A new logo for Gap that debuted to much criticism Wednesday might not be the perfect fit, Bill Chandler, vice president of corporate communications of Gap, tells Co.Design. “We love the design, but we’re open to other ideas and we want to move forward with the best logo possible,” he says.
Chandler confirmed last night’s message from Gap’s Facebook account (using the old logo as their avatar), which announced the new logo is actually part of a crowdsourcing project. He would not say when — before or after the tidal wave of criticism — Gap decided to participate in one of the most contentious practices in design, in which regular Joes and Janes compete to create a logo that’s better than the one made by a professional. The logo itself was not a PR stunt, Chandler says.
The new logo was designed by Trey Laird and his firm Laird and Partners, who have served as Gap’s creative directors for many years, while working closely with Gap of North America president Marka Hansen. While Chandler stresses that Gap stands by the logo they’ve created, they also want it to signify that the company itself is changing — and that should come with input from consumers.
“Gap has been evolving for the past year,” Chandler says, noting the new campaigns for popular brands like 1969 denim that speak to their target customer, a 28-year-old millennial. “The next natural step was the logo — which has been around for more than 20 years — how it would evolve.”
They debuted the logo “without much fanfare” to begin the conversation, says Chandler, who also notes, as I did yesterday, that the use of Helvetica was not new — they’ve been incorporating it into their advertising and some retail stores for the past year. It’s also not a stab at going retro, says Chandler. “We believe this is a more contemporary, modern expression,” he says. “The only nod to the past is that there’s still a blue box, but it looks forward.”
Gap’s new face, with the old “blue box” logo on the right
The new logo will be featured in the holiday advertising campaign, he says, and be part of a larger 2011 rebranding. “But before the launch goes any further we’re going to see what other ideas are out there.”
What ever could have mandated such a stop-and-look-around approach? A spirited debate about the new logo, perhaps? “We’re very close to our customers and we listen to what they say every day,” Chandler says, adding that that interaction with Gap’s audience is an important part of its brand. “We’ve seen the conversations out there, and we know that our brand is something people care about. We want to tap into that community.”
Specifics about the crowdsourcing contest will be released in a few days, he says. “We’re going to establish a process,” says Chandler. “We’ve seen a lot of energy on social media sites.” That’s the truth: The website ISO50 has almost 200 entries in its Gap logo redesign contest.
With regard to the redesign contest or the unofficial make-your-own Gap logo websites, or the @GapLogo Twitter feed (read our exclusive interview!), Chandler says, “I’m not going to comment on specific aspects of the dialogue. But we’re thrilled about the energy and passion that customers have shown. We want to collaborate with them.”
We’ve made our feelings clear about companies crowdsourcing design. Most of the time it doesn’t work out for either party, and it results in designers getting screwed for basically creating free advertising for the brand that goes their own way in the end.
But given the reaction (particularly on blogs and Twitter) to Gap’s first stab at a redesign — “never liked GAP before, like them even less now,” “I feel sad for this company, who can’t seem to make it’s way out of the 90’s” — this time could be different.
So why did design create so much value for Apple? Consider: having suffered decades of relative underinvestment, it’s one of today’s rarest capabilities. When you think about it, Apple chose an industry that was bereft of design altogether. Walk into Best Buy today and you walk into design desolation, aesthetic aridity, a dystopia of designlessness. There’s not a drop of joy, delight, amazement, or just plain well-though-out usability in sight; it’s a little bit like the emotional equivalent of taking a holiday in Sparta. And unless you’re a masochist, you’re probably not going to pay much of a premium for that.
So argue with me if you like, bring the full arsenal of overquantified pseudomathetical Wall Street analyses to the table if you want — but I’d gently suggest: most companies don’t take design seriously, but they damn well should. What standing in their way? Yesterday’s tired, increasingly stale assumptions that what really matters in hard-nosed, tough-as-nails business is the left-brained stuff: negotiation, calculation, and, to it bluntly, intimidation. Hence, cutting-edge design as a nice-to-have, not a can’t-live-without. Hence, design as something that’s relegated to ghettos inside organizations, instead of a competence that’s lived and breathed in all corners. And hence, designers being lower in the corporate pecking order than the assistant to the middle manager of the middle manager.
That’s a big mistake in a hypercompetitive world where 47 billion low-cost factories from Madagascar to Fujian can churn pretty much, well, anything in the blink of an eye and for a few pennies. More than ever, it’s beauty, delight, and amazement that separates rapidly commoditizing “product” from stuff that’s treasured, adored, loved, and envied.
For most boardrooms, design’s never counted less — but the truth, I’d venture to guess, is that design’s never counted more. So here are five questions to gauge whether you’re taking design seriously enough.
- Do designers have a seat in the boardroom — or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
- Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters — or vice versa?
- Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to “real” business decisions — or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
- Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff — or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow’s big ideas?
- How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot — or, as for most companies, almost none?
Here’s the point of my little scorecard: to demonstrate that management by lobotomy just won’t cut it anymore. In the 21st century, creating enduring advantage is going to require organizations that have a whole brain — not just half of one. And if you’re flunking, prepare, dear left-brained beancounter, for the discount rack.