Google belly flops logo test

google3x4_2Andres Duany asked TradArch listers why they “hate” Google’s new logo, assuming that most list members consider it to have been a bad move. I do not hate it. A logo change is not worthy of hatred. I dislike it, though. Here is the answer I sent:

Because it is sans serif. That’s not important in reading the logo itself, but the decision to oust serifs represents a decision inimical to readers and reading, since sans serif test is harder to read, and a symbol of an intent to move away from public taste and toward elite taste, which is often informed by faulty ideological reasoning from a century ago. Entirely regrettable and (as many such logo changes are) entirely unnecessary.

Only then did I notice that Duany had included a link to an article, “A typography expert rips Google’s new logo apart,” by Gerry Leonidas, in Business Insider. He believes that Google is right to want to rebrand itself at this point in its corporate history. I do not know why, but he does make some very good points about typography, such as:

This is a problem for all geometric sans typefaces: Once you reduce modulation to optical compensations and structure strokes on geometric primaries, there is just too little room for any distinctiveness and identity.

Like modern architecture, a sans-serif typeface stripped of the elements available to typographers makes it more difficult to add character to fonts. Granted, Google’s new font has character, but it is minimalist character. It is not flexible. Viewed as text on a page, it lacks the subtle indicators (serifs) that intuitively guide the eye, making it easier to read. Google’s typeface is easy to read only in billboards, posters, chapter headings and logos.

So, like modern architecture, Google’s new logo’s utilitarian appeal actually lacks utility.

As the University of Texas mathematician and design theorist Nikos Salingaros points out, this mistake arose a century ago when modern architecture’s founders decided that the machine age required a machine aesthetic. But instead of coming up with a design for building that was genuinely efficient, they created design principles based on a metaphor for efficiency, not efficiency itself. So modern architecture has played second fiddle to traditional architecture on modernism’s own playing field of utility. It merely pretends to be efficient, adopts the coloration of utility – and has been able, by good P.R. and the application, since the 1950s, of institutional power, to sell it as “progress”: Past = Traditional – Modern = Future.

That equation has a surface plausibility, but it is wrong. The machine age never did require a machine aesthetic. “Efficiency” ≠ Efficiency. That is as true in “modern” typology as in modern architecture. Modern! Another PR coup! It is depressing that, as its logo change suggests, such a huge and beneficial corporation’s intelligence could be so suspect. I would buy stock in Google’s competitor, if it has one.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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13 Responses to Google belly flops logo test

  1. Josh says:

    David, I don’t follow your criticism here. The new type for the Google logo is not being used in any place where reading takes place, like search results. The need for flexibility or to guide the eye does not exist as this is just for a logo and not for reading. It’s a graphic design exercise. Looking at the two logos side-by-side on a small phone (which is where the majority of the world will see it), the new version is significantly easier to read. In addition, because of the simpler geometry, the filesize can be reduced 45x, which matters greatly to parts of the world with limited data access (see the last animation on this page: https://design.google.com/articles/evolving-the-google-identity/)

    If you look at their own design brief, the first goal is “A scalable mark that could convey the feeling of the full logotype in constrained spaces”. The previous logo cannot do that, and the new one can. It’s a wholly appropriate solution for the singular task of a logo, yet you seem unable to accept that.

    Best,

    Josh

    Like

    • Josh, you are the second or third person to suggest that I dislike the new Google logo because it will be hard to read as text. I never said that. I admitted that as a logo it would be readable. My point – apparently unclearly stated – was that the decision to change the logo from serif to sans serif symbolized a corporate move inimical to reading, not that the logo itself would be difficult to read.

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  2. Pingback: Google belly flops logo test | SVDBYGRCE

  3. “Google’s typeface is easy to read only in billboards, posters, chapter headings and logos.” Isn’t this exactly what Google’s new typeface is for? I seriously doubt they intend to use it as text in prose.

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    • Quite so, Bill. But the point is that the change is a symbol of a corporate move away from reading, which is harder in sans serif text. Using Google requires reading.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Hmm. If Google searches start to yield sans-serif results, I will concede the point. Otherwise, I don’t think it means what you think it means.
        (This doesn’t mean I like the logo, btw)

        Like

  4. Maybe to look more like the sans-serif world of Facebook and Twitter?

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  5. Google sets the rules and the whole world plays…pardon me while I remove my sans serif type – egads!

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  6. peterkellow says:

    i just hate Google and so hate both the old and new logos. Yahoo is a far superior search engine. Google just turns up total irrelevances. And Google messed up YouTube when it took it over as everything Google touches has to become part of its plan for world domination. There is a place for both sans serif and avec. The conventional wisdom is that sans works better on screen and avec works better on paper. I find that is true. The word Google in sans has too many circles. If they wanted to streamline the old version they should have got rid of the horrible primary colours and used a new custom designed serif font.

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