New Logo for an Old Favorite

DC ComicsIt’s going to take me a little while to really come to grips with the fact that DC Comics has changed its logo, obsolescing the long-standing, Milton Glaser-designed icon for something, well, different. The new mark includes forward-leaning “D.C.” initials against a swooshy, Saturn-like ring in a dimensional rendering, with a hint of Adobe Illustrator-style gradient along its edge. A curiously Captain America-like star, drawn in perspective, punctuates the whole thing.

Putting it bluntly, I don’t find it particularly attractive or probably as utilitarian as Glaser’s original triumph of compactness and visual exclamation. To the designers’ credit, it does attempt to rescue what’s good about its predecessor from the short-sighted imperatives of DC Comics’ current marketing strategy, but in doing so, it completely misinterprets the old mark’s substance for rather shallow style.

Right: The classic, Milton Glaser-designed logo, at left, and the new form, at right.
Old vs. New DC Comics Logos

Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To

Maybe this is just nostalgia, because I was an avid reader of DC Comics when I was a kid, and I still feel invested in their canon of heroes and pop mythology. As a function of my childhood, the old logo really represents something constant and reliable, even when the tonality of the comic books changed drastically. Just to get pretentious for a bit: the nature of the art and writing and even the economic reach of comic books has metamorphosed in a kind of parallel to my advancement from kickball games on blacktops to PowerPoint presentations in front of corporate officers, but that logo has been always the same, at least until now. It’s my sense of vanity and obstinacy speaking when I say that the new logo just isn’t worthy of the old logo’s legacy, but I really do mean it.

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  1. I think marketers and their underlings have altogether too cohesively fetishized the perspective ring element, and swooshiness in general. That said, the new logo is among the best I can think of that have fallen into this trap.

    Odd: I was always a Marvel fanboy, especially for the likes of Mark Silvestri, Jim Lee, and Whilce Portacio (among many others); but I find that the more I delve into comics again, I prefer the DC ethos to Marvel’s, in general. However, DC’s logo has always struck me more than Marvel’s. Batman is fast finding himself atop all others, and it is with no small amount of glee that I report Jim Lee penciled Batman: Hush very well.

  2. DC’s must be desperate to relaunch it’s brand, I think that maybe is because altough they have popular characters his brand is not among the not-comic-geek public as Marvel is. (btw. the almost-new all typographic logo of Marvel looks gorgeous)

    The truth here is that nobody but designers are interested in new logos anymore. Everything that matters is marketing and branding and that is madde with lots of buzz not prety logos. Logo design is dead, let the machines do it.

  3. That New York Times article more or less hints that this move is an attempt by DC to steal some of the spotlight back from Marvel. I’m not sure I’ve seen the ‘new’ Marvel logo; is it different from the one that appears on their Web site?

  4. No offense, but why do all designers insist upon complaining about or praising new logos? This is reminiscent of a complaint Andrei Hermiaschuck (however that’s spelled) made about some favourite company of his getting a new logo. I have a theory that it’s more of a `this isn’t what I’m used to, so it sucks` complaint than `this really doesn’t work`. Then again, it’s my opinion that logos aren’t half so important as they’re made out to be – yes, stupid ones make you look stupid, but I’ve yet to find a logo that actually `says` something to me. A big deal is made about `communicating ideas` through logos and other things — how, pray tell? Admittedly, the swoosh makes them seem a bit faddish; then again, it works considering the fact they do cartoons. It doesn’t tell me anything about their company, their brand, their motivations… no logo does. Either it’s nice or it sucks, that’s the only things I can read from them.

    Er… rant done.

  5. Jordan: I agree with you more than the text of my post suggests. Clients may not like to hear this, but logos, by and large, are just table-stakes for getting taken seriously. Trying to use a logo as a vessel for a comprehensive communication is usually an overly ambitious goal. Logos are best for their original intent, in my opinion, which means branding. They’re meant to serve as the visual stamp of a particular business or organization, and the secret to their power is being used repeatedly and consistently. It’s everything else that a company does that really generates the brand identity; the logo is just the John Hancock that authenticates those other actions.

    That said, as a designer it’s really hard not to have an opinion on new or revamped logos, especially when they’re exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. This new DC logo is neither… but it qualifies for comment based on another criteria: it represents a change to something that had been used very well, repeatedly and consistently. Plus, I had personally attached a lot of sentimental value to the old version. What I’m really saying in this post is that I’m sad to see it go.

  6. I have a very strong urge to go get some detergent when I see the logo. Seriously, it does indeed strike me as some sort of cleaning product.

    “Get stuff clean. DC clean.”

  7. Haha Naz! It does have that feel, however what struck me first was that I thought it was like some sort of basketball team’s logo. Would be perfect for a basketball team called the D.C. stars or something. I agree, even though I never really bothered with comic books, it’s going to be weird to see them without that old logo on the cover. Fortunately for D.C. we’re not the ones buying comic books anymore—at least the majority of us aren’t.

  8. I remember ending my subscription to the Amazing Spider-Man comic book after they changed the logo to match that of the Fox cartoon. And now, as comic book companies are entering the mainstream via movies (with 30-year-old stories!), I can’t help but feel like they’ve sold bits of their soul to attract new readers/purchasers/whatever. As much as I wasn’t interested in DC Comics growing up, I was still respectful of its classic characters and indeed, its static, bold, comfortable logo. It’s just a shame.

  9. Sigh. I didn’t know DC Comics owned a sports team, ’cause frankly, that was my first thought at seeing this new mark.

    It’s not horrible as horrible logos go, especially since the original logo isn’t exactly the most clever mark created.

    But, why couldn’t they have just “updated” the old logo the same way Coca-Cola and Pepsi have retained their same mark over the years but have added different interepretations of it? It’s dangerous to alienate fanboys, which is pretty much their audience and market.

  10. Let’s face it Khoi, we are getting old. I often find myself reminiscing about thegood old days and recalling how things were so much better. While I agree with your analysis (especially the gradient), I suppose this new, flashier logo will work just fine.

    I for one miss the days of real hip hop, not this cookie cutter crap that gets play today. Ah…oops, you got me started. I digress. Long live old school.

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