What’s in a logotype? The changing face of eBay
eBay, one of the most successful Internet brands, recently announced it was changing its logo. Upon making the announcement, it revealed the refreshed logo is designed to reflect eBay’s brand and marketplace today by offering “a cleaner, more contemporary and consistent experience, with innovation that makes buying and selling easier and more enjoyable”.
But can just a logo redesign deliver this? The redesign has centered around a much more mainstream aesthetic delivered by the Univers Extended typeface, used by many brands for its readability and simplicity with the instantly recognisable eBay colours maintained.
Gone is the jaunty lettering of the old logo that was so much a trademark of eBay. Is this an effort to look the part and convey those brand values or is it a technical solution that makes communications simpler to convey across different media platforms?
A typeface should reflect a brand’s personality or tone of voice and the selection process is a critical part of developing the visual elements of a brand. For centuries, typefaces have been designed not purely for functionality but to evoke emotion, sentiment and familiarity and to echo principles and ethics.
With the advent of web fonts many brands are transforming their digital properties by using their brand typefaces on their websites. With more and more brands deploying mobile optimised websites, web fonts offer a simple way to deliver brand authenticity and consistency across different platforms. The likes of Swarovski, Net-A-Porter and L’Oreal are just a few examples of those that are exploiting them successfully
For brands that are household names you can guarantee changing your typeface will get a reaction. Take Microsoft’s decision in August to change its logo and font for the first time in over 25 years. The vehement reaction by the public and analysts clearly demonstrated the integral part a typeface plays in delivering a brand. The new look received both positive and negative reactions, but the key point is the reason for changing the logo and the font to the Segoe typeface points to the desire by the company to reinvent itself. To communicate with a new voice. And that is the point. A typeface is critical to successful communications.
Ikea’s decision to change its signature typeface from a customised version of the Futura typeface, an integral part of the company’s brand, to what it said was a more “functional” off the shelf font, Verdana, caused uproar. Ikea had built its success on its design strength – whether it be the layout of the store, the products it sold, or the catalogue it printed.
The decision to fix something that wasn’t broken created such a furore that a petition was launched with the aim of reminding people and corporations of the importance of design and how much it matters. The outrage resulted in articles in the likes of Time Magazine and The New York Times. The conclusion? Back to the Futura (excuse the pun).
One logo multiple platforms
The other major consideration when choosing or changing a font for a brand is ensuring it works across all platforms. Gone are the days of fonts purely being used in print. Now a brand has to communicate across web, TV, tablet and mobile. It’s now amateurish for a brand to not have a legible, fluid appearance across all platforms.
And research by Opinion Matters for Monotype Imaging has shown that less than one percent of consumers would definitely trust the credibility of a brand on mobile if the text font was different to what they were used to seeing. In this way, fonts deliver brand authenticity and reassure the reader. Which is probably why when a brand changes their typeface they do it with a fanfare of publicity to help customers recognise their new livery.
eBay’s typeface (Univers Extended) performs well on screen which is undoubtedly where their audience hangs out. You can bet that this was a key consideration in the selection process. I wonder if eBay will move to web fonts as they roll out the new logo? It’s a lot easier to read a scalable typeface than a pixelated image, especially when small on a mobile phone.
The bottom line is as brands update their identities, they need to keep up with their customers who want a clear, simple and continuous reading experience wherever they engage. They want to feel reassured that it’s you speaking to them whether they see you in print, on their computer or tablet, on mobile, on TV or in the car. Fail to take this into consideration and your company could immediately alienate a potentially vast audience.