Editorial: DC redesigns their logo. Maybe. (includes a visual history of DC’s logos)
Jan 14, 2012 by     23 Comments    Posted In: Articles, Editorial, Reviews

New DC logo vs old DC logoSo the internet’s been buzzin’ about the possibility that DC have redesigned their logo across the board. I think the story broke on BleedingCool.com. I got the news from here. As usual the reaction from fans is largely negative (having followed the design scene for a few years, I don’t remember a brand ever being released to wide acclaim. The opposite usually happens). It’s probably fair to say that the bulk of the comments on the design are mostly of the knee-jerk variety. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. First instincts can be very revealing. Being a designer specializing in brand design, this subject is of special interest to me. Let’s address some of the more common concerns expressed by fans. But first we’ll start by looking at the history of DC’s branding.

DC logo history
As you can see, there’s been a bit of variety. So what are some of the most common comments I’ve noticed?

It doesn’t “say” comics.

Well that’s not entirely true I think. The visual “peeling” device does indeed suggest the turning of a page and to be fair, many of the previous logos looked more appropriate for a sports team or sports gear. Or simply looked like a postal stamp one would see on a package shipped in the mail. The most overtly comics oriented design above is the one which has Superman centered directly in the logo. And that I think, we can mostly agree is a myopic approach. So to maintain this doesn’t “say” comics isn’t really a solid argument against this design because most of DC’s logos have only “said” comics because we’ve come to associate that graphic with comics over a long period of time. Also to consider is the possibility that DCE is hoping to make a gradual move away from being associated with comics. Whose to say what the true intent is.

I think it was Paul Rand who once said (I paraphrase): “A logo shouldn’t communicate the thing it represents. A logo comes to mean the thing it represents”. To ask a logo to communicate everything about DC ,is frankly too much to ask from just one graphic. In my opinion a logo should have as its main priority, good design. If you look at the new proposed logo as just a graphic and forget what it’s associated with, then do you like it? I think I mostly do. It’s got movement but it’s subtle so it doesn’t come across as cheesy – and I can see potential for animating it on screen. For instance, a close up of this new logo at the movie theater, with “pages flipping like a graphic novel, showing dozens of flashing images from comics – sort of like what they do now – but inside the “comic” which is portrayed in the logo. Though the DC “spin” currently in use is dynamic in a static medium, it seems actually quite stiff and difficult to animate with the only apparent possibility being the spinning of the rings – which was never used.Other pros for the new logo: It works in black and white and it works on a small scale. I’m not a fan of it needing a gradient in order to work and that would be my main criticism. Also the fact that the visual device is not perfectly clear – the “D” peels back to reveal a “C” – weakens the piece a little. But still, I think overall it’s an improvement over the generic logos that have come before it.

“It looks like a toilet, maxi pad, a press-on tattoo etc”

Blame the gestalt effect, but with any lines and shapes on a picture plane, different people will see different things. I saw none of those things listed above pesonally. I saw a page being turned. I can’t really fault anyone for interpreting a visual differently than intended. That’s what happens. So, no argument there.

“It looks too corporate”

Well, the fact is DC is a corporation. Owned by an even bigger one with big plans to build big franchises and make big money. They want a logo which will be applicable everywhere in any context. Which brings up my concern of it relying on a gradient to pull off the effect. I’d like to see a version of this built from outlines only to see if the logo still works. But even there, I don’t know what the intent is with this design. Perhaps this new design is to be limited to certain media so it’s hard to say without seeing more applications if this design is successful. I’d like to see it put on t-shirts, a website, a comic book. Presentation can often change everything. When looking at it in a naked environment like this, it’s easy to draw hasty conclusions.

“It’s too generic”

To this I say, look me in the eye and tell me the other logos aren’t generic. If you’re really honest and look at the list of logos above, you’ll be hard pressed to convince me that most of those are NOT generic. So at the very least, this design has some thought put into it and has been designed with a significant amount of polish and skill.

Ultimately, I’m still not married to this design nor do I want to dump it wholesale. But if I try really hard to forget any of these logos exist in my conscious and subconscious mind, put myself in DC Entertainment’s shoes and pretend I had to choose one of these options for myself, I’d probably choose the one on the bottom.

