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Logo, Bullshit & Co., Inc. (ia.net)
212 points by pascal07 on Sept 6, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 126 comments

Personally, I think you're missing the forest for the trees. I think the unprofessionalism, the BS, the Mayer-hands-on thing... that is part of Yahoo's new branding strategy.

It's all about making Yahoo feel more personal. More like your friend. Mayer is trying to personally invite you out for coffee to and talk about the fun she had bashing out their logo.

I'm sure there are refinements that are happening behind-the-scenes after Mayer's "weekend". Hopefully resized forms of the logo will still get some TLC - the public doesn't generally notice when those things happen.

Remember the demographic that Yahoo survived upon - women. Non-geeky grown-up middle-class women. That's why the new logo reminds you of a department store like Macy's, or the makeup counter at Shoppers Drug Mart. That's who Mayer is targeting with this ad, even this blog. It's a huge number of people that most of the technorati ignore - Facebook captured that market practically by accident, and Pinterest is exploding because somebody finally thought to actually aim in that direction on purpose. And what's pinterest about? Craftsmanship. Craftswomanship. Getting your hands dirty on a fun little artistic project.

Like making a logo.

Latter-day Yahoo has always found strength in ignoring the geek elite. They lost the geek elite a long time ago. This includes you, design geeks.

>the Mayer-hands-on thing... >that is part of Yahoo's new branding strategy

Yes, and you're exactly right that it is so breezy and fun because that's the image she's trying to project.

And because no one has accused her of robotically testing 41 shades of blue, or getting asking designers to prove their case on border widths, she's winning mindshare of the demographic she needs.

Hardly anyone has noticed this approach of logo design goes against her deep affection for process & data. But she's doing it for the positioning she very much needs: both for herself as a human CEO and the Yahoo brand fuzzies can relate to.

Yahoo is never going to make self-driving cars or rocket ships. So let's have fun and craft a purple logo, shall we?

I think part of why everyone gets so offended by this situation is that Mayer's little adventure does nothing at all for communications professionals, in fact does the entire state of the art a huge disservice and tells other people that just playing around on a weekend is a good idea.

Over the last few decades we've advanced the state of the art so immensely that people from the 70s would not believe you. Instant, global communication. World wide brands. Full color customized print runs in hours. On mugs! Page layout, design, photography and lithography by one person on a PC that costs less than 3k. It's all amazing, it's hardly fathomable.

What is good about doing brand positioning professionally, is that you are feeding back into that process, advancing basically the human condition (excuse the hyperbole) and generally leaving the world better than you found it. What Mayer is doing, is taking a huge dump all over that process and setting back an entire industry. I sure as hell hope this is not the beginning of a regression back into the CEO's smart nephew drawing up business cards in CorelDRAW! or something. We would have peaked as far as design and communication strategy is concerned and that's just sad.

It's a mistake to think that this whole exercise was about changing the logo. Mayer has inherited a demotivated and dispirited team of developers and designers that she has to forge into a company capable of competing with Google.

One of the things that she can do to motivate her teams is to take an interest in what they are doing - a weekend retreat for the design of the logo? Great! Marissa cares about what I'm doing, I'm important to the company!

On the other hand, having your CEO show an interest in what you are doing is generally speaking a huge motivator for people. It's cold indifference to anything you do that will drive people away.

I'm willing to bet that the actual target for the logo redesign story was internal. Mayer is sending a very clear signal to all Yahoos that yes, they are good enough, and no, she isn't going to get external help to do the things that are core to Yahoo's business.

Very good points, my spirits would indeed be lifted if the CEO did this with me.

In what way does brand positioning advance the human condition or actually improve the world? What does "communication professional" even mean?

> In what way does brand positioning advance the human condition or actually improve the world?

Assuming you are actually interested and not trolling: properly positioning a brand before a global audience makes the world smaller, and can bring people closer. Say you are visiting a foreign country. You might feel lost, nobody speaks your language, you are walking around kind of taking it all in.

Being confronted with a brand from home can reduce some anxiety. It's an anchor point, and anchors are safe. If you're hungry, you can walk into a McDonald's and point to things you know will feed you. Leaving nutritional value out of the conversation, the brand value is positive. The same goes for all consumer goods. Brand recognition reduces stress, and allows people to see the entire globe as a village. As this beings people together, I see that as a positive.

> What does "communication professional" even mean?

A person who works in marketing, media, corporate communication, or design. A person who gets paid to communicate a message.

So your idea of making the world a better place is to modify other cultures until they are familiar to you? According to your post, your ideal world would be filled with copypasted cities, themselves exclusively populated with chains and products that are familiar to Americans; all of this so that Americans travelling abroad feel less anxiety. A nirvana for the heads of American multinationals but a nightmare for everyone else. Imagine if the entire planet was like an airport mall. You'd have a ton of "brand recognition" but not much else.

Brands do not make people feel that there is a "global village". They do not create a sense of cultural belonging or strengthen relationships between individuals. Buying things does not make you reach out or empathize with others. Advertisers frequently try to associate products to concepts such as freedom, sex, friendship but this connection is artificial and manipulative. At best, brands elicit a sense of loyalty that pushes consumers to purchase the same products over and over again out of habit. This loyalty can be highly dangerous: a lot of people get health problems because they are regular patrons of fast food chains.

