Fast Company

Triumph of the Design Haters: After Facebook and Tropicana, Whose Redesign Is Next to Go?

TropicanaIn a simpler time, design wasn't harsher than a mixed-martial arts event. In the olden days, say three years ago, companies would order their new logos and new-and-improved packaging from their design fortresses on high, and the lowly customers below would quietly accept the blobby, 3D-textured versions of once-beloved logos without complaint.

No more of course, as we've seen all too clearly in the last month with Facebook's reconsideration of its new look his week after a whopping 94% of users gave a thumbs down to the redesign, and Tropicana yanking its new packaging created by the Arnell Group after the primary customer reaction was that their grocery had introduced a generic store-brand O.J. and where was the orange with the straw in it?

Thanks to social media, everyone, from design mavens to cranky consumers, makes up an angry, torch-wielding mob ready to storm the design-firm walls demanding their old logos back. (All I know is that the designers at Wolff Olins, creators of both the infamous New York City blocky identity plastered on the city's taxis and the even more widely panned London 2012 Olympics logo, are lucky they didn't roll either of those out in today's virulent environment. Despite the haters, the anti-movements didn't actually topple the new designs the way Tropicana and Facebook's did.) 

London 2012 logo it's a new age for companies who want to put on a fresher public face: Consumers are simply not going to sit down and take those swooshy graphics being shoved in their faces anymore. But why is there so much design unrest? Is it because companies don't have the money to do audience testing anymore? Have the democratization of tools like Photoshop created too many armchair designers out there who think they can do better? Or maybe this is just a new phase of the research and development cycle, albeit an embarrassingly public one? "Launch and listen" may be the new mantra, but it's only for the hardiest souls. 

So who's next to fall before the angry mob? I have three ideas, all of which are being tracked by the branding and identity site Brand New. Who do you think isn't going to make it? Email us at ideas@fastcompany.com or leave a comment. 

syfySyFy: Sure, the logo's bad, but it's the faux-playfulness of the phonetic spelling of the former Sci-Fi Channel, which NBC Universal claims "broadens perceptions and embraces a wider and more diverse range of imagination-based entertainment," that's downright insulting to everyone, and in particular the channels' famously rabid fans. Have they not noticed how easily angry Trekkies can mobilize? Even the founder of the channel calls it "plain dumb."

pepsi canPepsi: Arnell, the same firm who managed to make Tropicana anonymous in the refrigerated case, is also responsible for the 60s-looking logo that's being batted down by critics. Take the early insinuations that it looks too much like the Obama campaign logo (or vice versa), combine them with the scandalously pompous leaked design brief (perhaps purposely), and it looks like Pepsi is desperate for attention. A panel of ad experts assembled agreed it was sensational. We can't see all these extensions of the New New Pepsi making it (Pepsi Natural? Really?). Hell no, one of these has got to go.

jack in the box Jack in the Box: A popular viral campaign that had ball-headed Jack hit by a car and in a coma for weeks gave way to a much classier new site and logo that premiered March 16. More than 80,000 eager fans posted tasteless get-well videos on the car-accident site, a community that's been cultivated by a steady diet of quirky, off-color ads. Remember, this is the company that has proudly touted its Jack sauce for years. Now it's for the Grey Poupon set? I have trouble seeing this scripty 3D effort appealing to the kind of person who posts a tasteless get-well-video to an obnoxious clown head.

Again, what do you think? Do these branding refreshes need to go? And who should join them? Let us know in the comments or at ideas@fastcompany.com.

Add New Comment

16 Comments

  • Raymond Durrant

    Designing logos is an art, psychology and its subset consumer behavior is a science. The Pepsi design brief is an exposition of a creative process which you may think sublime or ridiculous, but the copy I've seen doesn't present any case or cite any research to support the idea that the new logos and branding will appeal to any consumers (other than the inference that the new branding is an evolution of what went before) or shift any more product. This is what appears to be missing from a lot of these rebranding exercises or redesign exercises: any objective assessment of what the customer wants. My gut feeling is that in uncertain times, those brands which represent stability and continuity will find the most favor with consumers, so I would expect rebranding of mainstream products to be counter-productive and the "new and improved" end of the marketing spectrum will lose out to the "traditional quality" end (except in consumer electronics sector where latest and greatest is always desirable).

  • Jarrod Ranney

    I noticed the redesigns of all of these products and I sort of liked them, then I went to the grocery store. I realize now why both Tropicana and Pepsi went the route they did, they stand out again. Every orange juice container in the aisle has a an orange or a half of an orange on a white background. They all blend in where the Tropicana containers now stand out. A brand, any design for that matter, can't be viewed in a bubble but in it's environment for it's impact to be understood.

