Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A logo only a Yahoo could love…

A logo only a Yahoo could love…

There’s a reason why I had to reprint of Marrisa Mayer’s “tumblr” – it was simply unreadable in it’s original form. Why?

Let me just give you a little bit of background here for a second…

As chronicled in the book “I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59” by Douglas Edwards, Miss Mayer changed the font on the site’s results page to Verdana because a “report” and “statistics” told her it was the “right” thing to do without looking to see how it would render in all browsers. Now, taking a look at her “tumblr” page she’s using the dreaded white text on a black background – despite countless research that explains why this is a horrible thing to do for your readers. As any design teacher will tell you, it only looks “cool” superficially – use it when you really don’t want your visitors to read your text. You would think that a woman who is obsessed with “data” and “research” into what’s more “readable” would know better.

This gets me to the type of leader I have the least respect for; the bosses, managers, supervisors, and executives who hire experts then won’t trust the people they hire. After you hire a graphic designer to do design work why wouldn’t you not trust their experience and education when creating a design? Or do you just like to have people surrounding you who are “only the best” and you still have to do everything yourself – which implies everyone else is incompetent and you know enough about everything to get all the work done.

Do I have enough time and space to vent about that?

My thoughts about the logo itself: Despite all my criticism above I have to admit that this logo does its job. I dislike it when a company will totally undo its logo just because. You only totally revise it when you need to distract from your potential clients from your prior mistakes or blunders.

When Pepsi redid their logo from the Red White And Blue “Ying/Yang” symbol to something that looks like a pictogram of a fat kid with his belly sticking out of his shirt – it was a total fail. What were they trying to hide, what were they trying to distract customers from? Pepsi should have made a much more subtle change to their logo or just leave it alone since they were a successful company… it was an unnecessary change.

Yahoo!’s logo change isn’t that radical. It’s subtle while being cleaner and fresher than the original. It’s not so much as a departure than it is a refresher – much the same way grocery stores rearrange the isles to keep you wandering around looking for what’s on your list in the hopes you’ll stumble upon something new.

It’s not bad, but it’s not great, either. It’s like going from “vanilla” to “French Vanilla!”

Geeking Out on the Logo

So, tonight we unveiled the new Yahoo logo, concluding our 30 days of change.

We hadn’t updated our logo in 18 years.  Our brand, as represented by the logo, has been valued at as much as ~$10 billion dollars.  So, while it was time for a change, it’s not something we could do lightly.

On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator.  I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made.  I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)

So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma.  We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail.  

We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo - whimsical, yet sophisticated.  Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history.  Having a human touch, personal.  Proud.

Other elements fell quickly into place:

  • We didn’t want to have any straight lines in the logo.  Straight lines don’t exist in the human form and are extremely rare in nature, so the human touch in the logo is that all the lines and forms all have at least a slight curve.
  • We preferred letters that had thicker and thinner strokes - conveying the subjective and editorial nature of some of what we do.
  • Serifs were a big part of our old logo.  It felt wrong to give them up altogether so we went for a sans serif font with “scallops” on the ends of the letters.
  • Our existing logo felt like the iconic Yahoo yodel.  We wanted to preserve that and do something playful with the OO’s.
  • We wanted there to be a mathematical consistency to the logo, really pulling it together into one coherent mark.
  • We toyed with lowercase and sentence case letters.  But, in the end, we felt the logo was most readable when it was all uppercase, especially on small screens.

And, we were off.  Here is the blueprint of what we did, calling out some of what was cool/mathematical:

Our last move was to tilt the exclamation point by 9 degrees, just to add a bit of whimsy.

Prior to the weekend, we had also polled our employees on the changes they wanted to see.  Interestingly, 87% of our employees wanted some type of change in the logo (either iterative or radical).  In terms of specific attributes, our employees had wanted:

  • sans serif
  • variable size letters
  • a variable baseline
  • a tilted exclamation point
  • and the majority of their favorite logos were uppercase. 

While we hadn’t set out to explicitly fill each request, we met a lot of what the people who know us best felt suited us best.

Color and texture were pretty easy.  Our purple is Pantone Violet C - a pantone that needs no number and no introduction ;).  For the texture, we came up with the nice idea of creating a chiseled triangular depth to the logo - this causes the letter Y to appear in the shading at the ends of each of the letters.

Over the subsequent weeks, we’ve worked on various applications and treatments of the logo (the favicon, app launchers, sub-brand lockups).  It’s held up well.  And, while moving forward we’re likely to make small iterative changes along the way rather than dramatic ones, we’re really happy with where we ended up.  We hope you are too!

Here’s a fun video (created by our amazing intern Max) that animates the design notes:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Biggest Hardware Regret As a Graphic Designer

I’ve been at this for the past couple of decades if you count my beginnings as an artist drawing and painting futuristic style containers and product labels and my few years as a drafting student and draftsman. Let’s throw in my experience as a 3D Modeler and Animator. As a result I’ve been collecting a lot of hardware and software over the years. Let’s not forget tutorial books, magazines, CD’s with textures, demos, free fonts… a lot of stuff has come through my door but only a small percentage has crossed the threshold in the other direction with few regrets.

