Mind the Gap

October 15, 2010

On Monday, October 4th, the Gap surprised everyone with a new logo “evolution” in an effort to be more contemporary and make the Gap more relevant to the next generation of customers. By now, we all know how it turned out. But had it truly been an evolution, I think the story might have ended in a different way.

These days, “relevant” can often mean “digital/mobile-friendly”, and I understand how the tall thin letters and flat dark blue of the familiar Gap logo presented challenges for online use, especially in the mobile space. It was described as a thoughtful, carefully-crafted evolution when Gap North America president Marka Hansen said that the new logo “honors our heritage through the blue box while still taking it forward”, but I think the end result was far too radical, and disrupted the visual linkage to Gap heritage instead of refreshing it.

Gap Logos

While not unheard of, 20 years is a long time for a brand to have the same logo, especially in the consumer space. Gap had the right to explore a refresh based on everything that’s changed in that amount of time. And I think it’s important for designers to push the envelope in creative development; it’s easier to evaluate the options and know what feels right when you’ve got a range from close-in to far out. The reasoning behind what they did makes sense to me, but the execution was too much, too fast.

Oddly, the aggressive change made me realize that I liked the old Gap logo without thinking about it too much. The logo was bold and abstract yet, to me, looked and felt like a tangible clothing label. It’s a simple, solid and approachable icon that seems woven into the consumer landscape, on store fronts and posters worldwide.

Given what we know about their objectives, the Gap would have been better served by taking a smaller step. A more contemporary twist on the logo typography within the box, or updating the supporting typefaces or color palette. The new (already retired) logo was very legible, but it lacked the character and warmth the old logo had, and I really wasn’t looking forward to seeing how it would be implemented in physical retail environments and on the clothing.

So while the events of the past week or so have given them plenty of press, a true evolution instead of a radical departure could've ended on a less embarrassing and more fruitful note.

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