Fast Company

The Case Against Lowercase: Design Experts on Re-branded Aol. [VIDEO]

Since we reported yesterday on AOL's new logo, vision and creative punctuation tactics, reactions to the new Aol. have flooded in. As did this video, a sneak peek of Aol.'s new campaign:

Today, some professional opinions from a few of our design experts:

Ken Carbone, CarboneSmolan: This new identity is stillborn. It's old before it is new and signals a desperate attempt to be hip and relevant, somewhat like the new Yahoo is "You" campaign. There are fundamental problems with "Aol." its service and perception that other Internet pioneers will face if they focus their branding and marketing on young audiences only. This group is slippery and building brand loyalty is challenging. Facebook? Here today, gone tomorrow? The "flexi brand" approach, while potentially fun, also signals that Aol. is still searching for a meaningful identity. Also, if the change from AOL to Aol. is to signal vitality, new thinking or a future promise, don't bother.

Joe Duffy, Duffy & Partners: I could be mistaken...but I'd swear that's the British pronunciation for A-hole! Sorry, that was too easy.

Debbie Millman, Sterling Brands: The new AOL identity is a disaster. They should put a garbage can behind the logo and call it a day.

A peek around the Internet reveals that other designers feel the same way. The Guardian rounded up the reactions of several designers, and our favorite has to be this gem from Om Malik of technology site GigaOM: "It is ambiguous at best, and as sexy as the obese, shapeless humans living on Axiom, the flagship of the BnL fleet in Pixar movie WALL-E."

aol

Over at Brand New, Armin Vit took Aol.'s shape-shifting logo advice to heart. He didn't as much bash the logo as push their anything-goes-behind-us strategy to the very, very edge. "I am not trying to be immature but when you are a media giant, vulnerable to an endless array of criticism, you have to be careful what ammunition you give your haters," he wrote. Well-executed and well-said.

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10 Comments

  • Arman Nobari

    The promo video for their "way hip, totally relevant" rebranding looked like a demo-reel for stock video footage.. As a designer, it saddens me to see people miss such a clear-to-hit mark - You become relevant by doing relevant things, not by looking relevant.

    Arman Nobari
    www.ArmanTheDesigner.com

  • Tim Johnson

    The so-called solution only makes the problem more obvious: AOL is a moribund brand whose time has passed (or at least is perceived that way, which kinda makes it true, right?). The destruction of its existing equity by changing the acronym to a word no one can actually say, and subverting its prominence to an ill-defined phalanx of odd icons only weakens it. The video above, which is somewhat compelling visually, nevertheless screams "I'm trying desperately to be hip! Why don't you love me?!!!" Sorry, AOL. Try again.

    --
    Tim Johnson, President
    Coactive Brand Lab
    Brand Designer, Marketing and Communications Expert

    www.coactivebrandlab.com

  • alfredo muccino

    It is unfortunate that a company with the potential of AOL has continued to disappoint. In my opinion, the new logo is simply another example of the company's lack of vision and its tendency towards poor execution. The new logo is certainly not innovative in terms of design standards -and, perhaps more importantly, it simply fails to communicate anything valuable about the brand. So... it is a missed opportunity from a strategic point of view, but it also poorly executed (when I look at the typography I find that the lower case "L" could easily be read as an upper case "i"...which basically makes the acronym not only look silly...but also hard to read. And what is the point of that "dot"...is it supposed to emphasize that AOL is in the internet space? Really? :)

    Take a look at some comments on this issues on my blog:
    http://www.liquidbrandexchange...

    Alfredo Muccino
    Chief Creative Officer
    Liquid Agency
    www.liquidagency.com

  • alfredo muccino

    It is unfortunate that a company with the potential of AOL has continued to disappoint. In my opinion, the new logo is simply another example of the company's lack of vision and its tendency towards poor execution. The new logo is certainly not innovative in terms of design standards -and, perhaps more importantly, it simply fails to communicate anything valuable about the brand. So... it is a missed opportunity from a strategic point of view, but it also poorly executed (when I look at the typography I find that the lower case "L" could easily be read as an upper case "i"...which basically makes the acronym not only look silly...but also hard to read. And what is the point of that "dot"...is it supposed to emphasize that AOL is in the internet space? Really? :)

    Take a look at some comments on this issues on my blog:
    http://www.liquidbrandexchange...

