StinkyLogo.com

Thoughts about Logos Good and Bad. Mostly Bad.

Mayor Butt Says Richmond’s Logo Stinks.
He’s right.

Take a look at this logo:

Richmond Bad Logo

 

Do you see the pacific ocean?

Do you see the “thrust into the pacific of the port development”?

Do you see the shape of a sailboat, with a wake trailing behind?

Do you see the maritime future of the city and the red brick color of city hall?

Do you see a hill, a boat, or an S (representing city services)?

We can’t see any of that either.

We see a badly formed arrow and possibly a bird.

But all that other stuff? According to the resolution adopted by Richmond’s city government way back in 1977, all of the things listed above (except the arrow and bird) are part of the logo’s design. They’re all there. You just can’t see them through the bad design.

Richmond’s mayor, the delightfully named Tom Butt, thinks this logo “is incredibly ugly.” And he’s right.

This logo is bad on so many levels.

It’s so bad, it’s almost good. Almost. No other city in its right mind will ever copy it. No other entity of any kind will copy it. It’s completely unique. You own this Richmond.

All of that stuff that the resolution said was in the logo is the kind of brand bull sh** that design agencies will say about a design to sell it to a client. And a design this bad must have taken a lot of selling. Note to other council members and anyone choosing a logo: if you can’t see it, no one else will either.

Congratulations, Richmond on almost 40 years of owning an exceptionally stinky logo.

The Stinkiest Government Logo Ever?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my favorite stinky logo of all time.

Well, that didn’t last long.

Today, I have a new favorite worst logo of all time.

Last week, the Obama Administration unveiled a new logo to help defeat the Islamist Terror Threat. Or at least, that’s what it would be designed to do if the American government wasn’t afraid to use those words.

Here’s the logo:

2015 Anti Terror Logo Design

 

Forget for a minute that this is really three different logos crammed into one.

Or two logos and one atrocious collection of clip art, color, and fonts.

Before we get to that, the state department is asking for your suggestions on how we should fight “violent extremism” by which, we assume, they mean Islamic terrorism (since there hasn’t been all that much of any other kind recently).

Secretary Kerry said that the task isn’t just for the government, but for everyone:

“including civil society, the faith community, foundations and philanthropists, and the private sector.  The Secretary urged the Summit participants to provide their ideas and suggestions on how we can counter violent extremism, and we ask you:

What solutions do you think are most critical to countering violent extremism?”

 

Wait, isn’t this what the federal government is for*?

Why are they asking us?

But this isn’t a political blog, it’s a blog about logo design. And that logo…

See all those colors? Eight, I think. It looks like someone stole the Toys R Us color palette and softened it up. Never mind, Toys R Us uses just six colors. This one uses EIGHT!

Note to government designers: if you need more than two colors in your logo you’re doing it wrong. One is good.

And how many fonts… five?

Note to government designers: at the risk of sounding repetitive, if you’re using more than two fonts, you’re doing it wrong. In fact, one often gets the job done. Two is generally the maximum.

And all those clip art images? Six of them, plus six swoosh bracket things, each containing a word.

Was the designer paid by the design element?

I spy a home (where the heart is, though no front door to keep out the terrorists), a coffee shop, a park bench, a computer, a school, and a nondescript office building (again without a door).

What, no mosque? Isn’t that where these people are being radicalized? I thought Secretary Kerry said this was partly up to the faith community. Why don’t they get an icon?

Note to government designers: Generally logos feature one icon or fewer. We’ve rarely seen a logo with more than one icon that was any good. And many great logos have none. Six icons and we feel the need to wash out our eyes with bleach to get rid of the ugly. 

 

This horrible design is just a little ironic coming from the political team that brought us one of the best campaign logos ever.

But this logo design disaster takes the cake.

It’s our new favorite stinkiest logo of all time.

 

On the bright side, it’s so bad that it just might scare away those ISIS terrorists for good.

Dear terrorist bad guys: Throw down your weapons or we’ll tweet another terrible logo at you!

 

 

* United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 (and the preamble).

Most Small Towns Have Really Stinky Logos

Much like heavy metal bands, small towns are a rich source for bad logos.

I’d like to think that its because budgets are so small.

But I don’t think that’s the real reason. After all, there are a lot of great logos which cost very little money.

Small towns get bad logos for the same reason that big companies, big towns, and most everyone else gets a bad logo.

Decision makers. Committees. Bad direction. A willingness to settle.

Take this recent new logo for Parishville, New York:

Parishville NY Logo Design

Town clerk, Connie Maquire said, “We chose it for its simplicity…”

Say what you want about that logo, but it’s not simple.

