The new look of NBC Universal, designed by Wolff Olins
With more and more well-known, established companies going through rebranding campaigns, the past few months indicate that 2011 is quickly becoming the year of the rebrand. Late last year, Starbucks retooled their company logo, making the decision to remove any mention of coffee from their logo and go the minimalist route. Television network Comedy Central also pursued a full rebrand earlier this year, deciding on a similarly minimal, but brazen logo that reflects the network’s belief they are ground zero for comical entertainment.
Another company that recently chose to rebrand is NBC Universal. As part of a merger with Comcast earlier this year, the owner of NBC, USA, Bravo, SyFy and a collection of other networks, sought a new face for their corporation. Meant to signal a new corporate voice, NBC Universal intends to use the new mark as a versatile internal moniker for all brands under its umbrella.
How does Wolff Olins, the London-based agency responsible for NBC Universal’s new look explain their process? They stated that from the onset of the project, a typographic design solution was the route they would pursue as that’s what NBC Universal had in mind. Through their process, they realized that the mark had to be neutral, both in color and style, so it could be utilized effectively across NBC Universal’s wide range of brands. But does simple have to equate to boring?
“People are saying that it’s stripped of everything, but from our point of view – it’s not… the serif [typeface], for us, just gives it enough of a nuance.” (Wolff Olins)
Mike Abbink, who designed the logo’s typeface, drew inspiration from Art Deco-style architecture and then crafted the letterforms as if they were chiseled in stone at NBC Universal’s 30 Rockefeller headquarters. Once this logotype was established, an entire typeface was designed around the new mark, including both serif and sans-serif variations. Then, after much research and multiple combinations of both NBC and Universal, an agreement was made that merging the two words as one sent the strongest message.
While Wolff Olins’ statements, direction and application of the new logo make sense, the design simply isn’t that appealing. The letterforms themselves resemble a serif/sans-serif mashup, making for an inconsistent appearance. Personally, the new look raises a number of questions. While the typeface at play in the logotype draws from the history of NBC as a network, how does it position the new corporation moving forward into the 21st century? What is the significance of purple in the overall scheme? Additionally, what was wrong with the typeface used in the outgoing logo: couldn’t it have worked just as well while also making a nod to the look and significance of the outgoing logo?
While it’s intended to be used almost solely in-house and within a business-to-business environment, this logo should serve as an example that good intentions and common sense don’t always make for good design – especially in a corporate environment.