    Alfredo Muccino
    Chief Creative Officer
    Liquid Agency
    www.liquidagency.com

  • alfredo muccino

    It is unfortunate that a company with the potential of AOL has continued to disappoint. In my opinion, the new logo is simply another example of the company's lack of vision and its tendency towards poor execution. The new logo is certainly not innovative in terms of design standards -and, perhaps more importantly, it simply fails to communicate anything valuable about the brand. So... it is a missed opportunity from a strategic point of view, but it also poorly executed (when I look at the typography I find that the lower case "L" could easily be read as an upper case "i"...which basically makes the acronym not only look silly...but also hard to read. And what is the point of that "dot"...is it supposed to emphasize that AOL is in the internet space? Really? :)

    Take a look at some comments on this issues on my blog:
    http://www.liquidbrandexchange...

    Alfredo Muccino
    Chief Creative Officer
    Liquid Agency
    www.liquidagency.com

  • alfredo muccino

    It is unfortunate that a company with the potential of AOL has continued to disappoint. In my opinion, the new logo is simply another example of the company's lack of vision and its tendency towards poor execution. The new logo is certainly not innovative in terms of design standards -and, perhaps more importantly, it simply fails to communicate anything valuable about the brand. So... it is a missed opportunity from a strategic point of view, but it also poorly executed (when I look at the typography I find that the lower case "L" could easily be read as an upper case "i"...which basically makes the acronym not only look silly...but also hard to read. And what is the point of that "dot"...is it supposed to emphasize that AOL is in the internet space? Really? :)

    Take a look at some comments on this issues on my blog:
    http://www.liquidbrandexchange...

    Alfredo Muccino
    Chief Creative Officer
    Liquid Agency
    www.liquidagency.com

  • alfredo muccino

    It is unfortunate that a company with the potential of AOL has continued to disappoint. In my opinion, the new logo is simply another example of the company's lack of vision and its tendency towards poor execution. The new logo is certainly not innovative in terms of design standards -and, perhaps more importantly, it simply fails to communicate anything valuable about the brand. So... it is a missed opportunity from a strategic point of view, but it also poorly executed (when I look at the typography I find that the lower case "L" could easily be read as an upper case "i"...which basically makes the acronym not only look silly...but also hard to read. And what is the point of that "dot"...is it supposed to emphasize that AOL is in the internet space? Really? :)

    Take a look at some comments on this issues on my blog:
    http://www.liquidbrandexchange...

    Alfredo Muccino
    Chief Creative Officer
    Liquid Agency
    www.liquidagency.com

  • alfredo muccino

    It is unfortunate that a company with the potential of AOL has continued to disappoint. In my opinion, the new logo is simply another example of the company's lack of vision and its tendency towards poor execution. The new logo is certainly not innovative in terms of design standards -and, perhaps more importantly, it simply fails to communicate anything valuable about the brand. So... it is a missed opportunity from a strategic point of view, but it also poorly executed (when I look at the typography I find that the lower case "L" could easily be read as an upper case "i"...which basically makes the acronym not only look silly...but also hard to read. And what is the point of that "dot"...is it supposed to emphasize that AOL is in the internet space? Really? :)

    Take a look at some comments on this issues on my blog:
    http://www.liquidbrandexchange...

    Alfredo Muccino
    Chief Creative Officer
    Liquid Agency
    www.liquidagency.com

  • alfredo muccino

    It is unfortunate that a company with the potential of AOL has continued to disappoint. In my opinion, the new logo is simply another example of the company's lack of vision and its tendency towards poor execution. The new logo is certainly not innovative in terms of design standards -and, perhaps more importantly, it simply fails to communicate anything valuable about the brand. So... it is a missed opportunity from a strategic point of view, but it also poorly executed (when I look at the typography I find that the lower case "L" could easily be read as an upper case "i"...which basically makes the acronym not only look silly...but also hard to read. And what is the point of that "dot"...is it supposed to emphasize that AOL is in the internet space? Really? :)

    Take a look at some comments on this issues on my blog:
    http://www.liquidbrandexchange...

    Alfredo Muccino
    Chief Creative Officer
    Liquid Agency
    www.liquidagency.com

  • Andy Wright

    I think it's made Aol a bit non-descript. The alternate backgrounds comes across as me-too when you think of personalised backgrounds on Bing and Ask as well as Google's themed logo's. That said, maybe more will change come December and we can truly critique the identity, hopefully accompanied by a new direction for the brand.
    I've written more about this at brandhabits.net.

    --
    Blog: http://brandhabits.net
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/adwrighty