DC doesn’t have as recognizable a brand as Marvel I think (and there’s another example of a logo that doesn’t “say” comics but is a very effective design) so it’s probably a good move to put on a brand new outfit, eschew the past and establish a new identity.  The more I think on it, the more I support this design.


23 Comments Add Comment

  • Chip Reece January 14, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I think 2005 is the best they’ve come up with. I’m not just saying that because I’m used to it…I always thought DC’s 70s logo was super dry, and thought the 05 one was a major improvement.

    I don’t really care what they do, but in my opinion the new logo, although a neat design and clever and not boring, is cool in a business sense, but not entertainment sense. I am aware that DC is a corporation, but it’s in entertainment. This logo says ENRON to me.

    I’m sure at some point we will all come to accept the new design as time goes on, but I think with that logo dc has a more “serious” look to it.

  • chipreece January 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Haha, wow they they added color…I hadn’s seen that. I struggled to find the old one, but here’s the closest I could find: http://www.cynicaltimes.org/images/articles/enron.jpg

  • Jason Newcomb January 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Most brands are initially designed without color and then color is added depending on the application.

  • chipreece January 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I think the new DC logo needs color.

  • chipreece January 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Dude that looks awesome! Did you do that?

  • Jason January 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Yup, I did. Like I mentioned. Presentation makes a huge difference.

  • hfuller January 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    It is a creative idea to use as Jason said the page turn to show the D and C as the page of a comic book turning. I would like to see how the are going to apply color to this. If its going to be 1 color or if each part will have its own.

  • hfuller January 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I think it would look a bit better If under the logo the DC was left out. so that you see the DC logo then the Comic under. When I see it I read DC DC Comics.

  • Steven Sparks January 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I like DC shoes’s logo always have.

  • Nuriel January 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Well, it does look like a toilet to me. But I think we will get used to it eventualy. Moments before they change it again

  • Chip Reece January 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    What happened to the ENRON comments? Why’d they get removed?

  • Chip Reece January 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Never mind I saw the comments in the forums.

  • Tim Morse January 14, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Personally, I don’t like it. It just doesn’t scream comics, or entertainment to me. When I look at the new idea for the logo, I see something very dull and boring. There is no excitement in that logo at all. The logo they are currently using is perfect. It has flash, multi use, and it’s powerful. It sticks with tradition in addition to making it fresh and new. They should stay with what they have and not make such a radical change as this. I don’t think it will go over well.

  • Philip Hanan January 15, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Honestly, the 1978 and 2005 logos are the only good logos. The rest are boring or do not capture what DC is all about.

  • James Archer January 15, 2012 at 10:03 am

    While I can see the idea of the new logo, I must say I don’t like it. It’s ugly, and because of the overlap style it doesn’t clearly say “DC” to me.

    I agree that the older logos looked like sports logos, but I really think they had it right with 2005’s version. The font has a comic quality about it, and the star/circle design puts me in mind of Captain America.

    I think they’d just have been better sticking to the 2005 one from now on. The best type of logo is one that people have come to recognise and associate with the company.

  • James Archer January 15, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Whoops I wasn’t thinking about what I was saying there… of course Captain America has nothing to do with DC. But regardless, the star/circle design just screams fantasy/superheroes to me. Can’t say why exactly, but maybe it’s just the fact that the brand is so well recognised that it just makes me think “comics”

  • Jason Newcomb January 15, 2012 at 10:26 am

    The logo from 2005 looks like a football logo to me. I never warmed to it.

  • Andrew Volker January 16, 2012 at 6:57 am

    For what it’s worth, I’m willing to admit that my initial reaction to the new logo may have been overboard. I no longer consider it worse than 10 Hitlers.

  • michaellee January 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t like it. In the end it doesn’t matter that I, or even a majority of their consumers, don’t like it because DC will use it anyway and we will continue to purchase their products.

  • MattB January 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I gotta say I love it! I’m partial to the old one, but this has a much more polished look to it and sort of points to the fact that they are a big company. It doesn’t say “comics”, but I think they are trying to get away from that at least in there logo. It looks more professional for a large company.

  • class of fitness August 7, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I always thought that DC have a trademark problem, the ‘spin’ logo could’ve been copyrighted as soon as it was done. but DC was to slow on doing it? the new logo still looks lame,