In fact, most brands actually increase stress. One of the usual marketing goals is to create a need in people that didn't exist before. This can be achieved through fear, making the consumer feel inadequate or inferior if they don't own the latest items. This is especially prevalent in the fashion industry. Creating additional needs is the opposite of stress reduction.

Yes - let's not forget she wrote this on a tumblr - with a kind of unprofessional-looking freebie theme (Fluid Neue by PixelUnion, for those curious), as opposed to an official Yahoo blog. There's no way Marissa Mayer can't design a decent blog theme (or have one designed for her) - this was (at least, I certainly hope it was) an intentional choice.

> Remember the demographic that Yahoo survived upon - women

interesting - can you tell me more? Whats the source of this (not challenging you, just want to quote it in the future :-)

edit: reminds me of Whistler / Wilde reparte:

  Wilde: James, that was hilarious, I wish I had said it.
  Whistler: You will dear boy, you will.

Read it a few years ago... can't find the link anymore. Article said that the things that kept Yahoo alive were finance, women, and sports, and I bet they lost that finance thing since then.

edit: best I can find is this article pointing out Yahoo mail's 63% female userbase, but it's pretty thin.


The finance page hasn't changed drastically. It's a bit more polished, but, shrug... looks all right to me.

For free data, the Yahoo finance API has remained stable and usable. The Google finance API, well... https://developers.google.com/finance/

Wow I hadn't realized but even my mom uses Yahoo for mail.

Excellent observation, thanks.

I've been around adverting for a long time. I've been in agencies, I've freelanced, I've been the client. I've worked with individuals that charge $70/hr and teams that charge $20,000 per day.

The author is completely right on one point: "...the saying in design: 'if it looks right, it is right.'”

Here's the dirty secret: All logos are designed in a momentary collision of experience and accident. All logos are, in a sense, designed in a weekend. That doesn't mean it isn't done thoughtfully. But that huge research spend? It sometimes guides the design a little, but it's mostly there to reverse-justify the final result (and of course expense) with the client.

He's also asking us to assume the only thought Yahoo ever put into their logo and apparently, their brand, was that one 36-hour period. And the implication of course is that a large spend with an agency would result in a design that's both more calculated and less contrived.

As the author says, bullshit.

Yeah, given how easy it is for folks to learn the tools of their profession, graphic designers have an interest in aggrandizing their roles.

The Nike logo was designed for $35 by a graphic design student rather than an experienced firm. Phil Knight said he didn't "love" it, but it would work.


Learning the tools is not the same as learning the skills.

Of course, learning anything is easy — just practice for 10,000 hours and you're all set!

You're missing the point. The point is the logo really doesn't mean squat. In the long run in it's the products and/or the advertisement with the logo tacked on.

Yes, I definitely get the feeling of "breaking news! multi-million dollar logo consultant believes everyone should buy logos for 10 million dollars!"

It doesn't help the author's case that he castigates Yahoo for creating the logo in an "unprofessional" short period of time, but then also sneers at them for their month long process of unveiling it and for polling their employees on their views about values to reflect in future Yahoo logos.

You can't win, except perhaps by a marketing agency run by a guy who can see "purpose" in the ugliness of the very expensive London Olympics logo but not in the cheap publicity of Yahoo's "30 days of change"...

From what he says, it appears they didn't poll employees about values but about what particular design aspects they preferred.

>teams that charge $20,000 per day.

Holy fucking shit what? Could you expand on that? What did they do? How many team members? Man..

25 people, $100/hr each, 1 day.

Client is a $10B company, remember.

I'm of two minds on this piece.

On the one hand, the author is absolutely right that a good professional designer can bring things to the process that enthusiastic amateurs cannot. A really good logo doesn't just look cool, it communicates something about the nature and spirit of the company visually. It lays down a marker: "this is who we are." A designer who knows the grammar of visual communication will have a better chance of delivering that than will someone who doesn't.

On the other hand, the author sadly doesn't do a great job of arguing the above point. Rather than, say, taking some great logos and pulling them apart for us to show how they do what they do, we just hear a lot of complaints about how the way Yahoo did theirs was "unprofessional." It makes it sound like the main complaint is that Yahoo had the gall to cut designers out of the process rather than that they chose a path that was more likely to result in a crappy logo, which strikes me as a more powerful (and accurate) complaint.

In other words, outside the community of professional designers, nobody cares if Marissa Mayer hurt some designers' feelings. What they care about is how Marissa Mayer is stewarding the Yahoo brand. If you want to convince them that your way is right and her way is wrong, don't show them how her way threatens your business; show them how her way threatens her business.

I disagree, he actually makes it clear on multiple occasions throughout the piece that his critique is not about the end product of the logo and what could or could not have happened in the hands of a real designer.

His critique is about her unserious approach to the process, an approach that she then justified in a cloud of post-process rationalization. His critique is saying that if this is the way she treats the logo redesign (even celebrates the casualness of the approach) then is she actually a competent steward for the Yahoo brand.

I think it's a question worth asking and find that many of the comments here seem very focused on the debate about the merits of the logo design, rather than the question of brand management which both the piece, and thankfully your comment, at least attempt to address.

And part of why I ended up skimming the piece is that I'm not convinced original post can be interpreted to that degree.