  • Jarrod Ranney

    I noticed the redesigns of all of these products and I sort of liked them, then I went to the grocery store. I realize now why both Tropicana and Pepsi went the route they did, they stand out again. Every orange juice container in the aisle has a an orange or a half of an orange on a white background. They all blend in where the Tropicana containers now stand out. A brand, any design for that matter, can't be viewed in a bubble but in it's environment for it's impact to be understood.

  • Jarrod Ranney

    I noticed the redesigns of all of these products and I sort of liked them, then I went to the grocery store. I realize now why both Tropicana and Pepsi went the route they did, they stand out again. Every orange juice container in the aisle has a an orange or a half of an orange on a white background. They all blend in where the Tropicana containers now stand out. A brand, any design for that matter, can't be viewed in a bubble but in it's environment for it's impact to be understood.

  • Jarrod Ranney

    I noticed the redesigns of all of these products and I sort of liked them, then I went to the grocery store. I realize now why both Tropicana and Pepsi went the route they did, they stand out again. Every orange juice container in the aisle has a an orange or a half of an orange on a white background. They all blend in where the Tropicana containers now stand out. A brand, any design for that matter, can't be viewed in a bubble but in it's environment for it's impact to be understood.

  • Jarrod Ranney

    I noticed the redesigns of all of these products and I sort of liked them, then I went to the grocery store. I realize now why both Tropicana and Pepsi went the route they did, they stand out again. Every orange juice container in the aisle has a an orange or a half of an orange on a white background. They all blend in where the Tropicana containers now stand out. A brand, any design for that matter, can't be viewed in a bubble but in it's environment for it's impact to be understood.

  • Aaron Crafte

    crazy, just the fact that the design firm that handled the brief & got the pepsi acct. is an established leader in the design field & they dropped the bomb on the tropicana redesign is well quite frankly, sad...

    i wonder how much they invested into consumer research prior to the launch of either of the redesigns/campaigns...
    ya know...

  • Edison Cruz

    Interesting article, poor choice in title (since Facebook's redesign isn't going anywhere). This is another textbook example where companies don't know the difference between brand and a logo. Just because I wear a different shirt one day doesn't make me a different person.

  • Andrew Frank

    SyFy will absolutely be the design that falls from the onslaught of the
    masses.

    Marketers and advertisers still don't seem to get it.

    People want to be told a story. To be completely honest, they want to feel as though they are a part of the story. Logos and design only go so far, but without being backed by substance, they are nothing more than pretty pieces of very expensive artwork.

    The gimmick of a brand redesign or a logo, regardless of how elegant it maybe, will not be the catalyst that tips organizations into the hearts and minds of consumers. Advertisers and marketers must return to the mission and vision behind the organizations that they represent, and begin telling people why they exist.

    Tell your story, show people how their stories are a part of your story, and give them the means in which to spread the idea or product with ease. Great design is merely a tool that is necessary for helping the story of familiarity to spread.

  • Ethan Smith

    Here, let me fix the title for you... "Triumph of the Design Lovers. After the failures of Facebook and Tropicana, will other companies start paying attention?"

    Tropicana's redesign was objectively terrible. From anyone's perspective, it looks like a generic product. After going shopping a few weeks ago, my wife thought Tropicana had been dropped from the grocery store; she didn't see the classic orange with a straw (one of the most recognizable branding campaigns of all time). Facebook did three things wrong: They changed the way their users interact with the site, they changed the fundamental design elemets, and they changed the entire navigation structure.

    I'm sure the corporate meetings which produced these changes were very exciting. But so were the meetings which produced New Coke and the 49er logo change of 1991. These ideas didn't fail because people hate new design, they failed because people love intelligent design.

  • Chris Hyacinthe

    THAT'S the new Sci-Fi logo? I don't even watch, but it screams 1960s, Mary Tyler Moore and just... terrible.

  • Josh Jeffryes

    It'll take a while for the big agencies to catch on to the real ramifications of the 2.0 world we live in. Broadcast models don't work anymore, and consumers are no longer passive. Your brand is owned by your customers, and if you change it in ways they don't approve of, they'll punish you for it, and pull their support.

    That said, I think it's untrue that Facebook has capitulated to its users. Look a little more closely. They haven't reverted back to anything, all they've done is tweaked the changes they made, and dressed it up as an apology to angry customers. Essentially they've rolled out a .1 design revision and fooled everyone into thinking they've moved backward instead of forward. Well played, Facebook.

  • Andrew Phelps

    That Facebook poll was unscientific and therefore should be not used in any serious context. Only the people who hate it are going to bother participating.

  • Alta Bradford

    Maybe those "nameless, faceless, consumers" really ARE paying attention after all. Designers who dismiss brand equity as creativity stiffling nonsense might have to admit there is something enduring about a brand image. And, where is the Tropicana straw in the orange? I miss that.