Commentary

Mind the Gap

Gap, Inc. changed its logo. Then changed it back.

Good thing, too, or else the Twitter world might have imploded.

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While I wasn’t a huge fan of the new Gap logo, I am impressed with the success of the Internet naysayers who clamored to reverse the change.

“It’s hideous!” they cried. “We like the old Gap better!”

Never have I heard such a loud voice of discontent about a company’s logo. I didn’t think people cared that much… especially about Gap. But I guess it’s like the U.S. getting rid of the penny – it messes with the familiarity and nostalgia people so enjoy.

Lesson number one for a company: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Typographic flak

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Gap officials said they were aiming for a more modern logo that reflected the new sleekness of their clothing products.

I kind of liked the bold Helvetica of the new logo, but what’s with the box? Did someone lose a big piece of confetti on the sketch?

The new logo was a bold and striking change – too bold and striking. No more thin, preppy white lettering on navy – instead, they’re suddenly going for fat, urban white noise. Gap’s original logo was something everyone recognized. It stood out from other brands – not like the new one, which looks more like Microsoft, Target or Caterpillar.

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Disgruntled designers

Another mistake Gap made was opening its Facebook page to take design ideas from anyone. It was a sure-fire way to tick off American designers whose job it is to create these logos.

The problem wasn’t with the designers who created the new logo. The problem was with changing the logo in the first place. That’s what led to the cyber outrage. And it was an ugly gesture to designers when Gap tried to make its mistake into a crowd-sourcing project.

It’s not a bad idea to try and appeal to the masses, but let’s remember there’s a reason most companies don’t turn to the masses for logo designs. Designers know about branding. They know about Gestalt principles and color theory. They are the ones who should be designing logos. Not saying any Jane Doe can’t come up with a brilliant design idea, but this just had corporate sheepishness written all over it.

Remember the New Coke fiasco? Did Coca-Cola do that on purpose? Was Gap trying the same thing?

Maybe. But I don’t think it worked.

The new digital polis

I went to Greece this summer on a study abroad trip. While in Athens, I learned about the ancient Greek polis, or city-state. The polis was a democracy, the first of its kind. This democracy has been known through the ages as one of the most influential and interesting forms of government. Once men were old enough, they could take part in voting or trying to convince the council of their opinions. The polis made all kinds of decisions, and the rhetoric speakers used to persuade others was a thing of beauty.

The flood of discontent about the new Gap logo makes me wonder if we've reached a new kind of polis - one made up of Twitter and Facebook users. The Internet is a free-for-all, where anyone with decent communication skills can sway and convince with a Wordpress or a tweet. Others can spread that opinion around by linking to it or tagging it. Still others can comment on it and flood inboxes or Facebook walls with opinions.

What's cool is that this crazy Gap incident shows how the digital polis can exist. What this cyber "city-state" lacks is the ability to make decisions as a body. Maybe if Facebook ever installs a "dislike" button, that could happen, too.

There's a lesson to be learned here. Manipulating the digital polis is something every company needs to gain experience in. Hopefully Gap can take that into account next time it thinks it should change its logo.

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