Marissa Mayer! There is too much whimsy!!

So much whimsy.

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.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Photograph: Getty Images

By day, Fred Crawley is editor of Credit Today and Insolvency Today. By night, he reviews graphic novels for the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496