The Shots Heard 'Round the World

November 2, 2007

On September 26, 2007, guards from the Blackwater USA Company, hired to protect a US State Department convoy, fired a fusillade of shots that killed 17 people in Iraq and instantly brought the name Blackwater USA from the backwaters of general public knowledge to the forefront of public opinion, a public opinion that was not very good for the Blackwater USA name.

Subsequent to that incident, but according to Backwater executives not as a result of it, the Blackwater logo took on a new softer and less aggressive look. The original very symmetrical black bear paw in stylized red crosshairs with very distinct and sharply pointed claws became far less symmetrical, definitely softer, and with claws whose sharp points had been filed to a nice gentle round. At the same time, the encircling, red cross hairs had become a bit more parenthetic in design and less riflescope cross hairs in feel. Even the lettering had gone from glaring and edgy white on a black field to a softer styled black lettering on a clean white field.

I have spent lots of time looking back and forth at these two logo designs and will say that the original, more roughneck, Green Beret ‘don’t mess with me’ style logo has now taken on a decidedly far more Boy Scout merit badge look and feel.

So is this success for Blackwater USA? I am not sure, because the memory of the incident and all the subsequent fall out still has a firm grasp on me. I have looked through the cross hairs of a rifle and into the angry eyes of a bear in the Alaskan wilderness and both speak to me of clear and present danger, and so does this new logo even with its new softened designer feel and look.

In the end, the company still sells the same product - protection in dangerous places. No matter how its opening web page puts it Blackwater USA, even the name Blackwater implies danger, it is a company where danger and violence are endemic, and I wonder if they need to change that at all. The people who find what Blackwater USA does distasteful will find it so no matter how comfy and corporate the logo looks, and the people who believe that what they do is necessary in this increasingly dangerous world will probably feel more comforted by a logo that speaks directly to the business of military style protection.

Therefore, it is my opinion that Blackwater USA does not need to get rid of or alter its tough roughneck image but rather it needs to get rid of its rogue corporation image.

Something I believe that a logo design change will not accomplish.

Peter Wien
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