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Issue #13
July - November 2015
Anti-Erasure | The Transition from Old to New
Stav Exenfeld / October 08 2015

On September 1, 2015, Google announced a new logo - the sixth and most significant update in the company's logo since it was first designed by Israeli designer Ruth Kedar in 1999. In retrospect, updating the logo is not a surprising move. It should have been expected that the structural change Google underwent - from a parent company to a subsidiary controlled by a new corporation by the name of Alphabet Inc., which was announced just a few weeks beforehand - would also lead to a visual change.

[Google's first logo, designed by Israeli designer Ruth Kedar in 1999]

A logo is generally considered a graphic element that should not be changed. It features prominently on a big organization's products, and it is customary to avoid changing its original colors in order to preserve corporate image. Google, however, has never adhered to a "holy logo" policy, and consequently, while the great excitement over the change is understandable, at the same time it is also perplexing. How, then, does a logo that changes every day and is updated in accordance with the events of the day and place, at times to the extent that only a vague memory remains of the original logo, manage to preserve identity? It seems that in Google's case, not only have the amusing paraphrases of the logo in daily homepage doodles not made us forget the basic logo, they have made it into an original. A singular, differentiated, unmistakable, and familiar original in a copy/paste era that makes it difficult to put ones finger on the starting point of visual phenomena and verbal content.

Whenever a company chooses to change its logo, the change is attended by a press release explaining how the new design embodies the company's current values and the reasons that led to its design. From that moment all the company's products are updated and bear the new logo. Google outdid itself and, in keeping with tradition, the press release is attended by a charming, entertaining, and amusing doodle. In contrast with the official press release, the doodle not only exposes us to the new logo, but it is also indicative of the company's attitude toward the change the company itself initiated, and it is interesting to examine how the company chooses to present the transition from old to new, from past to future.

Various ceremonies in different cultures represent the inauguration or launching of something new: unveiling, for example, casts an aura of mystery and surprise over the change, and provides spectators with only a slight hint of the change by abstracting the hidden object and only exposing its general outlines. Cutting a ribbon delimits a certain space and references a content world originating in gifts and decorative ornaments. These visual gestures relate to change, but look forward to the future, without any reference to that which preceded the change. This is not the case with the video Google launched.

The doodle begins with the old serif logo, which is erased by an anonymous hand. The hand misses some of the logo, and returns to vigorously erase it all. It is only when the work surface is completely clean that the new sans-serif version is written with chalk. Like many of the doodles Google has presented to date, the logo doodle, too, is naïve and humorous. Google's appearance is not intimidating and has always conveyed naivety, even though in its mission statement the company states: "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Google's apparent naivety features in the video on a number of levels: the first is the colors of the logo, the old one and the new one - primary colors: red, blue, green and yellow. The second is the choice of a computerized technique simulating writing with chalk, which possibly conducts a dialogue with the launch date, September 1, the first day of the school year, a date that symbolizes embarking on a new path in life. Writing with chalk is a technique that goes back to the era of childhood outdoor games, and conveys amusement, innocence, and impermanence, since words written in chalk can easily be erased.

And indeed, the action the anonymous hand performs is one of erasing the old logo - the logo of the past. The past can be preserved, forgotten, suppressed, gathered, accumulated, piled up, stored, catalogued, organized, or - as Google would have it - made to disappear. The past, according to Google, can be erased. Google's erasure does not even leave a trace on the "work surface" or on the erasing hand, the executor. Although in reality the use of chalk does not completely erase the existence of things, but blurs them and leaves them alongside the new doodle.

[Google's previous logo (top) in contrast with the new one, which was updated on September 1, 2015]

A childlike and amusing appearance in contrast with a concept such as erasure of the past creates a disturbing, even distressing disparity, especially in light of the fact that it is formulated by a company that perpetuates our everyday and virtual actions, and makes it difficult for us, its customers, to remove or erase embarrassing, offensive, or humiliating information from the internet. Whereas until now the argument has revolved around Google's unlimited ability to gather and save information about us, it seems that we should be more concerned about the possibility that it will remove our presence from virtual space; a presence that with time is becoming no less significant than our actual presence. Thus, the most amusing part of the doodle - the seconds during which the hand misses part of the old logo and returns to erase every last trace of it - also becomes the most distressing.


Ironically, the endless repetitiveness of the doodle, which at first shows the old, serif logo over and over, emphasizes Google's helplessness in controlling the events of the past, not to mention erasing or removing them, despite its vast power and resources.

To Google's Doodle Archive >>>

* Google joins a long list of companies that decided to change their logo in recent years, including PayPal, Pizza Hut, Penguin Books, and The Oxford English Dictionary. One of the most striking changes is in the logo of American Airlines. The original logo was designed by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli in 1968, and with the exception of stylistic updates no changes were made to it for forty years. The original logo started out as typographic logo - the initials of the company name in Helvetica typeface, one "A" in blue and the second one in red, the colors of the American flag, and between them an eagle swooping down on its prey. The new logo features the company's full name, and the eagle, also in the colors of the American flag, is more central and has undergone an abstraction process. The abstraction has removed the eagle's identifying and distinguishing features, such as its hooked beak, but brings it closer to the semantic field of aeronautics with its resemblance to aircraft wings, emphasizing dynamism with diagonal lines and shadows; and unlike the original logo it presents an upward directionality, namely soaring up as opposed to swooping down.

[The new American Airlines logo (right) in contrast with the old classic one]




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