The font is a little hard to read (and what’s with not capitalizing the E in Est?). Notice the decenders (the parts that hang down) in the F and Y make it look like the font isn’t quite following the round circle? And the lower case “e” feels farther away from the icon than the date, partly because the red line doesn’t go all the way around the icon.

And the icon? Not simple.

Two trees, sunrise, a bridge, a river, and rocks or cliffs. The bridge is all out of proportion to the river below.

We count six different colors in the icon—a huge logo design no-no. It won’t look right in black and white.

I think it’s safe to say that Ms. Maquire and the town council don’t know what simple means.

On the bright side, it only cost $150.

You want simple? Check out the logo for a city down state:

I Love NY Logo Design

Two colors. One idea. No complexity. And Milton Glaser designed it for free.

Now you can argue that no small town will be as sophisticated as New York City when it comes to its logo. And that the I ♥ NY logo has been around for three decades, earning its love. Both are true.

But there’s no reason that small towns can’t create good logos. It happens, though rarely.

And who wants to argue that in thirty years the Parishville logo will still be around to earn its love?

We’ll take that bet.

These Logos Are So Bad That Calling Them Stinky Doesn’t Do Them Justice.

If you’ve read anything on our blog before, you’ll know that we like finding bad logos.

And, fortunately for us, there are a lot of them.

So imagine our joy when we stumbled across this fantastic archive of truly terrible logos from MetalSucks.

They’re rock band logos. But not just rock. Heavy metal. And death metal. And sludge metal. And whatever other crazy loud and silly sub genre of metal you can come up with.

Take a look:

Chainsaw Charlie Logo Design

Can you read it?

Yeah, that supposedly says, Chainsaw Charlie and the Chocolate Cha Cha Factory.

Here’s another:

Sorg Logo Design

Surely you can read that. It’s a logo for Sorg.

What? You can’t see that either?

This is too much fun. How about an easy one?

Abismal Nocturn Logo Design

That band is called Abismal Nocturn. More like abysmal logo.

This is ridiculous. The whole point of a logo is to communicate the name of your product or company. Or, in this case, band. But with these completely unreadable metal band logos you can’t possibly tell one from the other. Of course, maybe that’s the point. Most of us can’t tell the music apart either.

If you can’t read the name, it’s not a logo. It’s a design.

Maybe even a good design (though in these cases, not so much). But a really bad logo.

Our advice to metal bands around the world: if you dress the same, have the same hair, and play music that sounds the same, do something different with your logo.

Make it readable.

 

If Your Logo Doesn’t Work When It’s Small,
It Stinks

Last week we noticed this new logo for the National Child Research Center:

NCRC Logo Design

 

Not awesome, but not a bad logo either (at least as it appears above).

The kerning could be tweaked a touch, but it’s not awful. And while I don’t love that font, it is serviceable. The silhouettes of the kids are cute, if not overly professional. (Okay, actually we don’t really like this logo, but we can see why some people might not think it’s so bad.)

The logo communicates the letters that the center is known for and it is obvious that it has something to do with children. After all, there are children dotted all over the logo.

So why is the NCRC logo on the Stinky Logo site?

Look what happens when you have to print this logo in a small size.

NCRC Logo Design

 

 

You can still read the NCRC pretty easily, but you can barely tell those green blobs are children. They look like dots. Or ink stains.

Now try to embroider it on a jacket.

On a shirt or jacket, those silhouettes look like mistakes.

The light green color is part of the problem. But the size is the real issue here.

When you create your logo make sure it works as large as a billboard (like this one) and as small as a postage stamp (which is where this logo fails).

If your logo doesn’t work in tiny sizes, it stinks.

My Favorite Stinky Logo of All Time

UPDATE: Since posting this review of what used to be my favorite bad logo, I’ve changed my mind. There’s a new best “stinky logo of all time”. Read about it here.

Great logos are almost always simple.

They almost always use two colors or less.

The best ones communicate a single idea.

All together, this helps get them noticed, liked, and remembered.

So a stinky logo is almost certainly the opposite.

It would be complex—to the point of confusion.

It would use lots of colors—the more the better!

And it tries to communicate every idea the organization could conceivably stand for.

All together, this makes a bad logo.

And no one likes or remembers a bad logo.

