The brand even received an Award of Design Excellence (the Presidential Design Awards). Regardless of the award, the logo managed to earn plenty of criticism even from enthusiasts. Why? Because the logo only consisted of continuous red letters and lost all symbols relating to science.
The modern NASA logo earned the nickname “worm” from critics. Shortly after the negative reactions, the red logo disappeared from buildings and even movies. The NASA homepage now features their infamous meatball logo.
Starbucks enjoys so much brand recognition that having their name on their logo seems redundant. Everyone recognizes the ubiquitous Starbucks siren and connects it to the brand.
Starbucks released its famous text-less logo in 2011. However, they made a wrong move in 2008 and released a line of vintage coffee cups with their original logo. Shortly after, Starbucks ended up with complaints from a Christian group because the siren was naked, which any child or teenager who walked into their coffee shops would see.
There was a time when logos were handmade and had so many details. Those times are gone. Starbucks never attempted a retro campaign again.
Failed logo changes that were never adjusted
Not all brands choose to adjust or remove logos which were criticized or even satirized. You may recognize some on products you regularly use. Let’s discover!
You might never look at the Pepsi logo the same way after seeing this viral drawing by Lawrence Yang. However horrible it is, Pepsi never responded to the drawing nor did they change their logo.
2012 London Olympic Games had a lot of trouble with the above logo. There were two types of public responses after seeing the logo. Apparently, the logo resembles a funny sexual encounter between the Simpson family couple. Also, critics state that the logo spells the word Zion. Since the Olympic Games have passed and lost their relevance, they didn’t bother to change the logo.
Animal Planet had one major rebranding campaign which the public just couldn’t take. A few years ago, the brand lost its globe and elephant symbolism for a customized font spelling the TV channel’s name. However, one letter is sideways, making it hard to read and confusing. The logo almost resembles an algebraic symbol. Animal Planet’s representatives never changed this version of their logo.
Reebok disappointed its customers after being bought out by Adidas and subsequently changing their logo. They went from professional athletics to a cross-fit audience with an unwearable logo. The new logo carries the Delta symbol and is more suitable for banks rather than a sports company. Customers even forgot that the old Reebok logo resembled Nike and Adidas.
Oxford Dictionaries had a disappointing rebranding campaign, despite its fame as an authority in the field of education. The new Oxford Dictionaries logo resembles the Beats by Dre logo so much that it has received more criticism than congratulations. The above logo is still in use on the brand’s website.
Instagram is a successful brand that has a place on nearly everyone’s smartphone. Its most recent and only logo design failure, however, was somehow overseen. The change coincided with Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. There was a wave of disappointment when the vintage camera was removed from the Instagram brand and replaced with an ombre square suggesting a camera. However, disappointment turned into acceptance and Instagram retains millions of users around the world.
Designing a company logo
It takes courage and experience to pitch for and design a major company’s logo. Some of the above logo failures were revised, others were simply ignored. Most brands probably hope for their failures to be forgotten. Like it or not, their ups and downs remain in the history of graphic design forever.
About the author
Samuel Caverly is Senior Editor of Logo Realm, a place where you will find information regarding logos, their history, and interesting details. He has an MS in Advertising from Boston University and after graduation, he has worked as a freelance graphic designer.