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So Facebook has rebranded. The company that revolutionised social media, but then, more recently seems to me to have given worrying opportunity to politicians to distribute propaganda with impunity, has a fancy new font. It’s very easy to hate on this move automatically without even looking at, or seeking to understand, what they’ve done. Instead, let’s do this and then decide whether to hate on it or not.
When evaluating a rebrand it’s actually not really about the aesthetics. The best and most effective ones have a strong reasoning that underpins an attractive style.
For every Uber, who in 2016 changed their identity for no discernible reason and ended up with something that wouldn’t have looked amiss on the side of a van for Gary’s Waste Management Solutions, there’s a Claridge’s, who wanted to ditch their buttoned-up stuffiness and reposition themselves as a fresh, modern, brand that also spoke of their luxury heritage - with beautiful and very effective results.
The actual design of the new logo is strong. The switch to all caps gives it strength and seriousness as opposed to the chubby chumminess of its lowercase cousin. The letterforms, with their slightly curved lines, feel smart and distinctive without being gimmicky. And the fact it's colour-neutral and can morph into different hues depending on its context is also a good touch. The designers, British typographers Dalton Maag, can be proud of their work. However, when you get onto the strategy, well, it's complicated
Facebook’s Head of Design has described their rationale thus: “When folks hear the word Facebook, they immediately think about Facebook the app. They don’t find the connection to all of the other products and services that are part of the larger Facebook company. And that’s really what we’re trying to solve here.”
Basically, in the same way that H&M is the company which owns COS and & Other Stories, as well as being a brand in its own right, Facebook is both the website your aunt uses to post badly-cropped pictures of her annoying dog and the company which owns WhatsApp and Instagram. This move is designed to separate “Big Blue” from the commercial behemoth, creating a distinct new identity that is then used to explicitly tie together its other brands.
According to the pre-launch images, in the future, when you want to scrutinise your old work colleague’s wedding photos, you’ll be clearly told that Instagram is “By Facebook”, eradicating any pretence that this and your WhatsApp archive of long-dead group chats and failed dates, are independent products.
It all feels very keen, almost too keen: ‘We don’t just do Facebook you know’. It’s the corporate equivalent of Daniel Radcliffe enthusiastically explaining he’s done lots of other stuff apart from play a teenage wizard.
The logic for this change seems a bit flawed. When the #deletefacebook movement hit, users began shifting their accounts to Instagram, blissfully unaware that it was the same company. As its reputation for ethics plummeted in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, people are increasingly seeking alternatives to Facebook, so explicitly showing that its tentacles extend wider than most people realise, feels like an odd strategic move.
Arguably, the right thing to do would be to differentiate these brands further, quarantining the worrisome element and allowing the others to flourish without fear of infection. But then the obvious appeal of rebranding as the slightly more wayward member of the most popular family on the internet does make mitigating sense. The thing is, to me it feels like this is an ego-driven change, a way to brag about their all-powerful size rather than something that has discernible benefit for everyone else. Fancy that, Facebook doing something for themselves without thinking of the user, eh?
I guess the font’s quite nice though.
Simon Moore is Creative Director at Baby