I am an opinionated observer of logos and logo design. I am having a hard time with the new Facebook logo (seen above the title of this post). I feel it is a deliberately insipid un-logo. It rejects the specialness that makes a logo great. There is no surprise, or cleverness that would elevate this to something more than a made up word. This facebook is satisfied to be well-made piece of type without notable flaws.
As a logo designer, I have biases about what is necessary for a good logo. A lot of those are simple attributes like strength, confidence, and personality. But there are also intangibles that cannot be described, these things are felt in the brain and in the gut. Something just works, or it doesn’t.
This is the old Facebook logo for comparison.
When I have developed a design to the point of finish, I recognize that it appeals to my aesthetic and my intellect. I feel like something of the personality or essence of the subject has been infused in the logo. There is a fit, a click, a flash, or swagger in the design that syncs with the organization. I may not be able to describe exactly what was done to get to that point of arrival, but I can feel it when that point is reached. It’s as clear to me as the last page of a good novel, or the last step on the hike to a mountain top. There is resolution and a sense of completion.
I wonder when Eric Olson of Process Type Foundry and his collaborators within Facebook felt that they arrived at that point of completion? What was the last stroke, the last bit of kerning, the last proportional width change where it felt that all of the pieces had fallen into place and a new and better Facebook logo was ready to be shared with the world?
I know that when creating letterforms designers like me can agonize over angles and curves, spaces, widths and junctions. When that obsession with process and elemental minutae takes over, we may lose sight of the overarching goals of the project we are working on. The desire to achieve an indescribable sort of perfection replaces the need to properly represent the thing.
The new Facebook logo appears to me to be a product of that kind of obsession. One where the goal was to create a well-balanced group of friendly and engaging letters. I believe Olson and Facebook achieved that goal. But there is a definitive lack of gestalt where the whole becomes “more than the sum of its parts.”
Simple gestalt in typography results in words, where the sight of a familiar group of letterforms turns from a random collection of lettershapes into a mental concept. D-O-G — becomes a pet. F-I-R-E — becomes something alarming or dangerous or useful. In this case f-a-c-e-b-o-o-k becomes the word Facebook. it may remind us of the popular social site. But it lacks the evocative power to do any more than hint at what it is.
An effective logo serves up a more complex kind of gestalt — where the logo becomes the thing and vice versa. There is a uniqueness shared in the brand mark and the brand. The unique character of the Klavika typeface used in the previous Facebook logotype, gave the logo and the brand that touch of uniqueness. This new type lacks those kinds of more notable attributes. The letterforms are more generic, less stylized. The personality has a been leeched from the whole.
To me this personality erasure is obvious on the Facebook campus signage shared on UnderConsideration’s Brand New today. Without its signature blue, the wordmark comes across so generic as to be nearly invisible. Repetition and consistent usage may help alleviate that. But there is so little that is noteworthy about this logo that it feels deliberately boring.