Remember, this is (putatively) a direct communication from the CEO of a large multi-billion dollar company. If it sounds breezy and informal, it is because she wanted it to sound breezy and informal. Whether or not the actual process described is breezy and informal is hard to ascertain under the fact that she wanted it to sound that way. Every sentence may be literally true, but who knows what was omitted to fit the breezy-and-informal template.

I think an awful lot of people are over-interpreting a chunk of text that probably doesn't contain anywhere near as much information as it appears to. CEOs at this scale are masters of using lots of words and appearing to say things while in fact saying either nothing at all, or saying something that bears very little resemblance to the surface.

> And part of why I ended up skimming the piece is that I'm not convinced original post can be interpreted to that degree.

Not to interject -- well, ok, to interject -- but isn't this completely backwards? Shouldn't you skim articles you mostly agree with, but read more intensely those you disagree with? You get less out of the former and probably know what they'll say, regardless.

I read the first couple of pages intensely, came to that conclusion, skimmed the rest for why I might be wrong. Fair question.

I had the same response. It's not about agreeing or not -- there's no point to reading an opinion piece that covers my opinion plus my rationale -- rather, it's about assessing the quality of the arguments as you go.

I started reading, was put off by the snark and sarcasm (snark is occasionally entertaining; this wasn't), then I got to where the author was baffled that Meyer described Yahoo's identity in positive terms. Really?

I skimmed a bit after that then wrote it off as a waste of time.

"His critique is about her unserious approach to the process..."

What's so laughable and made me skim the article is that all of his arguments are based on tidbits of social media that described the process. It shouldn't be a newsflash that those tidbits are part of the marketing campaign themselves. I don't see how someone in the business could be taking them at face value.

I suspect that Yahoo did have a whole design and marketing process (and a large budget) around the logo redesign, and this turned the redesign into a carefully scripted story in and of itself. The stories of a CEO working over the weekend were parts of that script, probably true at the core, but embellished and certainly not revealing the whole picture.

Essentially, I found this designer's rant to be rather feeble.

And incidentally, I like the new Yahoo logo, I also pay for Yahoo premium mail (only because Yahoo is not Google, oh wait, that's Bing), but I certainly don't lionize the company.

The author makes a much better point, underlining that it is not about the technical quality of the visual brand

> "This post is not about the technical quality of the logo. I am not writing about brand design, but about brand management. This is about a simple rule: Brand design follows brand management, not the other way around."

He clearly states that and how this kind of approach hurts the business. Yahoo's problem was not the logo, but who and what Yahoo is. The logo can help clearing that up if it is an integral part of the brand identity which goes back to the brand ambition, not to Mayer's personal preferences about colors and shapes.

>> In other words, outside the community of professional designers, nobody cares if Marissa Mayer hurt some designers' feelings.

You're absolutely right.

In my opinion, the whole point of the logo redesign had little to do with the logo and much more to do with a PR move. The logo refresh was an announcement to the world that Yahoo is no longer the pre-Mayer Yahoo.

The logo might have been a casualty of this PR stunt (I personally hate the new logo), but really, a bad logo doesn't stop people from using a product.

Well said.

Ha, I just wrote something very similiar about this: http://www.techdisruptive.com/2013/09/04/logo-doesnt-matter/

No, it’s not getting attention. It’s gaining trust. Ironically, for that you need a reflective, clear, and consistent brand identity. A different logo powered by bullshit doesn’t convey identity and trustworthiness. It conveys desperation.

While the overall sentiment of the article is sound, I slightly disagree with this. First, this whole story of "creating the logo in a weekend" with an "intern who did some motion graphics to convey it's uniformity" is pure and simple, a publicity stunt, and a good one at that.[1] Personally I don't think there is an intern named Max who did that (most likely an agency), but this subtly conveys the perception of something that Yahoo is missing - innovation by small teams. The reality is that Yahoo does have a brand problem (just as MS does in the consumer-mobile space), so they have two tactics they need to implement in order to properly manage the brand:

1. Change the perception of the brand (changing the logo to match the new found brand perception is a good way to do that)

2. Create buzz around the fact that the perception has now changed.

Marissa's plan for the logo did just that. I think it's a good strategy and something Stringer Bell would have been taught in his business class.[2]



Wow, kudos to this perspective. I could have seen these design blogs rattling out a list of reasons why Yahoo's logo process isn't "The Right Way" -- namely because it reduces the process of designing a logo(and depending on who you ask, the entire brand) into a weekend with a small, internal team and the CEO. This kind of practice in a 10 billion dollar company is poisonous for professionals who chalk up big money on brand identity consulting and development. Imagine if Yahoo rewrote a major application in a weekend with a small team and the CEO; engineers would scramble to debunk that it could be accomplished, and work hard at discrediting the results of the Yahoo team who did it.

I think your perspective is probably the real take away from Marissa's blog post. Looking like small agile teams together in the trenches with big decision makers is the way bold ideas come out of Yahoo makes them sound leaps and bounds ahead so many other web giants. Thanks for your take, it was inspiring.

Except it doesn't change my perception at all. My previous perception of Marissa Mayer was that she was a "work hard, not smart" overachiever who has become more known for her ability to make her numbers (like how long she works a week, how many weeks of maternity leave she takes, how many extra jobs around the office she piles on her plate, etc.) look good than to actually produce results. My perception was that Yahoo's board, in its infinite incompetence, hired her purely because she was infamous at Google for her work ethic (yet clearly didn't get the memo from Google as to why she wasn't moving further up the ranks), expecting her mere presence at Yahoo to turn the company around.

