Andres 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.