Outstreched arm

Monday, February 26, 2007

A perfect example of what happens when you don't have a designer

Adriano here, hijacking Neven's blog for a bit of a design-rant-cum-identity-review.

Recently, Cedae, the state-owned company that provides Rio de Janeiro with water and sewage services, introduced a new logo as part of a "major brand restructuring". Even though their previous logo was instantly recognised by anyone in the entire state and performed well on settings as diverse as cast iron manhole covers and sponsor placards at football stadiums, the company felt the need to get with the times and present a new, fresher image. Their process for doing this, however, is a perfect example of how not to do it. I've seen my fair share of botched redesigns (refer to Neven's July '06 post for perfect examples), but this takes the cake. Instead of taking the usual path of hiring a design firm and doing a full identity package, Cedae decided to completely do away with the overpaid turtleneck-clad, buzzword-preaching types and go straight to their own employees. That's right. For a while, Cedae employees could submit their own ideas for the company's new logo, the best of which would be selected by a group of managers (still no designers involved) to replace the 30-year-old workhorse.

Cedae's now defunct logo.

The result, as one would expect, was a complete trainwreck. The new logo, if it can even be considered as such, is a masterclass in conceptual frailty and complete disregard for real-world applications. It looks like something a 10-year-old would do for a school project. No, scratch that, I think my cat makes better-looking stuff in her litterbox.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Any manager with half a brain and an iota of aesthetic sense would stop this idea dead in its tracks, but that would be too good. This logo made its d├ębut in Rio last week and Cedae is now working with an advertising agency to create a style guide outlining the usage of the new brandmark.

It's interesting to point out, however, that the end result is merely the tip of the iceberg here. The people who submitted their ideas in the contest aren't to blame for the disaster that followed. It's all in the process. Why would the managers trust their employees, who are not designers, with redesigning the company's logo?

Rio's energy utilities company also went through a recent rebrand, but luckily they did it the right way. Instead of drastic change, they opted to keep the recognisable values of their old logo, while making it look fresher and more in line with the times. And they hired a design studio to take care of the whole process.

Light's old logo, introduced in 1966.

The new brand keeps the overall shape of the old logo, but with a fresher feel.

This post was inspired by Dr. Mauro Pinheiro's article in Portuguese on Feira Moderna. If you speak Portuguese, I strongly recommend you read his article for a far better and broader look at this whole imbroglio.

(Neven: It's quite an instructive disaster, actually. If your only guideline for creating a logo is not to do anything Cedae did - managerially - or anything their logo does - graphically - you're off to a good start. My favorite part of the, uh, design, is the attempt at conveying ripples of water. Now when I look at it, I envision turds swirling down a toilet bowl in Rio.)

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