Many brands (and the logos that represent them) become background noise in our busy lives and are often forgotten. They become an unrecognized constant after decades of receding from visibility. As a result, a change to even the most mundane or bland logo can create passion in even disaffected consumers.
Gap caused a major online flare of anger and disappointment in branding circles on Thursday when it unveiled its new logo. The formerly boring, but established, logo of the condensed white GAP lettering was replaced with a straightforward piece of Helvetica and a small blue box behind the P — and caused a lighting bolt of digital rage to hit the branding blogs on the poor choice of design.
It is not surprising Gap has chosen to change its logo. The fashion retailer should strive to stay relevant to the changing tastes of its customers. However, it is somewhat surprising that it made the choice it did. It feels like a lukewarm shift, embracing the typestyle that has been used in its visual system and advertising for sometime, with a nod to the blue square that has been the shape of its logo historically. For such a well-known brand to waste an opportunity to make a more substantial change seems like a limp-wristed effort.
What is truly surprising is the response. With this change, Gap has seemed to connect with disengaged consumers. For the past few days, it has been the center of a lot of attention and considered by people who have not thought about Gap for some time. Facebook groups that are devoted to hating the new logo have cropped up and design blogs discussing the logo have doubled their traffic.
Gap’s Facebook page has addressed its users’ concerns and asked the Facebook community to send in their own designs. This may be the first time a major brand has crowdsourced a new logo after they have launched an unpopular one. In the Spring of 2009, when Tropicana redesigned its orange juice packaging, there was mass criticism of the new design, but there wasn't an online movement to redesign the packaging – nor a mob toting pitchforks, torches and Adobe Illustrator.
The surprises continue in the range and volume of logos already generated in the last 48 hours. The proliferation of design software and social networking has enabled users to create and share thousands of new logos – some of which are better, most clearly worse and some that satirize the branding industry. It is a new phenomenon to see so many designers, who normally make their living getting paid for their services, volunteering work.
It will be interesting to see how this drama plays out and even more interesting to see if the logo impacts the value of the Gap brand in the long-term.