Which brings us to this stinky logo created for the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Vital Record System (which as far as we can tell, no longer exists):

 

Really Bad Logo

 

One look at this logo disaster and you can almost imaging what the designer was asked to do. We need a logo that shows everything we do. So make sure it includes a new baby (for birth certificates), wedding rings (marriage licenses and certificates), a tombstone (death certificates), something showing a divorce, and a document (because we do more than just those certificates listed above). And make sure it shows someone using a computer because all our records are electronic. Finally, just to make sure people know where to find us, make sure you show the state of Kentucky (never mind that the name on the logo says that already).

After going back and forth with the client on this project, the designer finally gave up.

But he (or she) got his revenge. Note that the trend line on the computer is pointed down. A subtle hint that a logo this bad might bring down the entire enterprise.

Definitely a stinky logo.

Do you have a logo that you think stinks? Tell us about it in the comments.

The Malaysian Warriors Logo
is a Little, Um, Excited.

Newsflash! The Malaysian Warriors have a new logo.

Malaysian Warriors Logo Design

The Warriors play Australian rules football. And their logo features a warrior with a staff in one hand and hanging from his belt… wait… what’s that? Maybe it’s a bow. Or maybe it the warrior is in a state of turgid excitement.

Seriously?

In a world where just about every new logo gets compared to genitals, the first question the brand team should ask when presented with a new identity is: “Is there anything about the new logo that could possibly be connected to a penis?”

Um, yeah. There is.

And we haven’t even noted the crappy type treatment running around the logo. Or the disparate elements competing for attention.

All of which is in the old logo too.

Talk about a missed opportunity to fix things.

Sorry Warriors. Your logo stinks.

Could Pepsi be the Stinkiest Logo of All Time?

Let me admit this right upfront. I am a Coca-Cola fan.

So maybe I’m a tad biased when it comes to rating soda logos on the stinky scale of 1-10.

Having said that, I think the information below backs up my contention that Pepsi’s logo refresh in 2009 was bad.

Bad for design and bad for business.

It may not be the stinkiest logo redesign of all time, but it’s about an 8 on the stinky scale.

Before we get into the details, check out this graphic from Famous Logos that shows the evolution of the logo over its first 103 years.

Pepsi Logo Over The Years

 

Not bad. They start out looking a lot like Coca-Cola (and sharing the color red) until the 1960s when Pepsi gets serious about creating a unique brand image. This is about the same time they started advertising to the “new generation” with the slogan “Pepsi for those who think young.”

The logo really hit its stride in 1971-1987. It’s a nice design, balanced and easily recognizable. Nothing like its main competitor. The fact that it lasts twenty years with the tiniest of tweaks speaks well for the design.

But in 2009, things started to go wrong.

Really wrong.

The company updated its logo to this:

Pepsi Logo 2008

 

Not a huge change, right? At least to the icon.

Let’s leave aside the design for a minute and focus on the branding crap that was used to sell the new logo to Pepsi management. Not that it appears it took a lot of selling.

It was document titled “Breathtaking Design Strategy” and is filled with statements like: “Emotive forces shape the gestalt of the brand identity” and “The investment in our DNA leads to breakthrough innovation and allows us to move out of the traditional linear system and into the future.”

This is the kind of stuff you get from a branding agency to justify months of work on such a tiny change.

It cost Pepsi $1 million.

And that doesn’t count the $100 million to roll out world-wide.

So how did that new logo work out for them?

In 2011, Pepsi fell from the #2 best selling soda to #3. They sold 45 million fewer cases than the year before.

Pepsi has fallen from 10.3% market share in 2008 to 8.9% in 2013*—a massive fall. In fairness Coke has also dropped, but from 17.3% to 17%, better than the overall fall of the soft drink market.

When it comes to what the brand stands for, Pepsi has lost its way. And the new logo isn’t helping.

Now back to the design…

In short, it stinks.

It’s been called a rip-off of President Obama’s campaign logo (it’s not hard to see why some people think that way).

And, it has spawned a few parody designs like this one:

Pepsi Logo Parody

 

There are some real design problems with the logo.

Start with the type. They gave up the bold, all-caps font for an all lower-case, skinny font. It went from substantial to weak. And oddly, the new logotype’s E features the curved line of the old icon (not the new). What’s that all about?

Some suggest that lower-case lettering is friendlier. But in this case, with the quirky round letters P and E, it just feels puny. And slow. There’s no movement or feeling of anything… it just sits there. Especially when it’s paired with the big icon, which will always look like a belly peeking out of a too-small shirt thanks to the parody above.

The problem with the change to the icon is there is no real reason for it. It doesn’t look better. It’s not more modern. It’s just different.

Is it a smile? A wave?

If Pepsi was trying to update their logo, they went to far. And if the goal was to modernize the look of their brand, they simply didn’t go far enough.