This "stunt," as you call it, did nothing to change that. In fact, it makes me have even less faith in Yahoo. How great do Yahoo's investors feel that their CEO is spending her time on trying to be designer instead of streamlining and turning her company around.

The one part of Yahoo's brand that was at least MILDLY interesting was its personality. I mean, the name is based on someone screaming! The new logo makes it look like they should change their name to "Ahem" or "::Clears Throat Politely::" Which brings me to my final point that, what scares me most about this logo redesign is that Mayer clearly doesn't understand her own company's brand perception. She had the opportunity to hone in on what makes Yahoo great and let that quirkiness shine, but instead she took a zamboni to her brand in a failed attempt to make a more "mature" look. If Mayer was so excited about literally tilting an exclamation point 9 degrees to the right as some sort of liberating self-expression, can you imagine how up-tight people must be over there now?

How great do Yahoo's investors feel that their CEO is spending her time on trying to be designer instead of streamlining and turning her company around.

Yahoo! Stock: Oct. 22 2012: $15.77 March 18 2013: 22.01 June 24 2013: $24.07 July 16 2013: $26.88 Marissa appointed July 18 2013: $29.66 Sept. 5th 2013: 28.23

I'm not sure how commentators are extrapolating that this is the sole focus of Marissa as CEO.

If Mayer was so excited about literally tilting an exclamation point 9 degrees to the right as some sort of liberating self-expression, can you imagine how up-tight people must be over there now?

Perhaps, as the GP states, she is appealing to the demographic needed to drive business versus its shareholders.

The stock prices are going up because of Alibaba's performance. Yahoo's revenue, however, is down.

> Except it doesn't change my perception at all.

You are, perhaps, not the right audience. Imagine a recruiter at Yahoo talking to a "rockstar dev" with an awesome Github profile about why he should join Yahoo. His pitch is now "Look, we even let an intern and the CEO design our logo! That's how you'll be treated as employee - someone who can make an impact in a big business...just like, ya know, that other company that begins with G"

That's actually a good point but they could probably find a less important way to prove that point (the interaction between the CEO and the intern) than on a logo (which as part of a branding strategy is very important).

> How great do Yahoo's investors feel that their CEO is spending her time on trying to be designer instead of streamlining and turning her company around.

Depends how it turns out. Steve Jobs spent a lot of time on details, with the argument that one guiding vision has value. If it works, you're a visionary.

Except Steve wasn't a designer and he knew that. We all know Jony Ive, his work, and have watched the videos that put the spotlight completely on him and his creations. Did Steve have a lot of input? Definitely. Was he spending weekends tweaking AutoCAD files and making prototypes? No (at least, not that I know of). Delegation is a huge part of good management, and it is a skill that Mayer has shown to lack on numerous occasions.

"How great do Yahoo's investors feel that their CEO is spending her time on trying to be designer instead of"

Agree. There was a story in a book regarding Henry Kravis of KKR (I think it was Barbarians at the Gate) where he fired the President of a hotel chain he had acquired when he merely asked him his opinion of the new signage (or logo don't remember exactly but it was something like that).

THAT is a very interesting thought and addresses the article on its own terms. I was getting a bit weary of the designer-ego bashing. The idea that the story they are trying to tell is one of rapid innovation in small teams is a really excellent observation, and if that is what she is truly trying to accomplish it's very interesting.

That said, where does the 30 days of logos fit in? Just as a ramp to draw additional attention to the CEO blog post?

I think the 30 days of logos is an ongoing engagement that achieves two things:

1) Provides an on-going set of buzz. You'll have heaps of people criticizing a lot of the logos. The PR value is absolutely massive for a 30 day event.

2) Reinforces the perception that Yahoo is open, creative and is "listening to it's users".

I was getting a bit weary of the designer-ego bashing

I don't think the designer-ego bashing was unwarranted, since I agree with the author on that premise. What the author failed to recognize is why this PR move was written this way.

Sorry, I meant to say "designer-ego bashing in these comments." That was unclear. I too agreed with the author on that premise.

> Personally I don't think there is an intern named Max who did that (most likely an agency)

Well, Max Ma does seem to be a real guy, who's claiming the motion graphics on his personal website:



Good find! Which re-inforces my point further - http://maxmadesign.com/#about.html

It sounds like to me that Max is a very gifted young Chinese designer living, studying and working in the US. I wouldn't be surprised if someone turned that into a massive PR story in itself. Max represents everything us "non-corporates" beleive - that meritocracy should ultimately win.

It's cool to see the amazing detail that went into something so ugly.

It seems odd that the writer first bashes MM for just getting in a room with some designers over a weekend, criticizing the concept of doing something so important in such a slapdash fashion, and then bashes her for polling the company about what they'd like to see in the logo, because it's "Design by polling". But - doesn't that show they did a lot of work upfront, that it wasn't just a slapdash effort?

The whole article reads like a bitter rant from the company that didn't get hired to do the work, instead of a thoughtful discussion of the logo itself (I'm not saying that iA was in the running to do the work, just that the tone is oddly hostile).

The whole thing feels like a marketing play, to be honest. An attempt to gain some attention by riding the media wave about the new Yahoo logo.

There's nothing wrong with that, per se. Plenty of agencies, SaaS companies, and service providers do it. Hell, plenty of agencies get hired to do it on behalf of their clients.

