On May 9, tech retail giant Best Buy announced a refreshed logo and visual brand identity. The logo demotes the iconic yellow price tag, changes and straightens the font, and introduces a new blue to the color palette.
Many readers may be surprised to learn that some people on the internet have and express very strong opinions — hot takes that have disproportionate amounts of strong feelings in comparison to their lack of nuance.
Best Buy’s first new logo in nearly three decades is getting mixed reviews. https://t.co/NS20H9mxKF
— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) May 10, 2018
As a logo and identity graphic designer living in the shadow of Best Buy’s corporate headquarters in Richfield, several people have asked for my opinion on the new logo. I made it a full week withholding my comments from bloodthirsty masses. But no longer.
What follows are four reasons why I hate Best Buy’s new logo and brand identity. In my next blog post, I will share four reasons why Best Buy’s move is brilliant.
Kerning refers to the spacing between letters. In most cases, it is advisable to make equal spaces between every letter in a word. But not all letters are shaped the same. As a result, putting identical distance between individual letters often makes those letters look awkward or even separate from the other letters in a word.
Best Buy seems to have created their own font for their new logo, a move that would presumably give them maximum control over how the letters look in relation to one another. If only this were true. The bolded sans serif font choice (more on that below) makes for awkward juxtaposition of letters. The top curve of the “S” is smaller than the bottom, leaving a gap between the top of the “E” and the tope of the “S” that is present neither at the bottom of those letters nor between the “S” and the “T.” The “Y” also makes for an uncomfortable amount of negative space between itself and the “U.” Resultantly, there is a lack of balance to the logo that threatens to tilt it left — right back into the position of the text in the old logo.
Let’s get back to that bolded san serif font. A logo and the branding identity that informs it is meant to set itself apart, becoming a unique referent that stands in for the business as a whole. Sometimes, however, a logo is so similar to the visual identity of another business that consumers cannot help but draw comparisons. With its font choice and change from a darker to a lighter blue, Best Buy’s new logo was quickly spliced up with Bud Light.
Given that Best Buy doesn’t sell alcohol and Bud Light doesn’t sell consumer electronics, this might not seem like a big deal. But remember, a logo is a referent and a brand is a story. As such, I’m assuming a company that wishes to convey its ability to “make a meaningful impact on customers’ lives” does not want to also evoke a cheap indulgence once touted itself as “removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night #UpForWhatever.”
A logo often includes text, images, and iconography that are brought together as one. This bringing together of distinct elements within a final logo in known as a lockup. The lockup in Best Buy’s new logo is simply comprised of text and a yellow price tag. While able to stand independently of one another in brand implementation, they appear together in the primary logo as part and parcel. One problem: they look like a young tween couple attempting to hold hands of the first time. Their odd relationship is most observable in the placement between the “Y” and the price tag. The price tag is a carry-over element from the old logo, demoted but still present as a “punctuation” to the name. Rather than placing the icon with care, however, it looks as if the price tag was simply thrown in as an obligatory afterthought. If tucking in an angled price tag next to an angled letter, why not be intentional and make the two angles match?
Last but not least, Best Buy can — and indeed has — done better. As Adweek noted at the time, Best Buy started rolling out a (potential) new brand identity in 2008 alongside the opening of its new retail store at the Mall of America. The new branding featured a new mixed-case san serif font, an outlined yellow price tag, and an even darker blue.
The new branding was consistent but fresh, clean but charismatic — and do you see that lockup of the “Y” and the price tag?! The logo is so good that it appears on the MOA store signage to this day. So what happened to this design? Details nearly 10 years later are rather scarce, but some friends who worked for Best Buy corporate said that the CEO at the time disliked the direction of the brand and shot it down. Oh, what could have been.