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Insights

New Yahoo!

11 September, 2013 - Source: Else

A look at the new Yahoo logo. A bit of fun, or a statement of intent

by Andy Moore

  • A bit of fun, or a statement of intent?
    A bit of fun, or a statement of intent?

The pursuit of simplicity is what experience design is all about. So with all the fuss about Yahoo!'s new logo, is this just a bit of fun, or is it a statement of intent for the direction of the company as it continues the rapid expansion of its digital product offering? In this day and age who really cares about the logo?


Is a logo really that important?


A company logo today is still the most instantly recognisable identity mark of a brand, and with it comes all the expectation and reputation that consumers place on it based on their experience. It can be a symbol of trust, quality or desirability, or on the flip side can contain a whole host of negative connotations from bad customer experience to 'Evil' corporate misbehaviour.


In a post broadcast age, the placement of a company identity is much more diverse and complicated to manage. A visual identity requires much more adaptability to fit its context. A brand's ability to be recognisable now becomes less about display and more about experience. For someone who regularly uses Yahoo! products, the design or positioning of the logo has to be the least important factor of the experience.


So why is the Yahoo! logo important?


When Yahoo! announced they were introducing a new logo on August the 7th, the news seemed to be a trivial and uninteresting publicity stunt. Why would they think this change is important to us and why would anybody care?


From Yahoo!: Over the past year, there’s been a renewed sense of purpose and progress at Yahoo!, and we want everything we do to reflect this spirit of innovation. While the company is rapidly evolving, our logo — the essence of our brand — should too.


In the thirteen months since 'employee number 20' Marissa Mayer left Google to become CEO of Yahoo!, the company has made 20 startup acquisitions. In most cases the startups have been shut down and the engineering talent put to use on developing better Yahoo! products (with the exception of Tumblr, which the company purchased in May this year and remains independent).


It's clear that with these acquisitions Yahoo! is trying to build up a rival suite of digital products to take on Google. In doing so they have the challenge of a bar that is already set very high in terms of experience design.


At SomeOne/Else we firmly believe that good design is about so much more than the way it looks, and with that in mind, the really confusing thing is why make such a big deal about a logo, when clearly the big news is the rapid expansion and improvement of it's digital product offering?


It's not easy living in the shadow of Google


By comparison, Google's logo, iconography, colour palette and playful doodle is the perfect representation of a brand that is experienced and not displayed - a brand that walks the talk. The Google visual identity is adaptive and so is its use in the wild.


The essence is not in the right mark, it's in the right execution and utility.

In recent years the Google aesthetic is something we've often held up as a great example of elegant simplicity in digital product design. It's a product suite with distinct and unifying themes. You know when you fire up Gmail, navigate with Google Maps, or share a spread sheet on Google Docs that you're using a well designed Google product.


This distinctly Google experience comes not just through flat design aesthetic or use of the brand colour palette, but by an inherent level of usability and interoperability. Using a Google product feels straightforward, instinctive and second nature.


Sweat the small stuff


In 2011, co-founder Larry Page set out to make Google's products beautiful - creating a cohesive suite of products unified by the same themes of elegant simplicity and attention to detail. Everything down to the last pixel was considered.


This approach to Google product design came at a time when the visual noise inherent in mobile app design in particular was becoming unbearable. The mutitude of conflicting styles, bloated use of drop shadows and other unnecessary design embellishments combined with a constant reininvention of well trodden interaction paradigms and a desire to move away from the familiar native aspects of the operating system, were all contributing factors to making our ability to get things done more complicated. The desire to have a 'cool' app Vs having something that is harmonious with the device and other services around it.


In recent years Google seemed to have bucked the trend and gone for a much more reductive, clearer and ultimately more usable interaction language. One can't help but feel that this renewed desire to achieve elegant simplicity has gone some way to inspire Jonathan Ive's software designers with the new look iOS 7, which employs similarly flat and unobtrusive design language.


Google recently exposed its rigourous design process in the publishing of a glimpse its own visual design guidelines on Behance.


The guidelines encourage a very reductive approach to all factors of visual design, from product icons, illustrations and precise guidelines for the use of colour, typography, spacing and sizing.


Google guidelines


It's clear from looking at these examples that Google pays special attention to the small stuff - and it's this attention to detail that really matters. It keeps the overall product experience more coherent, it makes our use of these products that much easier, more positive, and the products in turn become that much more indispensable. Moreover the experience of the Google brand becomes that much more positive.


Let's hope the sharpened simplification (albeit slight sanitisation) of the Yahoo! logo is the beginning of a more significant reveal of experiential developments to come. They're playing catchup, so in order to make an impact and become important to us, the focus needs be on coherence across all layers of the experience, not just the presentation of it's identity.


Yahoo! products need to feel coherent, useful and seamlessly interoperable and therefore vital to our lives in order to be in with a chance of prolonged success.

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