Recognise this? I thought not. Unless you’ve been States-side these past few days, it’s most unlikely you will have encountered Gap’s new logo. It’s too late now anyway. Following a torrid week of very public trashing, the humiliated American clothes retailer has had to consign it to the dustbin of history.
After cursorary examination of the evidence, you might wonder what all the brouhaha has been about. All right, it’s not that good, but it’s not that bad either. Not nearly as bad, at any rate, as that camel-designed-as-a-horse the 2012 London Olympic Committee came up with.
Gap’s big mistake, in fact, has not been the logo itself so much as its cack-handed conception and delivery. Companies should change their corporate identities only after the most careful consideration. What looks like an edgy, high impact, cost-effective means of updating the brand image is often anything but. The logo is only a small part of a multiplying cost that works its way down to the office tea-cups and delivery van livery. Granted it’s highly visible, but that’s usually because the media pigeonholes it into one, or more, of several categories. 1) It’s wasteful and unnecessary: just look at that design consultancy laughing all the way to the bank. What’s wrong with the old logo anyway? 2) It’s meaningless. It tries to play to too many constituencies at once (the consumer being the least important), and ends up a jumble. 3) Most criminal of all, it’s pretentious and ugly and deserves a good kicking, which is usually what it gets.
In Gap’s case all these elements seem to have been compounded by a self-inflicted PR fiasco involving Facebook. I say “seem”, because at no point has the thinking of anyone at Gap, from president Marka Hansen downwards, been entirely clear.
Why was the new logo snuck in now? For a bad reason: probably because no one could think of a better way of pepping up sagging sales, which are down 4% this year following a 10% decline last year. Why did it take the graphic form it did? For a bad reason: to appear trendy and edgy it aped American Apparel, itself no model retailer. Why did Gap subsequently engage with social media, ie Facebook? For a bad reason: shocked by the negative reaction from the design industry and the media, the retailer sought to bypass criticism by appealing directly to the consumer. Bad result: the torrent of contempt and mockery was overwhelming. So what did Gap do next? Bad move: it disingenuously pretended that the logo was not for real but merely part of a bigger crowdsourcing initiative aimed at evolving “to the next step of Gap”.