When The People Speak

by Blake Howard    December 28, 2010

The BIG10 released a clever new logo recently designed by Pentagram partners Michael Bierut and Michael Gericke. The new mark, which is pretty dang brilliant, has come with a heap of criticism from Big 10 fans and sports fans alike. Has the Gap fiasco ushered in a new era of vocal entitlement for every new logo released?

The new Big10 logo is really smart. Forming a one work mark (out of two) is a rare and brilliant solution. Several reviewers have made harsh comments such as “It looks like it took 24 seconds to make”, “It’s too simple, that’s all they could come up with”, and one person simply barking, “It’s too cookie cutter”. Compared to most sports logos it is really simple, and that is why it is so great. When shiny chromed filled trends are going out of style, solid design principles will remain. An effective logo is built to last. Some critics are even calling for the new Big10 logo to be removed and the old version to be reinstated.

If you want to read more a in-depth article on the rebrand click here.

It seems in today’s world, especially after Gap, everyone feels entitled to speak out against a new mark. Are we in a new place where proven design principles are at the mercy of the people’s emotional subjectivity? How would Paul Rand’s IBM logo fair in today’s climate (or storm) of social media feedback? Would it be pulled from the shelves because it’s “Too cookie cutter”?

Is this trend a good or bad thing for the future of logo design?

8 thoughts on “When The People Speak”

  1. I personally like the mark, not a fan of the color palette…but hey, everyone’s a critic, right? A great example of the KISS method. Unfortunately, some people are too “simple” to see the beauty of simplicity.

    The trend of the “boo birds” flocking together is really a sad state of design. In any case, of any decision, there will be people who are for it and people who are against it. People who will love you and people who will hate you. The sports metaphor, as cliché as it is, in this case is appropriate. Down 3, Fourth and 1, on the goal line, 2 seconds left. Do you kick the FG and take it into OT or do you go for the win. Given the outcome, you’re a genius or you’re looking for a new job next season. But the coach doesn’t poll the crowd and check the jumbo-tron for what he should do. It’s not about appeasing the critics and skeptics, it’s about putting your team/company in the best position to be successful.

    Its about being true to yourself and not designing based on the people who dislike your work, but designing based on effective methods of communication.

    And moreover, I don’t see understand the big uproar. It’s not like the old one had all the metallics, bold, fonts and “rah! rah! rah!” that can be associated with the customary aesthetics of bad sports logos. The old one itself has a great simplicity to it, as well.

  2. I will admit, when I read the initial press release, I was not a fan of the logo. But, I think my immediate reaction was clouded because of two factors.

    1) The Big10 simultaneously released the mark included in your post with another mark that included the word “TEN” underneath the B10 mark. I didn’t like the redundancy. Now that they have begun to circulate just the B10 mark, I like it a lot better.

    2) The initial press release included the identification of the two division names: Leaders and Legends. I was not, and am still not, a fan of these names. They seem weak, and I believe reading them immediately prior to seeing the new B10 mark created a residual negative evaluation.

    So, I think the bigger issue was the overall strategy of the naming/branding communication strategy. As I’ve learned from your team, you can’t get just one piece right. This serves to reinforce that point.

    To your actual question, though (is the subjectivity good or bad), I think it’s good for logo design and the design community. Executive teams are seeing just how important good design, branding, and communication strategy is. We learned the big lesson with products from New Coke. Seems as if we’re learning the big branding lesson from GAP, and maybe a little bit of communication strategy from the Big10.

  3. Thanks Parker. Great points. I am not a fan of the “Legends” and “Leaders” either. Seems like they are trying to hard. Besides the logo execution my question was more of the name for the conference. It seems rare to actually have 10 teams in the big 10. It started 9 and since then the number of teams fluctuates, going from 11 to 12 this year. Another solution could have been a slight evolution of the name to remove the number convention from the name. That may or may not be a good strategy.

    I think the huge press around rebrand mishaps lately has been in favor for the design community. It highlights how tough launching and executing the face of change for a product or service really is. Tropicana was another example of failing to consider the emotional equity built into something as silly as the giant orange on the box. Those things matter. And People don’t like change. You have to spin change as an opportunity to tell a more complete story not one filled with holes.

  4. Ditto Blake on the naming confusion. It seems a brand clarification exercise could have helped them not only come up with some great starting points for design, but also provide a way for the Big 10 (or 11 or 12) to get a little introspective on their reason for existence.

    Don’t you have a Brand Camp coming up? Maybe you should send them an invite.

  5. I love the logo. And what made the result great was that it was a considered approach based on interviews with participants within the Big 10. Tropicana, GAP, & London 2012 are all great examples of public outcry against a design approach. But where Tropicana & GAP seemingly designed in a vacuum – both the Big 10 and London 2012 designs were based off of audience input first. So where GAP & Tropicana fell away once users cried out against the new design approach – I believe both Big 10 & London 2012 will stand the test of time…because they actually have something to stand on.

  6. Great post, Blake. I really hope that they don’t change it back because the new one is far superior. Simple in beautiful. If you were to ask me which one looks like it was made in 10 minutes I would say the old one.

  7. Blake, I have to agree with Dustin on the name. Though it doesn’t make numerical sense (and hasn’t) for a while, it is a name with strong connotation to its constituentEve through recent contact with a number of universities, I have learned that the Big Ten moniker means a lot in the academic community, as well. So, this name is something tht carries weight beyond the athletic field. And, as Dustin points out, the design process seems to have included the right amount of input from the power players. The university presidents mandated the name, so the designers took the passion to heart and came up with a creative play on the name and on the old logo (with the hidden numeral).

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