A “shot heard round the world” is most commonly associated with the opening of the American Revolutionary War, but this week a different “shot” was heard round the world––and you guessed it, I’m talking about the unveiling of Google’s new logo, serifs not included.
Google announced the updated logo on their blog stating:
“So why are we doing this now? Once upon a time, Google was one destination that you reached from one device: a desktop PC. These days, people interact with Google products across many different platforms, apps and devices—sometimes all in a single day. You expect Google to help you whenever and wherever you need it, whether it’s on your mobile phone, TV, watch, the dashboard in your car, and yes, even a desktop!
Today we’re introducing a new logo and identity family that reflects this reality and shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens. As you’ll see, we’ve taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).”
Being the company’s first “real” logo change since 1999, Google claims that the new look actually has a lot more to do with functionality rather than aesthetics––and apparently, it has everything to do with those damn serifs.
What’s a serif?
The small line attached to the end of a stroke in a letter or symbol. See the serifs disappear below?
Form follows function
Here are a few facts about serifs and why Google decided to part ways:
- First and foremost, scalability. Serifs don’t scale, meaning that the font becomes less readable the smaller it gets. How often have you mistaken the lowercase “g” found in Google’s previous logo with an “8”? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.
- Serifs suck up bandwidth. For years, Google knew that their logo degraded when viewed at low resolutions. Users with low-bandwidth connections were shown a “close” text approximation, not even the image version of the logo!
Check out the difference below, did they think we weren’t going to notice?
To accommodate Google’s low-bandwidth users, the company chose to not only redesign the logo but generate a new logo using a Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG), a vector-based file type.
In terms of logos, SVG is the way to go––and will soon be the way all logos appear, which is good news for our low-bandwidth friends.
So, what’s the verdict?
Naturally, the Internet is booming with mixed reviews of the tech giant’s new logo. I get it though––change can be uncomfortable and after 16-years with the Google logo we know and love, this news has come off as a bit of a shock. And rightly so. For some of us, our relationship with Google’s logo is the longest relationship we’ve ever had, so this silent, unbeknownst reveal has left the Internet feeling some type of way.
Tobias Frere-Jones, type designer at Frere-Jones Type was quoted on The Verge saying, “I don’t think this redesign speaks to any larger trend, because clean simplicity will always succeed, even if it doesn’t excite.” and he’s not the only one who thinks Google’s new image is a bit lackluster.
Seth Ellis, assistant professor at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, University of Michigan told Think Progress, “I’m not impressed, I’m just bored. It’s not a very interesting redesign. It looks like pretty much any corporate logo. It’s the average of every corporate logo from the past 50 years.”
But don’t worry, a number of graphic designers were willing to backup the brand stating “Just because Google is a #brand doesn’t mean it can’t give you feelings. The new logo “brings a smile and delight to my face, which I think is important, because their challenge is digital interfaces are scary to the majority of people,” said Jill Spaeth, president and director of design at Citizen Creative and member of the national board of directors for AIGA, the professional association for design.
Honestly, it makes sense
Considering the brand’s recent restructure from a parent company to subsidiary of Alphabet, most of us could have probably predicted that Google’s executives wouldn’t dare avoid rephrasing their central ethos and refining their core business vision.
This logo change is a small piece of a constantly evolving pie, and to think that Google doesn’t have a number of tricks up their sleeves would be naive. Much has happened since the search engine appeared 16 years ago, the company has immersed themselves in everything from car design and global mapping to net neutrality and advertising sales.
Not only did a logo change need to happen, it HAD to happen. Google is aware more than anyone of the importance of branding and this logo change is just the start.