To say “few regrets” means “no big regrets” simply isn’t true. As of now I’m having a genuine regret that I’m still trying to live with and get past which is harder thanks to genuine need and sentimentality.

I had this one machine that I maxed out the best I could for all of my needs during The Millennium Years – from 1998 to 2006. I used a Pentium Pro 266mhz machine with the absolute most RAM it could handle, A zip drive, a CD-ROM/CD-Burner, an ATI All-In-Wonder Pro video card, sound card, and at one time I believe I had two or three internal hard-drives. It was – for a brief moment in time – the most advanced and most rugged graphics machine on the block. I used that computer harder than a rented truck, and after almost 10 years of hard service it simply stopped working.

It stopped booting and after it would actually start it would shut down unexpectedly, and the “Blue Screen Of Death” was becoming a daily visitor, and then a twice daily visitor. It was time to let this machine go once and for all and I brought it to the local Staples as a trade in for a Windows7 machine which my wife is using at this specific moment.

I let this old machine go, with all the accessories, all the add-ons. Everything extra I put into this machine went with it. No big deal, right?

One aspect I’ve left out of this rant so far is the Gateway 7210 Server that I owned during the same time.

It’s a rugged big beast that was built to last and in many cases it’s outlived three other computers in the house. It was built to endure far worse environments than my house despite the intake of dirt, dust, pet hair. During the years that it was exiled in the basement it endured the horrors of mold infested air, an indoor fish pond that was in the basement from November to March and whatever the washer and dryer spews out. (Granted, the dehumidifier did it’s work all this time, but you never know what could have happened…) It still works better than brand new with the addition of the second processor it was always meant to have, but there are still some things missing.

I have no idea why the thought didn’t occur to me at the time but I’m regretting this since I’m working on some other legacy projects; why didn’t I remove the zip drive, the CD-ROM/CD-Burner, an ATI All-In-Wonder Pro video card, sound card, and the two or three internal hard-drives from that Pentium Pro machine and put them in this server? Why didn’t I have the forethought to put those components into the Gateway 7210?

What really smarts the most is the Iomega Zip Drive and the ATI video card since I’ve had to ask for help in finding new ones for the Gateway 7210 Server. I’m trying to find the most advanced video card for this server without spending too much.

Thanks to a lot of help from tech guys from various different forums I’ve found a few good candidates to consider that are now residing in my “shopping carts” and “wish lists.” Now it’s just a matter of time and funds.

In the meantime people continue to ask; why am I bothering? It’s so old and obsolete and I could get more performance out of a newer server. Isn’t this a waste of time and money?

The short answer; no.

The long answer; it’s a legacy machine with now obsolete media peripherals like a Iomega Zip Drive that I’m looking to replace. I’m in a part of the country where there are still some clients who have everything stored on media that people haven’t touched in a long time. Just because nobody else has a Zip drive doesn’t mean they still don’t need to have their old media accessed.

I still use this server to access older programs and files from the past 15 years and it is still used as a storage device for my current work. It’s not attached to the internet and works as a really good archiving tool. There are some older image generating programs that just aren’t supported or updated any more that I like to dabble with occasionally. I also enjoy using some fractal programs that tie up my most modern computer and I like to set the other computers to work on that while I’m doing my real work that pays and has deadlines.

Also this isn’t  my only computer, it’s my oldest. My newest computer is only a year old, I have three others that I’ve hung onto as legacy machines. This Gateway 7210 Server just so happens to be the first computer I’ve ever bought myself; it wasn’t a gift or hand-me-down from someone else.

Another fact is that restoring and refurbishing this unit is more like a hobby, like restoring an old car or furniture. I’ve learned a lot about other aspects of computers out there in the meantime and my wife and I have agreed that so long as the bills are paid and we’ve already put money into savings and I don’t spend too much I’m free to keep at this. As for the actual parts, I’ve always known or believed that somewhere out there in the world that there were warehouses full of obsolete parts that didn’t sell because of something else was released and customers weren’t interested in anymore. It’s just a matter of finding out where those parts are and put them to use so long as they aren’t out of range of our budget.

Could also be “The Fisk Curse” - My dad, grandfather and great grandfather were innovators who have built things just because they could, and then found a use for them later. My dad is infamous in the HAM Radio community for building various types of antenna tuners, modular motor drivers, and other things even though there are new technologies that can do these jobs he still likes to find other ways. It’s like trying to find other approaches and techniques to the same problems or ways of doing things. My dad has made about 20 different versions of antenna tuners and recently was bragging that he’s come up with a new idea that’s going to make “a million dollars.”

I thought he was crazy then but as I get older I’ve found my own windmills to tilt. I get what he was doing all these years later; I just wish I started dabbling with computers back then to so we could have learned something together.

Finally; I want to max this thing out just because I can even if it makes sense to nobody else. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should. It’s a momentary distraction from the other things in my life. Focusing on this refitting and refurbishing is helping me forget about what’s going on in the world of politics and other petty nonsense. That’s worth a couple of bucks and the time spent for a worthy distraction.