When it comes down to it, the new Pepsi logo stinks.

 

* From Beverage Digest March 30, 2009 and March 25, 2013.

Another Stinky Logo: Birds of New England.com

Last week we came across this announcement for a new logo for Birds of New England.com.

What a great opportunity to create something iconic.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

This logo stinks.

Before we tell you why, here’s the new logo:

Birds of New England Logo Design

Lets begin by saying that Chris Bosak had the right idea. Include the name of your organization and a really cool graphic that gives some indication of what you’ll see or experience when you interact with them. (The website and photos there are pretty cool.) And, he only used one font, which is almost always a good idea.

Having said that, we hate this font. It screams “designed in Word”. But that’s not why this logo stinks.

Here’s where things start to come apart.

That image is a photograph.

And, no matter how good your photo is, it’s always a bad idea to use a photograph in a logo.

Why?

Photos are made up of pixels or tiny little dots of color that when seen from a distance, make up the picture.

When converted to an electronic format, it’s called a Raster file.

And the problem with Raster files is that they don’t scale. If you shrink them down to fit a smaller space, you lose definition and it blurs. If you try to enlarge it for use on a t-shirt or billboard, the image will pixelate and look terrible.

Here’s an example of how this works from Vector-Conversions.com. The logo version on the left is Raster, the logo on the right is the same image, but converted to a Vector file (and is not a photo):

bad-logos-fuzzy-raster

See the difference?

The photo/logo is fuzzy and won’t scale. The vector image has sharp lines and great contrast that will scale to any size, large or small and still look good.

You might argue that vector files aren’t as good a conveying the depth of color and texture that a photo can display. True. But the job of your logo design isn’t to show each individual feather on a bird, or the remarkable color contrast of those feathers.

The job of a logo is to grab your attention and hint at what you will discover when you visit the site.

The real tragedy here is that birds are such unique animals—and because of their diversity—they make good subjects for a logo icon. Some of them are really good (check these out for instance).

So we are left wondering, what could have been? Or, if the site has a change of mind, what might be?

This stinky logo is quite literally, for the birds.

Sorry, Chris. We love your site, but not your logo.

Fayetteville Public Works has a Stinky Logo

Small towns and communities are rich pickings when it comes to stinky logos.

So while the logo profiled here is bad, it’s typical of the kind of design small towns often end up with.

This is often because towns have small budgets to work with, so they often rely on volunteer or inexperienced designers. Sometimes they hold design contests, which is almost guaranteed to produce a bad logo design.

But perhaps the biggest reason small towns get such badly designed logos is the “design by committee” process that takes place in city council meetings. Elected officials can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to giving their opinion and input, even on something which they have no experience—like designing a logo.

So, with that wordy preamble, we present the new stinky logo for Fayetteville’s Public Works Division:

Fayetteville Public Works Logo Design

This is a bad logo. For so many reasons.

#1 Too many Fonts. In a logo, three is too many. Two is usually too many. One. One is almost always enough to get the job done.

#2. Horrible Font Choices. The massive PWC in thick obnoxious type is too much. It completely overpowers the dainty lettering of the rest of the logo. And what’s with the two lines extending from the P and C to create a sort of floor under the logo? It sort of puts the rest of the logotype underground. Or is PWC a roof on the rest of the design? Who knows?

#3 Bad Kerning. Kerning is the spacing between the letters. Do you see the huge space between the HO and ME so the descender on the Y can have some space? Even with the space, it still bumps up against the O. Also notice the space between Home and Town is bigger than the space before Utility. And yet, the descender still touches the T. It’s just sloppy.

#4. Mismatched Styling. Why is the F in Roman, while the rest of “ayetteville’s” is Italic? And notice how the two ls reach up higher than the F? It makes the spacing between PWC and the rest of the logo uneven. It’s just bad.

This logo stinks so bad someone ought to sue the city council.

Wait, what?

Believe it or not, that’s exactly what the Public Works Commission has done. But not because the logo stinks.

No, they like the logo. There’s no accounting for bad taste.

The legal battle is over whether Fayetteville or PWC should be at the top of the logo.

The city council wants the city name on top. The PWC wants their name on top. We just want the whole logo to go away.

One of the commissioners had this to say about the logo:

“When I get my bill, I don’t care what the logo looks like, a quarter million dollars just to get the same font or something, I don’t know.”

Yeah, the fact that you don’t care what it looks like is pretty obvious. It looks like crap and you’re okay with it.

We’re starting to think that this country could use a few more designers on city councils.

