With X, Musk Emcees A Graphic Design Circus

It didn't even take a full 24 hours for Elon Musk's new Twitter logo to start drawing fire or for some observers to infuse it with the same fortune-telling properties usually reserved for Tesla's earnings call.

But even those who don't love it from a graphic design perspective grudgingly admit it may be the right move.

"Everything Musk does turns into a bit of a circus," says Eddie Opara, a partner at Pentagram, a design company with clients that include Amazon, New York Magazine and Liberty of London.

The new logo is another way to say this isn't the same company anymore. And in wiping away the past, "Musk is talking about the future," Opara tells Marketing Daily. "Is X just his favorite letter of the alphabet? Does X mark the spot? Is it a target? It's ambiguous and can be anything in any way. It's more fluid."



That fluidity, while it may be ultra-Elon, runs counter to the prevailing branding wisdom that a company's mission, brand purpose and logo should be fixed, even if the products and services they offer change. It's a line in the sand, marking what a company stands for. A fluid position makes many people feel lost.

For Musk, Opara says, fluidity is probably the point. "He's iterating. He's agile. He's figuring out how to make money."

It's also one more way for Musk to turn the page on the old company, following a post-acquisition period that many describe as a trainwreck. "It strips Twitter of its initial narrative."

That's likely a smart move. "Twitter had been spiraling downwards for quite some time, so in that regard, it's good to abandon the ghosts of Twitter's past and start fresh with a new name, logo and strategy," says Yash Egami, chief operating officer at the One Club.

Linda Yaccarino, Twitter's new chief executive officer, introduced the symbol on Twitter as a way to wipe the slate clean. "It's an exceptionally rare thing in life or business that you get a second chance to make another big impression," she tweeted.

Opara says killing off that iconic little blue bird is honest. Meant to evoke friendly little Tweets, it already didn't represent the monster Twitter became.

"That little bird caused untold mayhem. Social media may strive for a friendly face, but it caused distress."

Still, many will miss the logo known as Larry Bird, born in 2010.

"I can't help but feel sort of sad that the iconic Twitter bird is going away, but perhaps I'm too nostalgic," says Jill Applebaum, chief creative officer at Public, an ad agency based in Toronto. And the logo is "perfectly lovely, from a graphic design standpoint," she tells Marketing Daily via email.

But whatever the X looks like, what it stands for is confusing. "X" is meant to symbolize that this is more than a social media platform. It's a super app. But just as the world went "What?" when Facebook became Meta, and the world got angry when HBO Max became Max, it's hard for brand loyalists to shed an iconic mark because these marks become part of our identity," she says.

"X is a great name and symbol," adds Jessica Walsh, principal at &Walsh, whose clients include the New York Times Magazine, Google, Netflix and Benefit. "But I'm not clear yet on the brand architecture and potential relationship of all these brands," she tells Marketing Daily via email. "Feels like it's rushed, but I read he said it's an interim logo, so maybe it will get sorted out and updated later."

The crowdsourced logo also "takes a page out of the Steve Jobs handbook where his products are being branded with an "X" instead of an "i," says Egami via email. "It remains to be seen how cars, rockets and social media will all be tied together (if at all)."

With this design, "Twitter is testing which way the winds blow and will change it as a result," says Opara. The slightly hollow logo, with a nod to the Art Deco, is unfinished. "Can it change tomorrow? Should it change tomorrow? Should it be solid? Should it be fluid? That's a lot of questions, and that's what he loves. So this seems to fit him and the company he is trying to sculpt."

"That's how marketing works," he says. "But that's not design."

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