Google just had its biggest makeover in a decade and a half, trading its iconic rainbow letters for a blockier, serif-free update.
The change threw website visitors a curveball on Tuesday when a small animated arm rose from from the search bar to wipe away the old logo and chalk in a new one. And as the most visited site on Earth, the brand transformation immediately caused a stir.
Overall, the reception has been much more positive than many other high-profile logo changes. A recent poll found that 52% of nearly 3,000 respondents agreed that the reinvention was a “much-needed, cleaner change,” while 24% missed the serifs.
But another 26% gave a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to the news. After all, iconic company or not, the new look really just amounts to a font swap and a colorful capital “G” to replace the old lowercase icon.
So What’s The Big Deal?
“It’s more than a logo change,” says Min Lew, a partner at branding firm Base Design. “It created a visual graphic language that connects the dots for users from one product to another.”
What Lew means is that the new logo better embodies the sleeker, minimalist ethos that pervades Google’s various products. Whereas the old icon looked like a sticker slapped onto the company’s sites, tools and apps, the pared-down update is a universal fit that uses animated transitions to seamlessly morphs between forms depending on the platform.
“[The old logo] was a funny bit of type and it seemed incongruous with the associations you would normally have with a company like Google,” said Wally Krantz, executive creative director at branding firm Landor Associates. “The new sans-serif logo just works so much better in a dynamic environment.”
That feeling of continuity seems to be exactly what the company is shooting for in its ongoing reinvention. Earlier this month, Google splintered its various divisions into new companies under the umbrella of a holding company called Alphabet — a business structure ostensibly more befitting of a company whose disparate ambitions range from self-driving cars to pop-up ads.
Through the years, Google has stripped its logo down in small steps, peeling away the shadowing in 2010, flattening out the texture in 2013 and now finally making the leap to a brand new font.
“It makes sense for me to see them shift from a typeface that was a little bit trickier to deal with to something that gives them the potential to do a lot more,” Krantz said.
Those in doubt of the power of font need just look to acclaimed filmmaker and author Errol Morris, who, in 2013, used New York Times readers as lab rats to confirm a theory that people tend to more readily believe words written in one typeface over another.
“Yes, we read the word ‘horse,’ but we also see the letters, the typefaces, the shape of the word on the page,” Morris wrote. “Is this not part of the meaning?”
In Google’s case, the company is hoping that it will be.