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Because it was old, that’s ‘Y’

July 15, 2010 - 3:46 pm

There’s been a lot of buzz and discussion about the recent rebrand of the YMCA mark. (Some great analysis and commentary is ongoing over at Brand New about the new “Y” brand. It’s worth clicking over there to check out their site…good stuff.) The redo was probably inevitable, with the old logo having been in place since the days of the Apollo program. The YMCA issued a press release that does a pretty good job explaining the rationale and back story for the new branding strategy. So it was time for the old logo to go. Fair enough.

The new mark is all the way softer and fuzzier; with rounded corners and warmer, kid-friendly colors replacing the hard edged and stark eurostile black and red of the old brand. Evolving the ‘Y’ to what amounts to a lowercase character was probably a good call, and further supports a more approachable symbol for a new generation. The expanded and saturated color system they have developed is a really good fit for a youth-oriented community organization, it conveys and supports vibrance and diversity. So far so good.

Where the new mark fails is in the supporting elements of its execution, rather than the new ‘Y’ itself. While the notion of calling it the ‘the Y’ makes perfect sense and follows the recent trend of grassroots consumer abbreviating (KFC, McD’s, the Hut?), placement of the word the in this case is really too loose and too low relative to the ‘Y’. The word ‘the’ is floating, and drifts away from the unit. Would have been better to bring it closer and center align with the bend in the ‘Y’ letterform, which visually references an arrow and suggests movement.

Tacking on the words YMCA diagonally in small print is a fail right off the bat and seems like an afterthought or a boardroom compromise. One could suppose that this is a temporary, transitional element that will drop off the logo once everyone (or at least the folks at the YMCA) feel more comfortable or at ease without having to spell it out. Visually this is an awkward read and may have been more successfully placed underneath the word ‘the’ ahead of the ‘Y’.

You have to give credit to the YMCA for taking the leap to redo what was an iconic and ubiquitous brand mark. Overall, the rebrand obviously supports their rationale, and we can expect the brand to become widely accepted, if not embraced. We can also assume that there may be some incremental adjustments and improvements made to the mark in the not too distant future.

Hat tip to Julie P. for suggesting this topic.

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What SHOULD it say?

July 13, 2010 - 11:32 pm
blank billboard in front of Chicago skyline

Feels like it needs a little something, right? (...we're open to ideas.)

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Ashley Furniture Brand Misses the Mark

July 11, 2010 - 1:59 pm

At first look one might not expect that this brand signature represents the #1 furniture seller, retailer, and manufacturer in the world. Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. of Arcadia, Wisconsin was founded in 1945 in Chicago, targeting middle market, value-conscious consumers. They offer their product through independent furniture retailers as well as over 400 Homestore outlets across North America, Central America, and Japan.

The inverted orange chevron in the mark no doubt references the “A” in the Ashley name, though it could also represent a pitched roofline vaguely implying house or home. Unfortunately, this image could easily be construed as a roofing contractor or homebuilder brand if it weren’t for the small descriptor text beneath the mark. Also, the angle of the upside-down “V” bears no relationship to the angle of the letterforms in the name which when viewed together seems incongruous and off-kilter.

One could argue that the text treatment and typeface used in the mark feel, well, dated. The ‘solid gold’ double gradient bars across all caps (modified ITC Élan Black?) reads very 1989. Presumably the slight drop-shadow line was added to shore up the visual lightness of the gradient. Ouch.

For the Ashley Furniture Homestores lockup, the chevron and text are stacked together and reversed out of a clunky navy ‘homeplate’ polygon stroked with orange. This approach is surely designed to execute in signage, but the slightly tilted ‘Homestore’ script reads as non-committal, poorly kerned, and slapped-on. Its placement underneath the too-thin hairline divider is not well thought out.

The Ashley brand as applied to an exclusive bedding product line in one-color black. The gestural silouette obviously references the Tempur-Pedic brand mark, though it also looks like a graffiti moustache drawn above the hyphenated and awkwardly overlapped logo.


As is the case with many companies, Ashley Furniture has been very successful despite their brand identity, rather than because of it. With no offense intended for the good folks at Ashley Furniture Industries, when you’re the #1 of anything, eventually you have to elevate your game or someone else will come along and take your spot. If there’s not a current effort underway to update the Ashley brand identity, there sure should be.

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First homework assignment…

July 8, 2010 - 1:32 pm

Branding is everywhere, right?

lots of logos

Not always well done, but everywhere you look you will see brands applied to all kinds of contexts; bus kings, direct mail, web banners, stationery, premiums, emails, packaging, billboards. You name it, you can brand it.

So I guess to kick off this blog it makes sense to look at real world branded contexts and discuss. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Our homework assignment: take snapshots of real-life brand applications and bring them back here to pick ‘em apart, heap them with praise, or ask ourselves ‘what were they thinking?’

Ok. We’ve got some work to do. Lets see what we can find to get the conversation going. This could be fun.

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