Twitter’s New Logo – An Analysis

Twitter’s New Logo – An Analysis

Jun 20, 2012 Opinions

You’ve probably already heard about Twitter’s new, geometrically-simplified logo. You probably already know that you can turn it upside down to make Batman or Sonic. And you probably already know about Twitter’s comically strict brand guidelines.

Twitter Guidelines

So why are we still talking about it?

In the two weeks since the announcement, the new logo has had a chance to settle. As it’s started to replace its predecessor around the web and beyond, we’ve had a chance to grow accustomed to it. From two weeks out, we now have a chance to discuss Twitter’s decision more objectively.

The Logo

The new logo is based on circular geometry – as Twitter’s introduction video shows, the bird’s lines each follow the arc of a different circle. This reminds me of the strategy used by Pepsi during their most recent rebrand, though with better results and less pretension.

The bird projects an upwards motion, no doubt intended to create more positive, active emotions in observers. Similarly, I have no doubt that the particular shade of blue was chosen due to similar properties. A logo like this needs to convey the same amount of information whether it’s displayed on a billboard or in a favicon, so the devil is in the details – little decisions like that are critical.

Speaking of small sizes, let’s take a look at the full-size bird versus its scaled-down, 16×16 counterpart. Both are supplied by the Twitter Brand Resources page. The smaller bird gets the point across, but I do think it tries to squeeze a bit too much detail into 256 pixels. I don’t want to design from the armchair, but I think they could’ve abstracted the logo a little more to make it a bit cleaner at that size.

Twitter Logo Size Comparison

The Strategy

A company’s branding reflects its aspirations. By dropping the bubbly wordmark in favor of the lone icon, Twitter is reflecting its desire to be iconic. Relying on logo recognition would put Twitter in the company of Nike, Apple, Target – some of the world’s great brands. Armin Vit of Brand New seems to believe they already qualify, stating:

Twitter has achieved in less than six years what Nike, Apple, and Target took decades to do: To be recognizable without a name, just an icon.

I disagree. With 140 million active users, Twitter is certainly a dominant force on the internet, but it hasn’t permeated our culture yet. The new logo will be visible on television commercials, print ads, billboards – places where the word “Twitter” would mean a lot more than the logo alone.

A brand the size of Twitter isn’t going to shoot from the hip on a decision this big, though – they clearly have a bigger plan in mind. By narrowing their brand to just the bird, Twitter is ensuring that mindshare will not be split among its different former logos – from now on, whenever somebody hears the name “Twitter,” they will think of that single mark. The strategy is brilliant: Twitter will achive iconic status by pretending it already has.

Conclusions

Becoming iconic is a bold move to ensure a company’s longevity. There are no guarantees, of course – Oldsmobile was once an icon – but Twitter seems to understand that its situation is precarious and it needs to become a player in the world beyond internet culture if it wants to ensure its survival.

The refreshed logo is just one of the many recent steps Twitter has taken to aggressively protect its status as a driver of the digital world. Social networks rise and fall on a monthly basis, but it’s much harder to displace a service which is pervasive and iconic. Twitter seems to be studying the playbooks of its predecessors in an effort to avoid their mistakes.

When I was in school, one of my wisest professors used to say, “Lose your focus, lose your shirt.” Companies that do one thing really, really well tend to do much better than companies that stretch themselves too thin. Contrast Twitter’s laser-focus on micromessaging with Google’s expansion into anything and everything. When I say “Twitter,” you know exactly what I’m talking about. When I say “Google,” you don’t know if I mean a search engine or a social network or a self-driving car. As long as both companies maintain their present course, I’d place my bets on Twitter. They’ll stay relevant long after Google has gone the big, bloated way of Microsoft.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/azulum azulum

    Overall a good analysis, but have to contend with the “lose your focus, lose your shirt” aphorism in the same way that I contend with the KISS principle — that is, some things cannot be simplified and retain their defining characteristics. Note the pixelated twitter logo, then imagine it as an 8 x 8 or a 4 x 4 or a 1 x 1 pixel logo — the simpler you get, the more meaning you lose.

    I’m not sure, for instance, whether Microsoft’s Windows® Everywhere™ mantra is doing them any favors, and a large part of their “bloat” I see as one of the best things about the company — the Xbox. Now, you condemn Google to a sprawling Microsoftian existence — but since Larry Page sought advice from Steve Jobs not long ago, Google has been paring down it’s “fat”, leaving some to wonder whether they are becoming just some blundering giant. Clearly, there are notions at odds with what the definition of focus is.

    What about Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing — any wonder they just go by 3M now? — a company built on throwing shit against a wall to see what sticks. Their “focus” is non-focus. That’s what Google used to be modeled after, well, that and organizing the world’s information which is in itself pretty broad. Now they are losing their focus on non-focus in favor of being more focused, a focus that didn’t establish the company and a great place to work if you have innovative ideas. Such obtuse paradoxes abound in the world, undermining aphorisms and companies alike†.

    Yes, complexity is more difficult to execute than simplicity. It requires laterally-thinking people and a hardened resolve to fail a lot, but it’s not impossible, and the potential positive externalities from such meandering can define company, even an era. So, in my opinion, Google is becoming more like Microsoft not because they lost their focus, but because they changed their focus to be more focused*.

    Also, consider the paragon of focus — our beloved Apple — how many pies do they have a hand in? I think a better aphorism would be: “Do one thing exceptionally well, and try to do something else even better.” Or better yet, “Lose the aphorisms, keep the shirt.”

    †Many companies fail because they lose focus, because it’s a narrative fallacy with pundits retrofitting an idealized focus where there may have been none.

    *I think some might say that’s the mark of a maturing company, and that’s what makes me so sad. It’s like the shareholders now come first.

    • http://builtbyimpulse.com/ Jordan Koschei

      Well put, azulum. For some more insight into where I’m coming from, I’d recommend the classic 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Some of the best reading on the subject I’ve ever read, and very succinctly put. (Here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/22-Immutable-Laws-Marketing-Violate/dp/0887306667)

      And yes, I appreciate the irony of replying to your comment about aphorisms with a book title that includes the word “immutable.” :-)

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