Tales from the Ashcan: Meanwhile, Over at the DC Comics Disaster Circus….

Sometimes, when you're a major subsidiary of an entertainment behemoth, nothing ever seems to go right.  Such is the mess over at my favorite disaster circus of late, DC Comics.  First it was the pissing off of just about every member of fandom regarding their relaunch.  Then the controversy over their Zuda comics label.  Then it was the blatant sexism regarding the New 52 relaunch.  Then it was charges that DC no longer has a business strategy.  And now?  Well, let's just say that they're going for the Royal Flush (down the toilet.)

If any of you recall, a few years ago, there was a huge outcry over the changing of the DC "Bullet" logo to the current DC "swirl."  Well, get ready for the new new logo.

The one at the bottom right (2012) is the potential new logo, which Bleeding Cool reported the company applied for tradmark status as of last Friday.  Yup, in a move of NBC-like proportions, DC is throwing out their newest logo for something entirely different.  While there are a lot of different opinions on the web (Wired magazine refers to the new logo as "unclear what it represents.

And you know what?  Jason Teague (the Wired columnist) is right.  He, like myself, is a designer, and we see what's wrong with the logo.  His opinion is in the above article.  Below is mine.

For starters, the logo communicates that DC has lost their majesty.  For years, the main difference between the Big Two was that Marvel was all about the grittiness and DC was always about the majesty of heroes (or as a friend of mine puts it, "Marvel's about the super.  DC's about the hero.")  Even the 2005 DC "Swirl" logo, when it was introduced, caused a lot of hate from traditionalists, but at least it communicated DC's business and legacy all in one fell swoop.  This one?  It's generic. Cold. Corporate.  It communicates nothing.  Granted, part of it is because the application specimens are a dull gray (it has to be, because when you submit a trademark which has colors in it, it must always use those colors), but even if it were in RGB or CYM, it still feels generic, as if it was designed by a comittee.  This is not a logo for a comic company; this is a logo for a sticker maker or a venture capital firm.

Which leads into the second part of the logo's problem.  While designing a logo for a client, I always tell them that when creating a combination mark (a logo that is part image, part text), you must always use it in tandem, lest people won't be able to identify what it is (face it: if Apple hadn't used "Apple Computer" next to their logo for two decades before removing it, would you know what the chrome apple – or the rainbow one before it – meant?).  While DC is doing that now, expect it to not be coupled with the text for much longer.  And then what?  Will anyone be able to identify it?

And last, the third: combined with all the previous issues mentioned at the top of the article, this paints a picture of a once great company spinning its wheels.  Granted, other corporations have changed their logos without problems.  Other companies have revamped their flagship products without issue.  But all of this together spells doom for a company – it removes customer and investor confidence, and even employee morale as well.  This tells me that senior management, despite being artists in their own right (Wildstorm founder Jim Lee is the current head honcho), do not get that there are different disciplines in art, and excelling in one does not immediately qualify you for the other.

I should note that having a trademark finalized does not ensure actual use, so they may change their minds…or rather be forced to, either from the lower end (employee rebellion) or the upper end (Time Warner senior management.)  But at this rate, I'm not holding my breath.  I'm going to see how long this lasts unil the next disaster from DC as the stagger from one crisis to the next like a drunken has-been.

Rob Barba (71 Posts)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/genjipress Serdar (Genji Press)

    I have to wonder what Saul Bass would have done with the DC logo. Or did he in fact design one of the previous ones? Given the general longevity of his designs I wouldn’t be surprised if he had created the now-iconic 1976 shield.

  • http://www.claudeandmo.net Rob

    From Wikipedia:
    “An analysis of a sample of Bass’s corporate logos in 2011 found them to have an unusual longevity. The most common cause of the demise of a Bass corporate logo (in the selection analyzed) was the demise of the company, rather than a corporate logo redesign. The average lifespan of a Bass logo is more than 34 years, and counting.”
    The DC Bullet logo was done by Milton Glaser, another design legend whose work has lasted the test of time.

  • http://www.stevensavage.com/ Steven Savage

    Throwing out a Glaser is a bad idea anyway. But this? Atrocious.
    I’m not a logo expert, but I’m learning more as I design ones for my project, and to my untrained eye this is dismal. Worse, it’s generic.
    The “Swirl” logo? In a way it’s a variant of the bullet logo. I can handle that, and it’s fun and dynamic. This new one? It’s stupid, lifeless, and has no personality.
    Also what IS it? A peeling away D? A hidden letter? This is something that is meaningless.
    Very disappointing.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/genjipress Serdar (Genji Press)

    I agree about the swirl logo being a nice successor to the stamp. It looks like something you’d expect to see on a comic book cover. This new thing looks like something that got half torn off by mistake — and it looks more suited to letterhead than anything with the vibrancy of a comic book.
    It says to me that DC thinks its future lies in being a property licensor, not a source of original creative work. Bleah.

  • Scott D

    Now to add a new twist on the DC logos – there seems to be variations. http://www.geekologie.com/2012/01/19/dc-logos.jpg

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