Thoughts about Logos Good and Bad. Mostly Bad.

Another Stinky Logo: Birds of New

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

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.


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 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):


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.

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