Yahoo's new wordmark has been out for a few days now, and it's been widely panned by branding pros and laypersons alike. Is the logo any good? We have an opinion, but there's a more fundamental question that merits discussion, and that other brands embarking on a potential logo redesign should answer first.
Why did Yahoo need a new logo in the first place?
Ms. Mayer's blog post on the logo doesn't tell us much; "We hadn’t updated our logo in 18 years… So, while it was time for a change, it’s not something we could do lightly."
While it was certainly time for a change in Yahoo's business, did they really need a new logo?
As even small companies know, designing a new logo is complex (unless Marissa does it for you over the weekend, we suppose), and implementing one even more so. It takes up lots of valuable time and eats up lots of hard cash. So a business had better have a pretty good reason for dedicating the resources a good logo change requires.
Sometimes, that reason can be aesthetic. Design fashions change, and if a company wants to look forward-thinking, or even just contemporary, they may have to rethink a logo that uses old-fashioned color combinations, typography or graphics.
Take, for example, the Microsoft and Pepsi logos:
Each version has felt right for its time, but hasn't held up as graphic design trends have changed. (Which, incidentally, means we shouldn't be surprised to see new logos for each of these companies in another four or five years).
Some logos, however, do stand the test of time: GE (only minor modifications since 1934).
IBM (only small refinements since 1972).
Yahoo isn't a GE or an IBM, but it is still one of the internet's most well-known brands. And its mark, though 18 years old, still transmitted distinctive personality, was retro rather than old and, in its latest incarnation, didn't use any design conventions that have fallen by the wayside.
Undoubtedly there was room for minor, formal improvement, but there wasn't an obvious stylistic need for a big change.
And, there hasn't been one. Sure, if you compare the two logos the differences are obvious, but we're willing to bet the logo change has gone unnoticed by the vast majority of users. It nearly did by us (when seen during actual Yahoo use rather than on a design blog), and we do this for a living!
What would have attracted more attention would have been a new color palette. Or a tighter integration between Flickr or Tumblr and the parent brand. Or a cleaner user interface. Or any of a million changes to Yahoo's overall visual identity and brand architecture that are needed far more urgently than a new logo.
If Yahoo did want to use the logo change to signal a more fundamental change in their business, the departure should have been more radical.
So to answer our initial question, no, Yahoo didn't need a new logo, and the only real value in what they've done lies in the PR buzz they've received for the last month or two. Though with the paparazzi-like attention journalists give Ms. Mayer's every move, they didn't need a new logo to generate the buzz.
And if you're a business leader evaluating a logo change? Make sure you answer the same question dispassionately. Keeping your look current is important for any company, and the launch of a new identity can be a powerful way to let the market know that positive change is underway. But it's not always necessary, and you need to be sure it's worth the cost.