Anybody remember the origin of Yahoo!’s name? Remember when it was practically the only search game in town? (Sure, Altavista, and a few others were available, but Yahoo! ruled supreme during the Web’s elementary school years.)
The name came from “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” (amusing backstory on the relevant Wikipedia page). And the logo looked like this in 1996.
Not a thing of beauty, but did play up the jokes encoded in the name (a tech version of how a Swiftian ‘yahoo’ might sign his name?).
After many years, the company is saying good-bye to those hick serifs and that FF0000 red, and going for something sleek, optimal and “whimsical.”
And people don’t like it. Of course not, it’s new. And yes, it seems pretty terrible, but then so was the old one, so that’s a wash. Glenn Fleishman explains the flaws of the process and the typographical missteps at his blog:
The Yahoo logo design process represents the worst aspects of someone who doesn’t understand or accept that type design, typography, and graphic design in general are professions that benefit from years or decades of training. Mayer explains the process they employed to create the new logo. If I had attempted to present the reasoning she used to any of my graphic design teachers in college, any of the people I worked for at studios or on a freelance basis, or to a client who had hired me, I would have been laughed at and told to get real, or fired.
A case of “every one is a designer” gone wrong? But lousy design in itself: how is this a headline? It’s all around us all the time.
But what makes this Onion-level wonderful is the inane, cutesie, and risible explanation Mayer posted.
On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous 🙂
So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail.
God, I hope she wrote this herself, and that she keeps up this “The Secret Diary of Marissa Mayer, Aged 13¾” as she does everything else she is going to do to with Yahoo!. What other trenches will she dive into? What other incredible packages have caught her eye? Are any divisions of Yahoo! safe from things she loves on a personal level?
So many questions! I’d even add, can you really get through Stanford without encountering a writing teacher? Does Yahoo! really lack sufficient dineros to employ a (adult, full-sized) PR person to vet things? Did anyone except the CEO think that relaunching a national brand via a “how I spent a weekend” camp story was a good idea? Could they tell her? Did she ask?
But there is something wonderful about a web wunderkinder turning out to be just a bit thick. It reminded me of the interview that Washington Post TV critic did with Tom Shales with Phyllis George, a briefly famous media star, in the 80s. In fairness, George was no wunderkinder, at least not of technology, maybe of cheekbones. But there are parallels; sometimes the best copy is just letting a famous person talk on, unfiltered. To wit: Phyllis on the welcome mat she failed to receive on being made co-anchor of the The CBS Morning News:
Does the hostile press tick her off? “What would you think? Of course it does!“ she says. But she also adds, “I`m fine, I`m comfortable with who I am and what I`m doing, and I`ve got a lot to learn, and I`m the first to admit it, and I`ll grow doing it. But when they start getting nitpicky, it hurts.
“You know, all the money I was touted as getting, and all the thises and the thats, it became more important than what my job was, and this is a serious job to me. I wouldn’t have taken this if I didn’t think I could handle it, for God’s sake.“ Besides, she has it on good authority that the show is getting better. “My mother,“ she says, “just loves it.“
Later, she is sitting in the back of a limousine, wearing a fur coat, looking like several million dollars, and saying over and over, “I am a real person! I am a real person!“
Read the whole thing. It’s some kind of masterpiece. And I’m sure that Marissa’s mom just loves that new logo. She loves it!
One Reply to “Critical Words: Yahoo! Re-Designs its Logo in Public”
Arthur, your blog posts are on a roll. Unfortunately, I think the whole Yahoo critique, while blindingly accurate to a cynical Baby Boomer like me, resonates with the “we’re all super brilliant and creative” refrain of Yahoo’s Millennial target audience. While I value my self-deprecating skepticism, there’s something to be said for overweening self confidence. Isn’t there? Isn’t there??