What rankles here is the tone. As you say, it reads "bitter." The author's confrontational style does him no favors. It piques our interest in his agenda (whatever it may be), rather than in his content.

>> the tone is oddly hostile

I wouldn't read much into his tone. He tends to be very opinionated, and he tends to express his opinions in a fashion very much like Linus Torvalds.

There's a difference between opinionated and rude. I don't think rude in a company blog makes the organization look good. I'd be less likely to hire them because it seems they can't provide constructive criticism without being jerks.

Some people use a "shock jock" tone as a tool for self-promotion. The article did manage to make it to the front page of HN, after all.

And while the tone may turn some people off (myself included), it is probably the right tone and post for the target market of the OP's products.

How I perceived this article: I'm a thoughtful designer and pissed off that an "amateur" CEO is dipping her toes in my sandbox. Also, if I can bill a client for months of logo design and they see a Fortune 500 CEO doing it themselves they may question if I'm worth it.

(I know nothing about the author, so this is just my perception.)

Yes, there's some validity to calling out the bullshit in Mayer's fluffy post. But equally mixed in are just as many nonsense bits...

Not to discount the technical analysis, but it still begs the question of whether any of those points matter for non-designers, or for the business. Just because they didn't go through an agency doesn't mean the logo won't be successful and the attention won't help the business.

I hate to bring up Google, but they've done pretty well despite having a history of logos no self-respecting agency would ever produce.

Yeah, I feel for those agencies, and at times like this I'm glad to be a software developer. A whippersnapper may say he can do my job over a weekend, but delivering it is another thing entirely.

I don't think we have to bring up Google. In fact, we don't even have to go beyond Yahoo. For all the talk on design and building a strong visual identity, Yahoo in its glory days was visually atrocious. And it didn't mater a lick.

Because it just had to do a set of things functionally right.

Whereas branding is more important in an industry where products are similar to one another in function, like consumer goods.

There are some CEOs who think they can do anything, and design logotype over the weekend.

There are other CEOs who think they can do anything, and start their own space program (with an electric car company on the side).

And there are other CEOs who think they can do anything, but don't. Instead, they do nothing, and sometimes those companies die.

Let's be glad there are CEOs to talk about that are doing things.

And then there are CEOs who trust their team to make things and don't micromanage every aspect.

They sure are glad there are people to applaud them for doing bullshit.

I suppose Elon Musk has spent every single past weekend starting a space program, and Marissa Mayer has no potential to ever achieve anything lofty enough to appease you ever in the entire future.

That's a space program without actual space travel so far. And that's an electric car company that has a very limited amount of presence all of which is in USA (power stations etc.). The guy is talented but let's cut the hype a bit.

The Dragon CRS has completed two supply runs to the ISS. What exactly is your threshold for "actual space travel"?

Sorry, I missed that. The last thing I've seen were those Grasshopper rocket "jumps".

Wow, that was a great read. So many great collisions of emotions and ideas.

After reading it I understood that the author was deeply offended by the characterization that the Yahoo! logo could be redesigned in a weekend. I get that, they work at a high end logo design studio, it's like telling a Ferrari mechanic you spent the weekend with some tools from Pep boys and tuned your Ferrari to give it an additional 15% BHP. The dissonance of knowing, as a professional in the space, what it takes to re-design a logo, and Marissa's characterization of the same, really irked this guy. That left me wondering how much of that irritation was professional pride.

The meta point the author is trying to make, which is that brand and logo are intertwined but the dependency relationship is backwards in Marissa's post, reminded me of the clothes argument. That is the argument about the phrase "The clothes make the man."

The two sides of that argument are that your a better person if you dress well, and if you dress well you are a better person. Which follows which? Can that even be resolved? I had this discussion with my teenage daughter when she wanted to dress like a pop star, who dressed like a slut. We had the whole talk about how clothes are a sort of 'marketing' for the person you are, and people will set their interactions with you to how you dress first, and the way they know you second. So if their first setting is 'slut' then you may get so pissed off at them that they never get to see the real you, and a friendship opportunity is missed.

So our author has extrapolated that it is how you are as a company, that emerges in your logo, not your logo defines how you are as a company. And I tend to agree with that, but I also know that companies evolve based on how they see themselves. So the argument that Marissa is trying to create a perception which then manifests as reality is certainly plausible. I know when Yahoo! called me a while back (in the Carol Bartz days) and said they were looking for engineering leadership for the Web's #1 media company I thought "Hmm, this is a company that is not in touch with what they are." but it was what they were trying to be.

So my summary of the article is that the author's pride was wounded by Marissa making it sound like Logo design was trivial, and attacked both her understanding of logos and the whole branding process in response. Along the way he gave us a couple of interesting things to think about.

> I had this discussion with my teenage daughter

As a parent, I'm picturing you giving this very articulate and coherent argument, and her stomping her feet saying "dad! I hate you!" and storming off. :)

> Next she should try the same with Yahoo’s server architecture. Ask everyone about the best server configuration and then put together a brief for the system administrators.

Well, yeah, actually. Given a server architecture problem and a company still somewhat silo'd with devops scattered on various teams, asking everyone to weigh in on the architecture would be likely to improve the plan over a single person or even single team coming up with it. Think of the Jainist tale of the blind men and the elephant to understand why.

