In honor of their recent merge with Comcast, NBC Universal has unveiled a new logo, and from this designer’s opinion, it's a flap... I mean a flop. The new logo is just for internal uses so we average folk probably won’t be seeing it in use too much, but I have to say, pretty boring!
Here is the old logo:
And here is the new one:
The bird has flown
The beloved and iconic technicolor peacock which has been part of NBC branding since 1956 has been unceremoniously thrown out, carcass and all.
Not that the previous NBC Universal logo was so glorious in it's plumage. Its origins were a merge of the NBC peacock and the Universal globe, leaving us with a lackluster combo. NBC Universal’s chief executive Steve Burke was quoted saying that the old logo “seemed kind of busy.” I wholeheartedly agree. It would have better affect if they’d have lost the circle in the background. With logos it’s always best to keep it simple. But in merging two strong brands into one, how do you choose what to keep and what to lose?
Merging brands - birds of a feather don't always flock together
Merging brands can be a very tricky thing. The practical aspect of a merger is to pull the equity from both brands into one mighty corporation. The trouble is trying to reflect this effectively in the graphic identity. Keep in mind the two brands will have been developed with the original companies in mind. Taking these two very different ideas and trying to combine them rarely works because the message/iconography/fonts/colors often fight with each other. Most times, the new logo turns out to be weaker than the two original brands, simply because the decision-makers are not willing to make a tough decision for the greater good. To create a new brand from two others, you must be ready to throw out what's not working no matter what the perceived equity for the sake of building a strong new brand that can fly on it's own merit. Maybe that's what they decided when they ousted the peacock. And I'd have been happy with that decision if the final product was remarkable, but it's not.
So they bagged the bird
Ok - so the peacock is gone. What they chose to retain from the previous logo is the font Copperplate, or rather the "essence of Copperplate". This font was part of the original Universal logo - a very well-designed brand, particularly when used in full color spinning motion on the silver screen. While the logo as a whole works for Universal, the font on it's own feels dated to the 90s when it was remarkably over-used on everything from logos to signage to newspaper ads. It was everywhere. Ok ok, they did not use Copperplate exactly but chose a font that has what I’m calling the “essence of Copperplate”, namely the flat serifs - which are placed here and there in an unconventional way. This gives the logo a feeling of being a little young and trendy at the same time as it's traditional and dated. Much like if your mom showed up for Thanksgiving in skinny low rise jeans. Just weird. And it certainly does not speak to the stature of the NBC Universal corporation.
Down to the bare bones
Also worth mentioning is that they’ve chosen to go with a typographic treatment and single color. A minimalistic design with no illustration at all. I'm all for a strong, minimalist, typographic logo - if done well they can be fantastic. However, if you’re going to defeather this far, you need to make sure that what is left is remarkably strong on it's own. Coca-Cola comes to mind, as well as IBM or FedEx. These logos are strong and distinctive marks that stand the test of time. This one I am afraid does not make the cut. There is no twist, no interest, no spark. It's just a font and words - certainly nothing to tweet about.