Yahoo! tilts its logo for added whimsy. But how much is too much?

Groundbreaking studies in exclamation mark sciences.

The internet was thrown into a tailspin by yesterday's revelation that an angle of just 9˚ is all it takes to change Yahoo's new logo from serious to whimsical.

Seriously. Here's Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's description of the design process, with emphasis added:

Other elements fell quickly into place:

 

  • We didn’t want to have any straight lines in the logo. Straight lines don’t exist in the human form and are extremely rare in nature, so the human touch in the logo is that all the lines and forms all have at least a slight curve.
  • We preferred letters that had thicker and thinner strokes - conveying the subjective and editorial nature of some of what we do.
  • Serifs were a big part of our old logo. It felt wrong to give them up altogether so we went for a sans serif font with “scallops” on the ends of the letters.
  • Our existing logo felt like the iconic Yahoo yodel. We wanted to preserve that and do something playful with the OO’s.
  • We wanted there to be a mathematical consistency to the logo, really pulling it together into one coherent mark.
  • We toyed with lowercase and sentence case letters. But, in the end, we felt the logo was most readable when it was all uppercase, especially on small screens.

And, we were off. Here is the blueprint of what we did, calling out some of what was cool/mathematical:

The Yahoo! logo design process

Our last move was to tilt the exclamation point by 9 degrees, just to add a bit of whimsy.

 

We were astonished by her findings, but it's true. Look, no whimsy:

Normal

Whimsy:

tilted

But here at the New Statesman, we take our exclamation mark science seriously. We had to push these studies further. What happens if you double the tilt? Do you double the whimsy? Here's an exclamation mark tilted by 18˚:

super tilted

Astonishingly, it seems to have the same amount of whimsy. Perhaps there is some peak level of whimsy, beyond which no amount of tilting can increase it?

We went deeper, and made a concerning discovery. If you tilt an exclamation mark too far, it becomes Spanish:

hola

¡Shocking! It appears that one unit of whimsy is roughly equal to one-twentieth of Spain, or five centiSpains.

After much trial and error, we determined this distribution of whimsy and Spanishness throughout the range of exclamation mark rotation:

Studies continue.

Whimsy.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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