The new Yahoo! logo redesign is complete, and according to CEO Marissa Mayer, the finishing touch was to add a nine degree tilt to its exclamation mark, "just to add a bit of whimsy". Really, Marissa, why couldn’t you just live a little and turn it up all the way to 11?
The suggestion of a KPI for whimsy calls to mind Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda’s apologetic bow following the brand’s brake failure controversy in 2010, and the subsequent media discussions about what level of incline truly denotes remorse in Japanese corporate culture.
Given this context, isn’t the calculation of exactly how far to tilt an exclamation mark pretty much the antithesis of whimsy?
As a side note, can an exclamation mark even be whimsical? Before writing this piece I stood in front of the mirror, De-Niro-In-Taxi-Driver style, trying to say "Yahoo!" in a whimsical way, but ending up sounding like a cartoon cowboy coming round from a lobotomy.
In any case, there was nothing whimsical about the thinking behind the redesign - the new logo has been crafted over the company’s recent "30 days of change" (does that remind anyone else uncomfortably of the phrase "day of rage?"), as part of a long campaign to transform "Yahoo!" into an entirely new animal.
In her blog post on the subject, Mayer mentions up front how the Yahoo! logo had not been updated in 18 years, and quickly mentions the fact that the brand has been valued at up to $10bn as a reason why any redesign could "not be taken lightly".
The ensuing "geeking out" (her words) on the design process, while a really interesting read, furthers the logic that the worth of a brand is commensurate to the level of overthinking that must go into how it writes its name.
I do understand, I really do, that calling the mastercrafting of a logo "overthinking" brings to mind the cab driver telling the abstract painter in the back seat that "at the enna the day though, a child could do it", or indeed the people who show up in the comments section of articles like this saying "Why is this news? Journalism is dead".
I am certainly not knocking the skill or the importance of commercial graphic designers: my wife is one, and I have seen her work astonishing hours to get a logo just right.
But in this case, what was more important - that Yahoo! redesigned its logo, or that it was seen to be investing a great deal of thought into a redesign?
After all, the original logo (which some inevitably prefer anyway - who’s whimsical now?) managed to drive the company into $10bn territory in the first place, and was clearly fit for purpose - in the end, it was the rapid evolution of the internet that knocked Yahoo! out of the limelight.
The real masterpiece of branding here is not the logo, but Mayer’s own commentary on it, and the insight she provides on the design process… because it feels like something Google would do.
This blog says: "we are fun, and we are creative. But we’re also massive, and capable of being fun and creative in an extraordinarily professional, measured and profitable way." It is no accident that Yahoo!’s multi-billion dollar brand value is mentioned in the third sentence.
Welcome to Big Whimsy.