Stop Complaining About the New Google Logo. (It Has a Story)

I'm pretty tired of hearing people complain about Google's new logo. Whether it's a cultural correspondent on The New Yorker, an aging Emmy-winning art director, a self-dubbed "opiniated typographer", or a crudely snarky BuzzFeed article, every attention-seeking nobody is ready to jump on the "hate-the-logo" bandwagon in hopes of internet fame.

As a designer, I'll say I love the new Google identity. Key word: identity. Google announced a new brand identity, not a logo! Let me define the difference between those:

brand identity (n.)

The visible elements of a brand (such as colors, design, logotype, name, symbol) that together identify and distinguish the brand in the consumers' mind.

logo(n.)

Recognizable and distinctive graphic design, stylized name, unique symbol, or other device for identifying an organization.

What does that mean? The logo is a mere cog in the huge machine of branding. It's just a mash of the new, brighter official colors in the new font, Product Sans, written to spell out 'Google'. You must look at the big picture to understand the significance to that puzzle piece.

To cut the metaphors, the new Google logo isn't the tech giant jumping board another wave of generic sans-serif logotypes among young startups (the rise of which they pioneered with Google Fonts & Material Design–I'll come back to this later). The Google logo is a symbol of some of the things that define Google: simplicity, creativity, and playfulness. The logo symbolizes the foundational idea in technological innovation that to build an idea, one must build the simplest iteration first and scale from there–the very idea that built Google from being incorporated in a garage in Menlo Park to the empire now called Alphabet. Thus, they chose the logo that produced the smallest file size possible. The logo symbolizes the Google's long-standing corporate motto, "Don't be evil," with it's childish, do-good look. Most obviously, the logo includes the tilted 'e'–symbol of Google's unconventionalism.

It's remarkable to think in the age of minimalism and flat design, people wouldn't think to look in the white space before judging a logo. That being said, now for a designer's defense of the logo itself. I'll attempt to address all the qualms I've seen so far:

Spacing

While nit-pickers attempt to kern and space the new logo into familiar faces reminiscent of the over-wrought Proxima Nova and Gotham, Google has consciously designed a uniquely, slightly condensed font face. It reminds me more of Geomanist and less-popular sans serif faces, crafted to have a distinct, leaner look. Stop trying to take the playful out of sans-serif in the name of hating Comic Sans.

Serifs

Serifs are cute and vintage and classic and honestly too-underused, but they also don't render on low bandwidth. Google's is pushing every conceivable boundary on the internet (from graphics to geographics), and with that they want to be as accessible as possible. A small, consistent brand is simply necessary for that.

So Sudden!

But why now? Everything was so good, why change? Google's been hinting at this for a while. Even in announcing the new brand design, they referred back to the release of Material Design a year ago, a massive UI framework which could only mean an upcoming change in Google's whole look.

What Google has here is not a new logo. As Geoff Cook and Min Lew from Base said, "What is clear is that the new identity is not about a logo but rather a smart system-a visual language." I'm not alone in appreciating the new logo; in fact there are many of us–especially within the design community–but it seems our voices are drowned out by the more clamorous dissidents. Just a few designers opinions below:

  • "...they've modernized the logo in a way that feels very true to who they are and what they stand for.", Debbie Millman

  • "They animate, they communicate, they're playful, versatile, memorable", Benjie Moss
  • "I see six letters that represent a youthful, dynamic creativity--a notion that this company was built on" Derreck Johnson
  • ...and many more.
  • It seems consensus–at least among designers–that this is a genius identity built around a brilliant logotype. Ultimately, the knee-jerk reaction to any change is aversion, and that may explain the widespread dismay with the new Google logo. Regardless, whether you like the Google logo or not, chances are you'll still use it.