Logo design for Portland small businesses is one of my great loves, so I feel disappointed when the big-fish companies don’t get it right. Case in point? The new DC Comics logo. DC Comics’ logo redesign has met with, well, mixed reviews, to put it mildly. DC Comics dropped their new brand identity on an unsuspecting audience recently, and there’s been an explosion of fan reactions ranging from Bad to Awful to Utterly Profane. There are reasons for that–some of them silly, but some of them good.
“I liked the old brand! Why did you have to change it?”
When large and established companies pursues a brand redesign, it’s very easy for their audience to rail against it. Companies like DC have used an established logo and brand identity for a number of years, and it’s had time to worm its way into the collective consciousness, and become familiar. When a new logo shows up and rears its head? That’s pretty scary.
If you already have a well-designed logo, never take the decision to redesign it lightly. Any significant redesign of your logo runs the risk of losing out on the familiarity you’ve already built with your audience, and potentially confusing or even alienating them. Your business may have grown and changed in a way that doesn’t fit with your current logo and brand, and if that’s the case, it is worth considering a redesign. But, think it through thoroughly, and don’t expect everyone to instantly love it right out of the gate.
If you don’t already have a well-designed logo, well, what are you waiting for? When you know that you’ll be hiring a talented designer and it’s going to be a clear improvement, redesigning your brand is a no-brainer.
The DC Comics logo does have a few good tricks up its sleeve.
The first version of the new DC logo was the silver and black version, which I flat-out didn’t like. After seeing some of the stylized variations they had planned, however, I did see some of the potential in the mark. Stylizing the logo in themes specific to each comic series adds color and texture, which feels much more fitting for high-powered superheroes (or anti-heroes) than the painfully-neutral black-and-gray version. This is actually a pretty clever feature of the design, because the logo can be customized for different series, and still communicate a more unified brand.
Additionally, this logo–even the stylized versions for specific series–is also styled to appeal to an older audience, which could be a good thing. It shows that DC was thinking about its audience, and realizing that a large part of said audience is older now, so releasing content and branding geared towards adults is a bold move.
Ultimately, this logo doesn’t say ‘Comic Books.’
Clever features aren’t enough, though: my main beef with the new DC Comics logo? It doesn’t feel appropriate for a publisher of comics and graphic novels. In fact, my first reaction to it was, “this looks like a logo you’d see on the TV you just bought at Best Buy.” It has a simpler and more futuristic look than the old one, and while it’s fine as a design piece, it doesn’t exactly suggest the flashy heroics you usually see in comics.
DC’s previous logo wasn’t released that long ago (2005), and it did a great job of using clean lines for a modern look, and color and contrast for a more “popping” look that suits the world of comics. It also did a nice job of tying into DC’s long history by using the star element, and much of that history is lost with the new logo.
And, touching back on the issue of appealing to your audience, DC could easily be leaving a lot of new fans in the dust, with an appeal to the older crowd. Didn’t a lot of those now-older fans start reading comics and graphic novels as children? I’m not the most in-the-loop on comics, but I clearly remember going shopping with my parents as a kid, and pleading with them to let me buy one of the bold, colorful, and exciting comic books that called out to me from the newsstand. Capturing fans when they’re young, and growing with them as they get older, is going to earn you devoted customers for life. I have to wonder if that’s really worth passing up in the name of courting an adult audience.