Peeling Back the DC Condom Wrapper
A server upgrade ate two of my posts yesterday that cover the same subject so I apologize to all the RSS subscribers if this sounds like much of the same thing. But hopefully, I will bring an added level of unreasonable vitriol that shall entertain you for the brief moment you skim over this screed. So here goes.
Back in 2005, DC Comics decided their brand needed a refresh. They came out with a new logo which I refer to as the Swoosh Star. It fell very much in line with the web 2.0 aesthetic with its clever swoosh, it’s perky star, and that subtle gradient that came to define an era of questionable design. Throw in an “edgy” type face with sharp corners and aggressive curves and you’ve got a logo that looks terribly dated, as if it jumped from the screen of a design student in the 90’s. I hated it and made fun of it back when AZM was a webcomic:
With the entire reboot of the DC Universe, I was wondering whether or not we’d get a new brand identity. Sure enough, DC has been working on a new logo for the past year and this week, they unveiled it in all it’s multi-colored glory:
You can see more treatments of this thing at DC’s blog, the Source.
So what’s the deal? Why the peeling? Why the different treatments? Why does it look like a condom wrapper? From the blog:
DC Entertainment worked with Landor Associates, one of the world’s leading brand consulting and design firms, to develop an identity that creates a visual connection among the company, its three brands DC Comics, Vertigo and MAD and its vast array of properties as well as celebrates the power of the company’s stories and characters. The design of the new DC Entertainment identity uses a “peel” effect – the D is strategically placed over the C with the upper right-hand portion of the D peeling back to unveil the hidden C – symbolizing the duality of the iconic characters that are present within DC Entertainment’s portfolio.
Duality of the wibbly wobbly what the fuck?
It looks like a condom wrapper and will now be referred to as such. So, does the DC Condom Wrapper work as a logo?
The type face of the “DC Comics” component is Hoefler & Frere-Jones Gotham. See what they did there? It’s super clever because it’s Gotham and Batman and ha ha it’s so NO.
The type looks like an afterthought, as if some executive said, “Well, shit, no one’s going to know what company this Condom Wrapper represents. Why don’t you tack on ‘DC Comics’ just to be sure.” The fact that the letter forms of the C in the icon and the C in the type don’t match further alienates the words from the mark. The type makes an awful “L” shape bellow the mark that throws off the balance. The placement is no better on the cover trade dress next to the mark. Below, beside, above, around, it’s clunky and doesn’t work.
A strong mark evokes an idea or emotion that embodies a brand. Marks that are representational forms can easily convey figurative concepts. Nike’s swoosh is the strongest mark in sports branding. It evokes movement, speed, action, qualities that are embodied by Nike.
Marks that are literal draw focus away from the brand. DC Condom Wrapper looks like a condom wrapper. It evokes no emotions or ideas or anything remotely related to the concepts that are central to DC’s brand. In fact, it has to be dressed up in fancy colors or kitschy accessories before it starts to say anything.
When I look at the Nike swoosh, I see myself running. When I look at the DC Condom Wrapper, I see a condom wrapper.
Squint Test Fail
A successful logo is instantly recognizable from miles away. If you can’t get up and walk miles away from your computer monitor, the squint test is the next best thing. Strong logos have distinct silhouettes that don’t rely on color or glitz or any fancy dressing. They look good blurred, big, small, black and white.
When I look at the first set of colored logos, except for the yellow and orange ones, I completely lose the peel. It looks like a chopped up C. The squint test also reveals the horrible balance of the type. Together, it looks like a weird C monster with a unusually long foot.
The logos with the illustrations are even worse. I can’t even see any of the dark ones, and the ones with the bright colors loose the C shape. They look more like lopsided D’s.
Do the Logo Motion
Executive Creative Director Nicolas Aparicio of branding consultant Landor says that this logo is for the digital age:
It was our goal to capture DC Entertainment in a dynamic and provocative identity. Our solution is a living expression which changes and adapts to the characters, story lines and the ways fans are consuming content. The new identity is built for the digital age, and can easily be animated and customized to take full advantage of the interactivity offered across all media platforms.
That may very well be. I have yet to see it animate. Who knows, it might look like hot sex. I could see having a lot of fun peeling back the D on some kind of branded iPhone app. As a static logo, as something that will be plastered on trade dress of comic covers, as something that will come to embody DC print comics, it’s just not strong enough.
The Logo as a Platform
I understand the desire to create a form that can be used as sort of branding platform. I like the idea. It’s like a blank Munny platform toy. You can customize it all you want, but you still recognize that it’s a Munny.
But for a platform to work, it must be strong enough to stand on its own. DC’s Condom Wrapper isn’t strong enough of a form to stand alone. The initial black and white concept is quite dreadful and amplifies all the problems previously discussed.
It’s an interesting design argument, but in the end, does it really matter? No one makes comic purchasing decisions based on logos. The trade dress matters very little to what’s on the inside and that’s what readers or potential readers really care about.
It’s fun to rag on their new shiny toy, ultimately, it won’t make much of a difference. DC has far worse problems than a questionable rebrand.
Bottom line, I hate it. I’ve had my long winded say. What do you think of the new Condom Wrapper?