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Yahoo’s Logo Controversy

Yahoo’s new logo has caused quite a stir in both the media and design industry.


The company have a rich heritage among internet companies. An established range of search engine and web directory services, 18 years of pedigree, 700m monthly users and a valuation predicted to be upwards of $10 billion. If we’re looking at companies who have prospered in the internet generation, Yahoo certainly gets a mention.

Under the leadership of CEO Marissa Mayer Yahoo are looking to seriously challenge Google as the worlds #1 search engine. Mayer is a former Google employee and contributed to the design of Google’s infamous homepage.

That Yahoo is at such a crucial point in its history makes last week’s logo release a strange and confusing affair. The logo itself has attracted much criticism, but almost as baffling is the process that has led up to its release.

Brand Design

What’s wrong with it? Well, that depends who you ask. It’s bevelled, drop-shadowed, and it’s certainly not flat. To many designers, this is a big problem. It is, however, a big improvement on what has gone before, and it has to be said that most search engine users are more interested in the quality of the search than the branding. Google just happen to be superb at both.

Yahoo’s logo release has served as a big reminder of the importance of brand identity and design. The company have historically trailed in Google’s wake, and a simple comparison of homepages makes it pretty clear why this is the case. Google have a fabulous branding strategy which enables them to keep their web presence fresh, engaging and clean. Yahoo have historically struggled in this area, and now need to respond.

Brand Management

There has been widespread derision of Yahoo’s 30-day lead in, with a ‘new logo’ released daily until the new logo was confirmed. This scatter-gun approach hints at serious confusion about what Yahoo’s branding strategy really is. The notion, for example, that you would experiment with 30 different typefaces (fonts) indicates that this was not a carefully developed process. It certainly seems a little strange to release the working process to the world, even if the company are looking to become increasingly personal and transparent.

Yahoo is clearly at a critical point in its 18-year history. Meyer has attempted to express the Yahoo philosophy in this way:

“We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo – whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Having a human touch, personal. Proud.”

Whilst this is an articulate and admirable vision, and if successfully implemented will go a long way to stimulating company and brand growth, it certainly grated with one tech commentator, who responded with these words:

Currently, Yahoo is not associated with being whimsical or sophisticated, rather it is mostly boring and dull. It doesn’t portray modernity or freshness, it feels obsolete and dated. There is no humanity in the brand identity, it’s computed, impersonal, scattered.

Branding that Creates Trust

Yahoo clearly have a lot of work to do if they’re going to win the trust and respect of the web design community. That said, they’ve correctly identified that leadership, vision and branding will be crucial in their future and have taken steps to get these key ingredients in place.

Time will tell if they’ve got it right…