The DC Comics brand has left it’s mark both physically and metaphorically speaking. They’ve abandoned their trademark and it has left a mark and it smarts. According to DC Comics is set to unveil a new branding system. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen it’s a object lesson for what not to do. I love logo design. It’s a passion of mine. I’m a graphic designer. I’m a teacher. I live and breath logos. This is not a fanboy rant. Let me explain.

First of all I respect and understand the need for a company to revise their image. It makes perfect sense that as a part of their new corporate structure DC would need to redefine their identity. This kind of design challenge fascinates me as well. I personally love how a designer can express a complex idea with a simple symbol or mark. In fact when you think about it, marks and logos are almost synonymous with comics. Can you think of anything more recognizable than the Bat symbol or Green Lantern’s lantern? Logos like their characters have the ability to take on a life of their own. So too they can engender strong emotional responses.

A while back another company decided to freshen up their mark by rolling out a new design. Some of you may remember the “Gap Flap” of 2010. The Gap logo made such a negative impression that it was removed after only one week amidst a flurry of apologies. I’m not suggesting that that will happen with DC’s new logo design or that it should happen for that matter. I do believe however that a company shouldn’t take lightly public reaction to their identity system.

Now for my critique. When teaching logo design I suggest the following principles for evaluating success or failure. A logo should: 1. Be simple and clearly defined. 2. Be symbolic and recognizable. 3. Use limited color and complimentary type.

1. Simple and clearly defined. DC’s new logo is simple. It is a combination of basic shapes. I like the fact that the “D” and “C” have similar shapes and it seems logical that they can be overlaid together. With this rendition however the “D” is the least recognizable character which seems like an after thought because your eye is immediately drawn to the “C”. Ironically some of the defense of this design has appeared to be “Wait until it’s animated.” or “It will make sense once you see it in color.” etc, etc. In logo design terms that is a huge no no. A logo must read in black and white all on it’s own, period.

2. Symbolic and recognizable. In this category I think the new logo falls completely flat. The best I can surmise is that the “flap” could symbolize a turning page but I still think that’s pretty weak. The star became a really integral part of the DC logo from years past. It surprises me that they would abandon it entirely. Many of the best logos are a “dual” image as I like to call it or they incorporate a hidden symbol. The most famous of these is the “Fedex” logo with it’s hidden arrow. I may be totally wrong but I see no attempt at this in DC’s new design. In an odd way sometimes I think I see a profile of Darkseid when looking at the logo, but I’m sure that’s not on purpose either.

3. Limited color and complimentary type. I’m sorry folks but thanks to 50 years of branding DC is blue and Marvel is red. Gray just won’t do. I will admit that the gray does set off the bright colors of the decorated logos but…so would a pale blue. Unfortunately the type doesn’t help. I’m fine with the sans serif but the stacking doesn’t work. It seems to cry out for hierarchy. In fact, if the “DC” was clearer in the mark you wouldn’t need the “DC Comics” written below. Apple stopped writing “Apple Computer” under their logo long ago.

These are just a few of my thoughts on the matter. I think it’s a fair assessment of the design. What’s your opinion?


Thanks to Heidi MacDonald and her great reporting.

**Updated** DC has officially confirmed their new branding system. Read Here