AOL will abandon its yellow running man logo for its AIM instant messaging software and replace it with a staid, corporate-looking typeface in which the letters are picked out in a wavy, cursive font. Yellow Man’s head has been on the chopping block for years, with a redesign first mooted in 2009.
Yellow Man has been an Aol brand marque for 15 years — an astonishingly long time in InterWeb Land. If you came of age in the late 1990s, the appearance of Yellow Man will remind you of those first weird, intense experiences on a 56K modem when it dawned on you that you could now chat instantly with friends and strangers over vast distances — for free.
Whether Aol is right to kill off Yellow Man is another question, of course. Generally, advertisers work hard to establish long-term brand familiarity and positive equity. Most tech companies would kill to own a logo as familiar as Yellow Man. But the logo also feels dated and clumsy. And why, exactly, is a chat client represented by a running man? (As opposed to a talking head or something?)
In the design world, the new brand is getting mixed reviews among commenters on Brand New, a blog for art directors and logo creators:
- “AIM desperately needed a new look. After endless updates featuring what is essentially the same, slightly-altered design, it’s refreshing to see a new direction being taken. It’s a pretty bold step for them, in my opinion,” noted nemenhiser.
- Ralph Winn disagreed: “It always is disappointing when someone chooses to move from a really poor logo to a logo that still is poor, but not quite as much.”
For some brands, changing a longtime logo can be a huge risk. When The Gap attempted to drop its blue box logo in favour of a black typeface, the online outcry was so loud the company was forced into a swift U-turn.
Aol, however, doesn’t have that level of love among consumers. This is one logo change that will probably pass without controversy.
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