People unlikely to be able to contribute won't have a strong opinion, while people able to contribute will, from their viewpoint. Strong opinions here represent gaps in what's being done versus what may be needed. And while you may still get a bell curve type of response, you're looking for business case viewpoints that might not otherwise have been considered and tech ideas from the tails that may give you a competitive edge.

I think the author's sarcasm here falls especially flat.

When it comes to a logo, even more so. Logos are about appealing to people, trying to convey something that people connect with. Employees like to feel proud of where they work. Their identity gets wrapped up in the company identity. Asking the whole team what they feel about identity is a great data point.

And more cynically, now all these employees feel as though their suggestions were listened to. Come to Yahoo, where your ideas matter. What a great place to work!

I'm disappointed in iA for suggesting employees shouldn't have a voice in how they see and relate to their own brand symbols.

> People unlikely to be able to contribute won't have a strong opinion

Oh man, you are so so wrong. Sure the people who know nothing won't contribute, but there will be a large number of people who know 'just enough to be dangerous' with very strong opinions that are not only wrong, but so completely obviously wrong you will not even know how to respond. And (in this hypothetical exersize), you will have to spend the next 2 months explaining to all of them why their ideas won't be used, at the same time without offending anyone.

The people whose opinions are both fervent and wrong will tend to be either outliers, or mostly wrong the same (junior) way, and easily filtered out assuming you have any amount of expertise yourself. The opinions you aren't sure about are exactly the opinions your team should have a look at.

What you're looking for are insights about business requirements or outside the box solutions you yourself missed or didn't stumble on. You're cynically mining the group as a business knowledge and solution brainstorming source, with an open mind to any wisdom it offers but with a healthy grain of salt.

And no, you don't have to explain why each individual idea won't be used, if up front you say, "Our time and resources are limited, so unfortunately we just won't be able to do everything everyone suggests."

If whether you offend is important to you and large numbers of people are likely to take offense because they're too clueless that not every single idea can be reconciled at the same time, your company may not be suited to this exercise.

If whether you offend is important to you and only small numbers of people will take offense, wrap up after the feedback with "Wow, everyone, fantastic input. While not every idea will make it into the product, every single idea helped inform our approach. Thanks to each and every one of you!" In other words, respond in the aggregate, not individually.

Finally, if you're talking about large numbers of people and you don't have the authority to, or you don't know how to, respond to people in aggregate, then this approach isn't for you.

I'm curious - have you tried this in real life? The mediocrity of consensus has doomed any such attempt I've seen in a real company.

If so, could you share the details as it sounds interesting, if unorthodox and counterintuitive.

If not, what makes you so confident it would work?

Yes, I've tried it and I've had useful or surprising input come from unexpected quarters. Not always, but enough to make asking routine. Sometimes we'll even get a new team member, someone who'd been thinking about this longer but their group didn't need it, for example.

Sorry if I sounded as though I was advocating consensus about a systems architecture across the whole company. I am not. I'm talking about gathering data, and that's the expectation that should be set.

Collecting input informs the decision making role, but that role shouldn't be abdicated.

Thanks for the clarification, I agree gathering data from everyone is useful, as long as decisions are then taken by someone competent in the field (be it branding or systems architecture).

I'm not sure about this new Yahoo logo - there are some nice points (the bigger O at the end to imply an exclamation, the simplicity), but the tilted !, kerning and new font are pretty awful and it does look like the CEO had a hand in designing it on a weekend. I just visited the yahoo home page to see it - the exclamation animating in for no reason is particularly grating, and the positioning of the logo is also amateur (it should hang on the left over the nav below for balance), so I can't really see the process employed as Yahoo as anything but a failure here.

It's a shame this article focussed so much on the process rather than the end result, but I think he just assumed the end result was clearly, objectively bad.

Says the guy with a 'strategic design' firm... Bullshit player lobbing bullshit claims at bullshit.

Maybe he's A/B-ing some secondary bullshit article to see what can get better rank on HN. What's the best link bait for placating boredom and wasting attention on derivative industries suckling at the teat.

Did anyone actually notice the logo changed?

I didn't, and frankly, it seems like such a little change, I doubt many even noticed.

Changing your logo to change your brand identity is the business equivalent of buying new running shoes to start shaping up. It doesn't quite work, does it?

So I'm glad they didn't spend thousands and ten thousands of dollars on a new logo, because if the logo change is just ego stroking for the CEO, there isn't much use of spending months and awe-inspiring sums on it (like that matters).

Whenever I hear someone say "not being professional", I replace "being professional" with "conforming to my overly narrow world view." While professionalism is an important concept, it has never been the case that I have seen it referenced properly. Instead, it's usually just some SJ who can't sleep at night unless everyone fits into a little box.

Five years from now, the logo will be the perfect hook for articles about Marissa Mayer and Yahoo. If Yahoo does well, the logo incident will show her brilliance and how her hands-on work saved the company. If Yahoo does poorly, the logo will be an emblem of how her micromanagement and distraction from the core business ruined the company.

What I'm trying to say is that the stories told in retrospect always make what happens seem obvious, but looking forward, it's impossible to know.

I'm wondering if anyone shared my experience on this:

I'd seen a few posts referencing a change in the Yahoo logo. Having not been to the site for a long time (year or more?) I wasn't inclined to see. Then comes this article, which I get sucked into (proper & creative use of obscenity can work), and read the whole diatribe...without knowing what the new logo is. Worked up about the change, having now learned its details without knowing the result, I take a look.

