A few people have asked me my thoughts on the new branding. I'm sure people are expecting scathing commentary or something sinister, but I'm not about that. The people working here are great folks, but I'd be remiss not to offer some constructive criticism about a subject I've practiced and studied for well over a decade (logo design and branding) on a site I've been a member of for equally as long. What better place to do it than right on the site itself?
Here we go:
1. This site is LONG overdue for a reimagining of its brand. It took balls to undertake it.
2. It took balls because the community at large will hate it. Not because it's bad, but because it's new, and different. Also, regardless, the community will come to accept it, good or bad.
3. For the most part, the new branding is nice. It's bold and art-centric. That's good. It's also nice to see a bit more color to the palette. That's been lacking for a while. Kind of odd they didn't do a larger overhaul of the site as part of the announcement, though. That would've made it feel "real."
4. The logotype is nice. I like it, generally-speaking. The part where they talk about it being a custom typeface is interesting, though, because it's both smart and ignorant.
It's smart because it presents the company with a letterset that can be reused that inherently feels like the brand. In other words, every time they use that font, it's reinforcing their branding in a subtle manner.
It's ignorant because it means the typeface always has to be rendered as an image, just like in their launch article, which is a huge pain in the ass to make. Web designers generally frown on this practice, as well. Had they chosen a webfont for their typeface of choice, they could have carried it out on the site overall. There is still opportunity to do this, assuming somebody working there knows how to build a webfont with kerning pairs, etc.
My personal opinion with logos and fonts is that the logo should never use the same font as the remainder of its branding. By reusing the same font, it makes the logo feel less-than-unique...like somebody just typed it out real quick. I've always preferred to find a secondary, complementary typeface that shares characteristics of the logotype without matching it exactly. This way it feels related without being so matchy-matchy, you know?
5. About the mark. You know, the green slash.
The mark is generic. I know it's intended to be avant-garde, but let's be honest, here. It's a forward-slash with pegs. It's not bad because it's simple, and it's not really "bad," necessarily. What it is, is forgettable. This matters because marks are supposed to be able to live on their own—without a name nearby. For a mark to do that, it has to be remarkable in some way. It has to be one-of-a-kind. The original deviantart logo did this.
Now, the original (da) logo wasn't gorgeous, but it was functional and it had history behind it. Things with history behind them can get away with being less-than-beautiful. This new mark, though, isn't functional. If it becomes separated from its name, it ceases to be recognizable. If it gets made into a sticker, and you put it on your back window, do you think a passerby will recognize it as anything but a funny-looking math symbol? Insiders might, and in a way I suspect that will be part of its appeal—that it's subversive and uncommon, and that to "get it" you have to be "in the know." That's cool, but kind of disingenuous, right? Isn't this site one of the top 50 in the world? That's far from subversive. Not to say the logo should look like a Fortune 500 company, though. That'd be silly, guys. Come on.
Combined with the name, which originates from the concept of "deviating from the norm," I imagine the whole logo lockup is focused on communicating just how deviant they are (but not sexually deviant...just deviant in the fun way). This is a mantra that I personally put on the walls inside the company offices, and it's a good one to have, but when a site has 38,000,000 people visiting it every month, it's not really "deviant" anymore, and I think the company knows it. So, they've got to put everything they've got behind re-emphasizing their different-ness, so to speak. And can you blame them? The audience of the site is young, and they're fickle, and they want to feel underground and special.
6. There is an overall heavy emphasis on strong angles, solid lines, and hard edges. This strikes me as very cool, but very much the antithesis of artfulness. In my view, and my experience, artistry is an organic practice. Art flows through the veins of its creator, much like blood. Artists create their work in a flurry of movements and processes which are the same which define us as human beings: frustration, sweat, blood, imagination, sparks of creativity, anger, sadness, and more. The way we artists build our work is innately human—we use incredible tools to visualize our thoughts. Other animals can "paint" but they don't generate art. Only human beings generate art. So, to put it simply, art is about emotion and the organic, not the technical. Technicality enables us to create the art, but it's our minds and our bodies which actually do the creating.
Are you with me so far? Good.
Now think about lines and shapes that are organic. The human body. Leaves. Rivers. Clouds. Tears. How many of these things are made up of solid angles and perfectly straight lines? None. Mother nature doesn't make straight lines; mother natures makes curves. So to look at the new logo and compare it with artfulness, you can see how they don't "mesh together," so to speak. They're quite the opposites. The new logo is emphasizing technology, not artistry. Sure, this is a website...BUILT with technology. But people don't come here for the tech. No, they're here for humanity—the art and the socializing, AKA uploads and comments.
7. To hop back to the positive, the new branding emphasizes the art that members have created, which is awesome. I love seeing that. The juxtaposition of the logotype/lettering atop really incredible artwork is very nice. That is a positive touch, for sure.
In Summary: The new branding is overall very nice and a welcome change that the community will surely come to enjoy, but the logo misses some marks that could've made it truly shine.