is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
This new logo for DC Comics was “developed in partnership” with the world renowned design studio Pentagram, which probably means that the studio got paid a lot of money but that the company ultimately rejected their work in favor of work done in-house (to be clear: I’m totally guessing here). Whatever the actual process, the result seems inelegant and poorly balanced, and the odd serifs and unconventionally cut counters and bowls of the two letterforms seem less inspired than awkwardly unresolved.
The circular shape also explicitly references DC’s older logos, but not in a particularly thoughtful way. Mostly the mark looks like a sadly accurate reflection of the continued confusion from which DC Comics seems to be suffering. The company is perennially in second place after industry leader Marvel, both on newsstands and in movie theaters (though to be fair, DC is winning the race for bland TV shows that you’ll be no poorer for missing) and, absent any clear strategy for making its iconic characters relevant to contemporary audiences, it spends too much time dwelling on its history.
In situations like these, it’s almost unsurprising to see companies launch new logos. A refreshed brand can provide an opportunity to turn the page, refocus the mission, and communicate new approaches in emphatic terms. Of course, there’s also the “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” argument, which basically interprets strategies like these as distractions from the harder work of addressing a company’s true problems—fixing its products so that more customers want them.
For my part, I had actually become somewhat fond of the previous logo, in which a capital “D” peeled back to reveal a “C.” It was certainly an improvement over its short-lived predecessor, and none of them are as uniformly well executed, effective and timeless as Milton Glaser’s 1976 version.
Regardless of the actual aesthetic merits of these logos, though, this relatively rapid pace for rebranding is probably in and of itself the biggest sin. Launching a third logo in less than a dozen years is very poor brand management. It runs directly counter to what I’ve come to believe is the most important rule of branding: whatever your logo is, use it often and use it consistently. There’s simply too much noise out there for customers to learn what your logo is over and over again, and each time they have to do that, they get progressively less confident in the stability of your business.+