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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.



Chris Hartman

July 22, 2010 3:46 pm

Great post. I could talk about logos all day.

This is a clear downgrade. The mind reels at the dollarage spent on consultants and graphic designers so that the YMCA could crappify their perfectly serviceable logo.

I had assumed that the great Saul Bass had designed the original; apparently not, though he did do the YWCA logo in the early 1970s. Saul Bass is still the king of logo design for me, especially since he worked in the analog age, when it was far less easy to cheat and the design had to stand on its own, often in only one color (against a white ground, o’course) and with no fancy computer-generated dimensions, flares, or shading.

A more straightforward update might have started with retaining the two colors, black and orange-red, and then maybe rounding off the corners of the lettterform or something. Maybe. But this was/is a smashing, instantly recognizable logo, vested with who knows how many millions of dollars worth of slowly-earned brand equity over the years, and it is tossed overboard for something that looks like it came off of a freebie CD that they pack with Canon inkjet printers these days. A real shame.

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