Yahoo.com. New logo...meh. It screams "corporate" without the big-budget expensive-talent origin. It speaks of whimsy and cross-discipline inventiveness...beaten into submission by an unhappy "you did my job and now I have to clean up the mess" department.

The problem isn't that they didn't pay a large sum for its development, it's that there are people who are very good at such things (be it highly paid or tangential hobby) and none of them were on the weekend team. I'm reminded of the story of Steve Jobs calling a top guy at Google late one weekend to complain that their shade of yellow was wrong - and he was right.

If Yahoo! really wanted to signal their change towards modernity and freshness, they were already sitting on their perfect logo: http://i.imgur.com/VpAwbwS.png

>> And what is more efficient than working directly with the CEO on the brand identity? A dream setup. Also, it’s cheap. A weekend for a logo, instead of paying a branding agency millions and waiting months for something that can be done in a couple of days? That’s smart business!

>> Is it?

Yes. People will bitch about your logo whether you paid $100mn for it or hacked it over the weekend. Logos, like names, don't actually matter much. It is the change that is important, not the design.

I'd say the most annoying part (of so many annoying parts) was when he says:

"The hard part is defining what your brand is and what it aims to become."

And then somehow supports that with the opposite:

"Is Yahoo “whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh […] human, personal […] proud”? Currently, Yahoo is not associated with being whimsical or sophisticated, rather it is mostly boring and dull. It doesn’t portray modernity or freshness, it feels obsolete and dated."

Apparently had he been hired, he'd have designed a logo to what he believes are Yahoo's current brand - dullness and obsolescence instead of what he suggested at the outset which is what you want your brand to be.

The fact of the matter is that none of us knows exactly happened that weekend, including whether it was really a weekend at all. But I think what offends so many people (myself, to a certain extent, included) is that this whole episode, as it has played out publicly, represents a certain obnoxiousness that so many of us have experienced -- executives that are in over their head inserting themselves into processes they have no business being part of, leading to results that are at best mediocre. Between Mayer's self-aggrandizing "'we' did it" post and the amateur hour "30 logos in 30 days" stunt, the situation resembles a farce. Marissa Mayer was supposed to be Yahoo's brilliant savior, so why is she playing the role of a stereotypical clueless CEO?

These Onion stories in tandem seem appropriate here.



(minor edits)

The author fails to make an important distinction about the people that created the logo.

It's one thing to say that a design agency came in and designed a logo in a weekend. It's another thing to say an internal design team bared down to create a logo in a "weekend" (in quotes, because Marissa may simply be using the term to mean done in a short timespan).

I've worked on both the agency and client side, and the huge difference is that an agency comes in and has to learn very quickly about the client's business (more often than not getting it wrong the first time around) while the people working at the company live and breathe the company culture day in and out. At an agency, you're often jumping between a few clients, but unless you've been the agency of record for a number of years, it is simply not possible for you to have the depth of understanding that an internal marketing team will have. What an agency CAN bring is some fresh outsider thinking not colored by the company's history, but there's no reason the right people within the company can do so as well.

Yahoo really needs an internal culture of agility, listening to customers, and working weekends. She wants employees reminded of that every time they look at the logo, even if it means having a logo that's 10% less ideal.

Yeah, I think the audience for this is internal.

It is her way of saying that I can and will fix this company even if I have to do every bit myself.

Maybe that is what Yahoo! needs to get moving. Crazy way to run a $10B company.

I think the danger sign in this story is not a sub-standard logo but what it says about her inability to delegate.

> It is her way of saying that I can and will fix this company even if I have to do every bit myself.

A message that I'm sure will really build trust and cohesion among the rest of the people she works with. "You people are such losers I have to do your jobs as well as mine" is not exactly a rousing call to unity.

Indeed. Do I really want the CEO of a company breathing down my neck everytime I'm designing or releasing something?

"...and working weekends."

Why the working weekends bit? Is Yahoo short of people? Can they not plan their projects? Not trolling, just interested.

I totally disagree. And yes, it is just a logo. Google logo is still looking like it was made by a 10 years old. Sounds like the author is trying to justify his daily rate. Come on. And when big companies pay millions for a logo, it's not just for the logo itself, it's for all the identity of the company. Yahoo! changed its logo but the majority of the people won't even notice.

Honestly, it seems to me that the author is upset when a 10 billion dollar company just gave a big F you to the design community, and this is a little hissy fit.

Look at all the news it generated, look at all the people talking about it. Change, The big old giant company is changing.

And seriously, having worked with a few designers, they are the biggest little bitch when they feel insulted because you didn't come to them for "fashion" sense on design.

Reading from a developer's viewpoint, this article is about an "artist" whining because a 10 billion dollar company said/showed that you can do their "month" long work in a weekend. The author's "this is unprofessional" is an attack that yahoo isn't playing by his rules.

Logo, Bullshit & Co is quite a self-important read. Sure, Mayer's approached is unconventional for a large corporation, and it is more in line with a bootstrapping startup. Yahoo is in financial dire straights, so it is totally reasonable for Mayer to try an unconventional approach, save serious marketing dollars, and go her own way. We don't have to love the result, but at the end of the day, Mayer gave the brand a new face, and she didn't pay much for it.

