Aol. A Shrunken New Logo for a Shrunken Company [UPDATED]

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AOL will be spun off from Time Warner on December 9 and to celebrate, the Internet pioneers have sprung for a new look. Several, in fact--the logo will be plastered upon a number of elements ranging from a goldfish to what looks like clip art purchased from 1987. Oh, and by the way? The name? It's now "Aol." (the period is theirs). The new little lowercase letters seem appropriate for a company that announced it would thin its ranks--voluntarily or otherwise--by 2,500 people (a third of its workforce), just in time for the holidays.

According to the press release on AOL's--ahem, I mean Aol.'s--site, it's a "simple, confident logotype, revealed by ever-changing images." No mention at all (aol?) of the Aol. Ever-changing images are one thing, but turning a company's acronymed name into a one-word sentence is something else entirely. Besides, a lowercase "L" sure does look a heck of a lot like an uppercase "I." Just sayin'.

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The old, uppercase AOL logo

But if AOL/Aol. wanted to shake things up, they certainly went to the right place. The firm handling the redesign is none other than Wolff Olins, who have caught plenty of flak for their massively unpopular London Olympics 2012 logo and didn't make many more friends in New York with a new NYC logo.

New Aol. CEO Tim Armstrong, who's hell-bent on shepherding the brand into a new era, stands by his decisions: "We have a clear strategy that we are passionate about and we plan on standing behind the AOL brand as we take the company into the next decade." Uh...you mean Aol.

UPDATE: Armstrong gave an interview to PaidContent and explains that what we're seeing is actually the morphing of AOL to the name "Aol dot," placing its services and channels after the logo (Aol.CityGuide, Aol.Personals). This will all be made clearer as a "more holistic brand presence" will roll out in the ensuing weeks.

And the lowercase? That was just to get your attention! "Having people look at the identity differently will probably have them at least be open to thinking about the brand differently, something's changed, been updated--another reason for them think differently about AOL." Because that's why we use lowercase characters, right? To get people to think.

Armstrong also was quick to point out that such a campaign will not be taking away from the salaries of his dwindling employees: "It's going to be very, very, very inexpensive because we're focused on just improving the products and services. I would say the marketing budget is the budget we're using on product development and the changes we're making." But somebody had to pay Wolff Olins, no?

UPDATE: To add insult to injury, another sneak peek to Aol.'s new campaign floated in this afternoon:

Skateboarders! People walking on chests!

 

[Media Memo]

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16 Comments

  • Dave Anderson

    It would definitely appear that the new shrunken "non logo" white space background is symbolism for the New Aol... with the new (also invisible) tagline... "We're now a "little bit" of nothing." (A opposed to a whole lot of something.)

  • Edmund Izbickas

    This seems to be a knock off attempt ala the early MTV logo days, logo as the anti-logo. AIM is big with the tween set and may have been intended to appeal to that targeted demographic. But as a series of marks, they fail to provide visibility for the brand and the illustrated glyphs aren't edgy enough to be deemed anti-establishmentarian.

  • Michael Chinn

    Hey Armstrong, I think what you're actually seeing is the "morphing" of AOL to LOL! Wolff Olins should return all your money along with a sincere "We're sorry for creating such a huge pile of cr&p!"

  • Esteban Colberto

    Just keeping them honest Alissa. Look forward to reading, and debating... would love to see what Moira Collen has to say about it.

  • Alissa Walker

    Esteban, we've been collecting feedback from designers (including the AIGA president) all day and will post it very soon.

  • Esteban Colberto

    In the world of memetic engineering, this brand mark system has pandemic viral potential. If you hate it, and your a designer, you are spreading the glyphs into the global consciousness. Besides, I love heavy metal, cheezy heavy metal, and bad clip art is so anti-design it.. well its's really well thought out. bad clip art happens to be what everyone outside the "Ivory Tower" culture uses. Aol is saying "hey, we are that homegrown basement company full of IT geeks that existed for a brief instant in time way back when the interwebs were just gettting started". Our team here, using small scale thread bots are finding that the interweb chatter is only in the Ivory Tower of Design. Get over it, its actually brilliant conceptually.

    Come on people, at least take a que from the AIGA and try and put up a real critique. You just add fuel to the commodity fire by not giving decent criticism.

  • Connie Glover

    No, no, no! As a marketing professional this makes me cringe! How did AOL exec's buy into the lower-case and bad graphics? Nothing here tells a story or reflects a vision. Nothing here is cohesive. And certainly nothing here respects the brand. I think Wolff needs to quietly go hide in a cave with his tail between his legs.

  • Corvida Raven

    Someone explain again why they made this decision? I'm not seeing how this helps them in any way.

  • John Weller

    Aol better find new features that are worth using or its new logo will be its digital tombstone

  • Sash Savic

    how much did they pay for this? how much did they invest in promoting the old logo? lots and lots of money wasted. if i was a shareholder, i'd be pissed.

  • Mary Greening

    Ew is right. What were they thinking? Why would you want to lead your brand into "new era" with a diminished logo?

  • Cliff Kuang

    Ew ew! Those background images for the new logo look like free stock images. The heavy metal hand gesture? "We're young and new and fun!" Um, yeah.