Tomorrow, Yahoo will reveal its new, permanent logo after spending the last month unveiling a different version of its iconic mark every day. The "30 Days Of Change" campaign has been called everything from a confusing stunt to a brilliant rebranding effort, but no one knows if the company is actually considering using one of the 30-day logos as its permanent mark.
Luke Wroblewski, a designer who worked at Yahoo and was involved in the 2008 redesign of the logo that changed it from red to purple, thinks he might know the answer. After leaving the company, Wroblewski went on to found Polar, a popular iOS social polling app, which he’s been using to test each day’s new logo against the original. His series of polls now have over 112,000 votes, and although the results are unscientific, he thinks the data shows that Yahoo is probably seriously testing a few logos, and using the rest as marketing gimmicks.
"Let's say they're hedging their bets. They've got a couple of things they think are okay, but they're not 100% sure," Wroblewski speculates. "So they're like, 'let's make this big thing about it and let's roll them out there and let's just make sure that the stuff we pick is actually right, so that we're not totally shooting ourselves in the foot and what we put out there everybody's going to hate.'"
Most of the new logos are losing, badly, to the original, which Wroblewski says is natural given that people tend to hate change in general. But the day 10 logo has been consistently beating the original logo on Polar since it was released.
"[Day] 10 is essentially what they've got today, but they removed the serifs. It's kind of like a sans-serif iteration," explains Wroblewski. "And sans-serif in general feels a little bit more modern, so for a tech company that may be what's resonating with people. It still holds a little bit of the Yahoo element, but it's been modernized a tad. Again, to go back to people hating change, that sounds like something that people who hate change would resonate with."
The logos from day two and day five are effectively tied with the original logo, trailing 45% to 55% and 44% to 56% respectively. Unlike day 10, these logos don’t retain any of the style of the original, which Wroblewski says is impressive given how much people hate change.
"I actually thought it was pretty good when two of them tied with the original," he says. "Two and five I think did well because they're actually pretty decent standalone marks. They seem to have a little bit more aesthetic integrity on their own. You look at them and you're like 'okay, yeah, those kind of look nice.' Some of the other ones, I must say, are just over the top. You can hear the designer chatter being like, 'are they serious? Are they really considering this one?'"
Day four, for example, fared particularly poorly compared to the original, winning just 14% of the vote. Wroblewski calls the mark mechanical and says it clashes with warm, human brand Yahoo has built over the years.
"There's been some serious stinkers," he says. "Maybe a couple of them they're actually considering, but some are just out there to—they'd never do it. If they do, the world would be stunned if they pick that one."
According to Wroblewski, one of the most interesting features of the 30 Days campaign is that Yahoo isn’t just posting the new logos to a blog. They’re actually releasing new logos, every day, on every single Yahoo property, from news to finance to shopping. This includes mobile sites, where Yahoo has even gone to the trouble of designing the shortened logo that features just a Y and an exclamation point, known internally as the "YBang."
If the company knows some logos aren’t serious, why go through all the effort of designing and releasing them every day, on every single site? Wroblewski speculates that it’s part of an effort to bring the company together around the redesign.
"You're living with it for a day," says Wroblewski. "I hope to God everybody at Yahoo is using Yahoo products, and so during the day that they're using all those Yahoo products they're seeing it the entire day. That part of it to me is the most interesting and leads me to think they're taking it at least somewhat seriously."
If the idea of forcing a company to live with design choices sounds familiar, look no further than Google, the company where Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer worked for 13 years. Google underwent a similar design overhaul that started two years ago—during Mayer’s tenure—and forced all of its products to unite under a single brand identity. Wroblewski says Yahoo’s effort bears some resemblance to Google’s company-wide redesign.
"Say what you will about Google, but I would say their design has definitely leveled up as a result of that mandate," argues Wroblewski. "There's definitely something to be said about aligning teams and forcing everybody to get on the same page by making them align visually."