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.
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 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.
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.
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.