A tale of two logos: what GAP and MySpace can tell us about the power of identity

what's in a logo?  quite a lot according to the thousands of people who rushed to condemn GAP's logo redesign.  the size and ferocity of the sentiment seems – surprisingly – to have caught GAP off guard, to the extent that their U-turn is now fully complete and the new logo has been abandoned.

which is just as well, because it really IMHO isn't very good.  retrospective, ordinary, old, etc etc etc … what's more important than my personal feelings about the logo is the observation that GAP seemingly (1) thought that the logo was any good and that (2) they showed it to the world without a great deal more thought and planning.

that said, skeptical me instantly wants to put this in the category of New Coke, that organisation's ill-fated attempt to reformulate a formula that was far from broken and which I and a great many other people are convinced was a stunt to get people to collectively and publicly acknowledge their support and love for Coke.

I'm tempted to think that the above effort by the GAP aimed to achieve the same.  deep down, people really rather like the GAP but they're just not very forthcoming in saying it these days.  launching a crappy new logo is a perfect way to galvanise sentiment in the brand's favour.  and if the current corporate guys need to take a (perceived) hit to do remind people how much they love GAP then it's a small price to pay.

in other breaking news, MySpace have just redesigned their logo too.  check this out…

now a lot of people don't like this.

I love it.

I really really really do.


a post on the eBrand site describes how "the new logos are not live yet, but the site has demonstrated it at the Warm Gun Design conference … [MySpace] elaborated on the idea saying that it plans to use the blank space in the logo to display artwork by remaining MySpace users. The artwork will only appear when individuals place their mouse cursor over the blank space though."

it goes on to quote MySpace VP of User Experience Mike Macadaan: "MySpace is a platform for people to be whatever they want, so we have decided to give them the space to do it."

what I love is that the new logo is not the logo of a social network.  it's mine.  it's whatever I want to do with it.  that's a very powerful statement for a logo to make.  moreover, its a statement that is derived from the truth of what the MySpace site is.  it certainly has more credibility than the announcement earlier this year that MySpace was the site for discovery…

"MySpace will be the best tool for Discovery" was the assertion of the social network's International Co-President Mike Jones, who in his keynote speech at an event in April highlighted projects from the network that are "allowing people to get Discovered".

but my favourite thing about this logo is that it can only exist in the 21st Century.  this logo can only exist when the predominant means of accessing MySpace is digital (which of course it is), but it can't fully exist in a static image, and it certainly can't exit in the written word.  it has to live digitally, it has to be interacted with… a participative logo for the participation age.

both these tales – of Gap and my_____ (see what I mean?) – are potent reminders of the importance of identity.  too quickly and too often a brand or business attempts to reinvent itself with a new identity / logo.  but that's a bit like a friend who used to be cool and interesting but who now doesn't really go out much or have anything interesting to say, putting on a new t-shirt and expecting you to think they're cool and interesting again.  they're not.  they're just wearing a new t-shirt.

identities – and specifically logos – are not sticking plasters that you can change at will.  rather they are a key and important part of a brand's identity which, at their best, say a great deal more about that brand that simply what brand it is.  if this new MySpace identity holds – and I really hope that it does – it will say more about that social network than any positioning statement will.  logos with actions, it turns out, speak louder than logos with words.


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