 

No Matter What You Think,
The New AirBNB Logo Doesn’t Stink

If you have a computer with an Internet connection and a set of eyeballs, you’ve probably read something about the new AirBNB logo that was introduced this past summer.

In case you weren’t invited to the brand kick-off party held in a swanky New York City loft, here’s the video the company used to unveil the new logo design:

 

Pretty clever.

The icon is not only a play on the letter “A” which has an obvious tie to the company’s name, but also includes elements that we’ve come to recognize as a pin, a heart, and a very abstract person. Generally if you have an icon that can do all that, you’ve got a winner.

Or to say the same thing visually:

People Place Love Graphic

 

It does all those things… and it is delightfully simple.

And the people who attended the party seemed to agree. One person described it as “playful, unpretentious.”

Another designer we respect called it “a great icon.”

But then the Internet did what the Internet does.

With headlines like “A Vagina or a bent paperclip?” and “Is it balls, vagina, or both?“, critics panned the new logo.

To sort of coin a phrase, they say the logo stinks.

Seriously, how old are you guys?

Others criticized the logo because is was too similar to other brands like Monocle and Habitat. True enough, there is a similarity, but that’s about as close as it gets. These aren’t close to being the same mark. It’s a lot closer to Automation Anywhere’s old logo (which apparently has fallen out of active use—though is easily found in various posts criticizing the AirBNB logo).

But, as is sometimes the case with critics, they’re wrong.

This is a great logo.

For all the reasons mentioned in the video. Plus it is incredibly versatile.

We noticed this banner ad from AirBNB last month:

AirBNB Marathon Logo

 

AirBNB has sponsored the New York Marathon for several years. (The sponsorship makes sense—runners coming to New York need a place to stay, right?) And that’s a great way to use the logo.

Here’s a similar execution:

New York AirBNB Logo

It takes a great logo design to be this versatile. We’re looking forward to seeing how the company customizes the logo for other applications.

But when it comes right down to it, most companies spend far more time and money on developing logos than the actual design is really worth. Yes, great design is valuable. And a great logo can make a difference in how a company is perceived by employees, customers, and partners.

The actual impact of the logo, however, is really quite small when compared to the experiences customers have with the brand. They don’t buy logos, they buy the brand promise. And when the brand delivers it creates a bond with the customer—regardless of whether they like your logo or not.

In this case, a great logo may help with forming a good initial impression. And it seems to do that well.

Congratulations to AirBNB. In our not-so-humble opinion, their logo doesn’t stink. It rocks.

 

These Logos Stink.

There are hundreds of blog posts taking note of some pretty bad logo designs. Like this post at Business Insider. (They call them the worst corporate logos, but very few of them are for corporations).

Some bad logos should be obvious from the outset. This is a good example. Just looking at the design for Kid’s Exchange should have been a red flag. Anytime the letters S E and X appear together in English, it will read as sex. And it doesn’t help that the whole name reads: kid sex change. The name is so bad, that no one even addresses the horrible choice of font and weird color choices. Yuck.

Bad Logo Kids Exchange

 

But this logo for the Archdiocesan Youth Council (which is no longer in use), wasn’t offensive or negative when it was first created in 1974. That was long before the scandals that rocked the Catholic Church. It was innocent enough at the time. But not any more.

Bad Church Logo

Not all bad logos start out bad. Like kids, some stay great as they get older, but some go bad later in life. And that’s the case with the logo above.

And then, there are a few logo designs that are just fine, but someone decides they need to change anyway. Maybe they hire a new VP of Marketing who feels the need to put their stamp on the visual identity. Or perhaps management thinks the old logo needs to be updated. Or something…

That’s how we get stinky logo updates like The Gap underwent a few years back:

Stinky Gap Logo Design

Fortunately, that one only survived a week.

 

Some Things Stink.
Your Logo Shouldn’t Be One of Them.

Things that stink:

Pigs. Feet. Lutefisk. Port-a-potties.
Locker rooms. Skunks. Cheese.
Litter boxes. Reality TV. Prospector Pete.
Arm pits. Fish. Ash trays.

Things that shouldn’t stink:

Your logo.
Your logo design is just too important to be stinky.

More Things that Stink:

• Design agencies that charge thousands of dollars for a single logo.
• Logo design processes that take weeks, or months to finish.
• Designers who think you don’t know what’s good for your business.
• Tight deadlines that require a logo now!

Here’s a Logo Maker Solution that Doesn’t Stink.

No stinky processes, logos, or timelines. Just an easy-to-use logo design tool that can help you create a new logo in 10 minutes or less. Best of all, you can create and save up to six logo designs in your account—free!

Click here to this logo design software now!