Recently, Google updated its logo by removing the serifs from its letters and updating its favicon.
What’s the strategy behind this move? And did Google succeed?
First, let’s look at the changes and their rationale, then see if Google pulled them off successfully.
Google Logo Changes: The What & Why
The biggest change made to the logo was the removal of serifs from the letters, which are the little tails in fonts such as Georgia and Times New Roman.
The letters were also flattened. Before the change, the letters had design effects that made them appear 3D. In the new version, though, all shadows and 3-dimensionality have been removed.
The sans serif font is a custom-made font that is similar to “schoolbook letter-printing style, but adopts the neutral consistency we’ve all come to expect from a geometric sans serif,” said Google on its blog.
Other changes include a tweak to the letter “e” and the replacement of the white-and-blue “G” logo that acts as Google’s icon and favicon across devices. Instead, the blue and white colors will be replaced by a rainbow-colored “G,” which will now represent Google in Google’s new mega-company, Alphabet.
These logo changes may seem minor to some, but, as every marketer knows, there is an underlying strategy behind the move.
There are a few obvious considerations at play here:
On Google’s blog, it claims that it has updated its logo “for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices.”
Google says that this change “doesn’t simply tell you that you’re using Google, but also shows you how Google is working for you.”
One way Google works for its customer is by ensuring the logo is omnichannel-friendly. The search giant points to a size difference between its new and its old logo: the new logo is only 305 bytes, compared to the old one, which was 14,000 bytes.
This scalability will be important, since the mobile internet continues to expand. Google’s new CEO, Sundar Pichai, has expressly committed to bring the company’s tools to even more people, regardless of their income.
We’re used to Google being the head company behind a variety of research projects and initiatives, from augmented reality to artificial intelligence to robotics.
That’s about to change, though. Alphabet will now become an umbrella corporation that oversees a multitude of companies, which will all presumably start with a different letter of the alphabet.
On the Alphabet site, Larry Page pointed out that “Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.” But all Alphabet companies are letter-focused, which implies at least some interdependence and cross-brand consistency.
Despite the fact that Larry Page intends to have Alphabet’s subsidiaries develop independent brand identities, there is already some similarity between Alphabet’s logo and Google’s latest design. It may not be surprising to see similar trends in YouTube and other Google sites.
To some, though these changes were successful and perhaps even overdue.
A typography expert told Fusion that these new letters have a rhythm and balance absent in the previous version of the logo. Designer David Airey said that the “previous serif wordmark was never really the right fit, particularly considering the young age of the business…it makes sense for Google to be identified by a more contemporary mark.”
Regardless of whether this change works or whether it puts people off, Google hopes its change will stick around for a while. The company did, however, point out that this logo change isn’t the company’s first and it probably won’t be its last.
Success or Failure?
Not everyone is thrilled with the new changes.
Sarah Larson wrote in the New Yorker that this update “has symbolically diluted our trust” and she never wants to “think about that ‘e’ ever again.” In her view, the logo update was a big mistake that undermined user trust and achieved the opposite of its intended effect.
Her article ended with a call-to-action, requesting that Google restore its serifs.
As Wired pointed out, Google’s omnipresence can be a bit creepy. The logo and brand update is probably Google’s attempt to make itself more friendly and trustworthy…not an “all-knowing, all-powerful entity.”
Other detractors feel the logo has become “infantilized” and compare it to the fonts used in a children’s book.
This rebranding comes shortly after Google’s restructuring and announcements surrounding the birth of Alphabet. Given the timing of the update, the resemblance to alphabets found in children’s books may be more than mere coincidence.
So did Google’s logo change help make the brand more friendly and palatable to the everyday user? Or did it undermine the trust of loyal users?
Ultimately, there are fewer nays, at least in popular media. Wired cited many designers who approve of the latest upgrade. And, as one pointed out, it’s the colors that set the tone and truly define Google’s brand image, not the font itself.
Since the colors have stayed, Google may just have succeeded in upgrading its brand friendliness.