Let it be known, I'm not one to jump on 'bandwagons', whether it's politics, celebrity gossip, sports, or even in business. But I'm all aboard the latest bandwagon traveling along Gap's crossroads to logo disaster. It's widely been referred to as the 'Gapgate' controversy, a questionable attempt by the company at designing a new logo and an even more tasteless approach at trying to market it. There has been way too much recent attention around the new Gap logo that I actually feel comfortable speaking my mind about it because unlike Gap's story, there's a happy ending here. Yes, keep reading and you'll see I offer a solution to this visual problem.
To much of my shocking surprise, I first came across the new logo while reading my favorite design blog 'FastCoDesign.com' where one designer so aptly recreated the Laird + Partners version of the logo in all of 3 minutes and retitled it, "Crap".
Before I critique the logo, I want to point out that one of my first jobs was working at the Gap and working in such a corporate environment with such good control over its brand propelled me into marketing and design. While working as an Old Navy and Gap associate I particularly became a fan of how Gap was able to engage and sustain a 'loyal audience' by constantly staying fresh in all aspects of their brand (fashion, marketing, advertising, etc.) Unfortunately this hasn't been the case over the past few years, revenue at Gap stores (including Old Navy and Banana Republic) have been declining (-8% in 2009). Pinpointing the problem by blaming 'The Economy' would be foolish. The Gap has a bigger problem, and it's not their logo... it's their brand.
A Brand Panic Move
One of my motto's is, "Your logo is not your brand!" This is a message we at STARMEN communicate to our clients all the time. But it seems Gap didn't listen, they officially rolled out their new logo last week, that came off more as a panic move, than it did with any real design thinking. Some credit this sudden change as a response to their declining sales, but as Abe Sauer from Brandchannel explained, "the brand decide[d] to change the one valuable element it has going for it." Changing the logo makes this obvious because it's the most recognizable thing the customers sees, but doesn't feel. A typical mistake most high-profile brands make in an effort to make a valuable 'change'. Just ask Pepsi how they feel about the whole Tropicana mess. With very notable brands, a complete brand identity redesign or even just a change to the logo can be the hardest task for any design firm, if not done right. Laird + Partners has done some great work for Gap in years past, and if the result improved the former, this probably wouldn't have been an issue.
Louise Callagy, a Gap spokeswoman, explained the new logo was intended to be the latest "evolution" for the brand and added that this was in the works for the last two years. Callagy explains "[the new logo] is more contemporary and current and honors the heritage of the Gap brand, but takes the blue box forward." Ehh... I don't think so... I'm sorry maybe back in 1965 but not today, there's absolutely nothing new about using the typeface Helvetica, just ask Eric Spiekermann. Simply typing Helvetica font over the former iconic blue box with a default gradient to offset the contrast of the black and blue is not the way to "take the brand forward" nor "honor the heritage".
We have a solution...
We at STARMEN came up with a relatively realistic solution for Gap. In honor of this 'heritage' Gap so greatly expresses, we found it easy to reflect on the first Gap logo and store back in 1969 and found a new way of embracing Gap's original essence with a more contemporary approach, something with similar mainstream flexibility as seen in MTV's new logo redesign. Rather than just an 'add-on' approach, this logo becomes more 'integrated' with the brand campaign, allowing the Gap to align its brand initiatives with its loyal customers. Rather than simply placing the retro typeface proportionally in the center of the iconic square shape, we more dramatically enlarged it to bleed over the edges. The clean, bold and organic lowercase font gives Gap a fresh new energy that's friendly and inviting. Our approach gives the logo opportunity to fuse the distinctive Gap imagery and the square shape, showing the flexibility of the new branding. So, what do you think of our alternative? More importantly, what do you think of Gap's perspective? We want to hear your thoughts... and we'd love to hear from you Gap!
Also stayed tuned to our blog later in the week, to hear what I think about another Helvetica logo redesign nightmare another popular company is trying...
UPDATE: By no means, are we saying that the above solution, is 'the solution'... we all understand that there is a deeper problem with Gap, and it's not just their logo, but rather their brand. However being neurotic creatives we couldn't help but offer our version of what we think their identity could be. Thanks for all the feedback, we hope you this will be a case study for brands to come!
As most of you know by now, Gap pulled the logo just as quickly as it put it up (overnight). There probably won't be much long-term damage to the brand, but we all hope that Gap will know how to approach the whole brand identity redesign, more hollistically, focusing on the brand itself and not just the logo.