I agree with this assessment - apparently taking this task so lightly (especially given the poor outcome) is a baffling and shocking misstep, so bad that I have to think hard about if there is some hidden angle I'm not seeing, some genius act of extremely subtle performance marketing. It would seem extreme to judge a CEO by something relatively trivial and unimportant such as this, but honestly the way this project was handled makes me very bearish on Yahoo under Mayer.

Yahoo!'s challenge isn't their logo. Yahoo!'s challenge is ensuring their brand becomes associated with whatever they do best.

When I think of Google I think of search, ads, and Android, and GMail. When I think of Microsoft I think of Windows, Office and XBOX. When I think of Apple I think of the iPhone, and the iPad. When I think of Facebook I think of photos and privacy (lack thereof).

When I think of Yahoo there's no defining correlation to anything. I realize many people frequent their services - but personally Yahoo! doesn't stand out as "best" for anything, and I don't even know what direction they intend to pursue to change that perception.

I do not agree. The reason logos usually are expensive and take months: Because what else? If I have a multi-million Dollar marketing budget, sure the logo will take a good chunk of that, not only, say one permille (still enough to pay 5 designers for a week). If I want to change the perception of my company, I will not rush.

Does this mean the logo will perform better than one a design student made over the weekend? No.

Do many months of work prevent a failure? No.

In the end, Yahoo wants profit through revenue through site usage through loyal users. Does letter spacing have an influence on this? I doubt it.

Seems like anti-intellectualism. Just because you can't recognize an outstanding logo doesn't mean there is no such thing - it is an art form and a science, which is the reason there are superstars in the field who command hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees. (Whether or not a logo has a real impact on business performance is another discussion.)

Science you say? Yahoo changed it's logo daily last month. Let's have a look at how the search queries went down with every bad logo proposal (some really looked horrible).

I'd be interested in some blind study: Give some top notch designers a logo of a real, say, investment bank, from a foreign country, and an alternative proposal from a design student, and let them explain which is the real one and why. Has anyone ever seen such a study?

True, which reminded me of one such superstar, Paul Rand, who designed the NeXT logo for Steve Jobs. http://stocklogos.com/topic/famous-logo-designs-and-how-much...

> one such superstar, Paul Rand, who designed the NeXT logo for Steve Jobs

... and rather more famously, he designed the IBM logo, which is arguably one of the most famous and well-respected logos in history.

As well as quite a few others you may have heard of (UPS, ABC, Enron, etc.)


And the FedEX logo, which is so subtly brilliant.

And superstars can still fuck up:


Read "I'm Feeling Lucky: Confessions of Google Employee...". I'm surprised no one has referenced the book.

Fiddling with logos was (and still is) considered a bit sacreligious when it comes to branding but in the case of Google in the early 2000s, it was a big hit - what is now Google Doodles. Those were attributed partially to Marissa Mayer implementing the idea "over the weekend with the help of a designer".

When I read purple prose about logos, I keep thinking, "Let's just measure this to see if what they're saying is right." In general the soft-speak of brands, design and logo can move into meaninglessness. I know it's important. Design is why Apple succeeds. But it also should be something that can be explained in plain (and perhaps measurable) English.

The ironic thing is their old logo is still in a ton of places, like in their Fantasy Football image on their main login page:


You can also Google it and the image on the right hand side is still the old logo.

As much as she wanted to change it, they sure didn't do a good job of scrubbing their properties of the old logo.

This link shows me the new logo.

I like this sentence: "Your brand architecture is your information architecture." In italics no less.

Could someone tell me what it means?

Buzzword bingo.

For me spending weeks and months of valuable time achieving a utopian logo would be the greater waste. I personally am very supportive of this let's get everyone we need to in the room and lets get it done approach. It bodes well for how MM might go about solving larger issues facing the company.

If Marissa Mayer hadn't mentioned about the time taken to design the logo, this post wouldn't exist.

I think "it's" working.

"Negative" publicity is better than no publicity.

Look at us! We're talking about Yahoo! now.

EDIT: My point being: perhaps it's not about their logo or the importance of a logo and many of you aren't seeing the bigger picture/goal/objective...

What the writer fails to notice is that the reason there is a lack of technicalities surrounding the logo is that it's clearly an emotional decision, not a logical one.

Historical note about the logo illustration at the top of the essay (which predates the well-known red logo): it was internally referred to as "Uncle Stinky".

Did eBay's new logo get this criticized? Because it's infinitely worse. Then again, the CEO probably didnt work on i, which seems to be the major gripe.

it's simple. yahoo's new logo is just bad. it's exactly what too much thought and group think does.

the logo isn't even aligned properly on their homepage

I think the logo looks awful. It looked awful in the first place anyway but it's well recognized and branded so I guess it doesn't matter much.

I like the fact that you argue the point that yahoo's brand is or is not: (insert completely meaningless addwords)

I bet this is just a hoax and when the rage is at its peak, the real logo will be revealed.


We ARE a whimsical company, yay for fooling all of you!

There's gotta be some law of marketing at work here ... yahoo is the pepsi to google's coke ;-)

What is better?

Write about an own Logo or write a monstrous post about someone, who write about her own Logo ;-)

Twitter for its first logo paid 15$

so, the whole logo is bad because Yahoo didn't pay millions of dollars on it?

Great post and spot-on.

Wow, someone got pissed!

Hang on, hang on.

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