by Art Chantry:
i love this thing. it’s the new J C Penney’s logo that is just now hitting the streets. i think it’s one of the most brilliant examples in the current crop of terrible new corprorate logos in america today.
this morning my partner, maire (spelled correctly), and i were looking at it and chatting about how they could have possibly ended up with such a wretched design. my first reaction was they were trying to compete with target or macy’s in the “who can come up with a better iconcographic symbol printed in RED ink” contest. if this is their entry into that compettiton, they lose. it’s not red, it’s red and blue (and white). and it’s a SQUARE! jcpenny’s has ALWAYS been incredibly square and unhip in my recollection. so, they blew it.
i also noticed that the lowercase type treatment in the blue square still evoked the old penney’s logotype. the round letterforms and the light line weight puts it smack in the same family as the fine line old logo they used for decades. so, that must be a little nod to their history right, right? it’s their link to the past? doesn’t work very well. i’ll give it a c+.
the reason for my mediocre grade on that type is they also decided to give THE GAP a run for it’s money by placing that monogram in a BLUE SQUARE inside their RED SQUARE. i mean, can you be more blatantly copycat that copying not only your own old logo, but also copying your main competitors’ (plural) logos like target, macy’s and the gap? your kidding, right?
maire looked at the thing and said, “well, you know what they’re doing, right? penney’s has always been the cornerstone of the shopping mall.. that’s a diagram of penney’s status as an anchor store at your favorite shopping mall. it’s a metaphor.” maire thinks that way, so i had to listen. and she just might be right. this incredibly lame egotistical metaphor may also INTENTIONALLY be there. crazy, huh?
but, after she said that, i had to one-up her (as per my obnoxious personality). i held up the new logo and said to her, “i can do better than that. look at this. it’s the AMERICAN FLAG.” she cringed.
yup, if you look at this thing, you see that it is trying to steal the basic design idea (primitively, at that) of the red/white&blue american flag as their logo. ick. i mean, that’s downright insulting (at least to me.) do you think we’re stupid? well, yeah. as lawrence o’donnell likes to say about the american electorate on his msnbc “news” show, politicians (aka ‘businessmen’) know the american public is “wicked stupid.”
ok. so, know step back and imagine two entire TEAMS of corporate dorks sitting in board rooms and on conference calls – one side is the jcpenney’s people (the pod people, let’s call them). they are rich and powerful and desperate to save their sorry asses. they have big big money and they are willing to throw it at anybody who can sell them on their salvation (aka, ‘modernize this sucker’). they are motivated by the ultimate FEAR of imminent destruction. the void beckons them. and they don’t want to get cheated.
on the other side is the advertising/design/marketing folks pitching a new ‘branding concept.’(we’ll call them the vampires). they ar
ngry and smell blood money. they think they’re going to get the account to rebrand that old warhorse known as ‘penney’s.’ it’s like a pack of wolves who have singled out the old weak silverback in the big herd and have managed to separate it from the safety of the sheer bulk of prey. their teeth are sharp and they are salivating.
here’s the confrontation: these two teams (and they extend beyond the room itself) are trying to take advantage of the situation and of each other – literally like two sports teams on the field. they are assessing weakness and strengths. but, it’s really no contest. the vampires have the pod people by the short and curlies. it’s time to move in for the kill. and the pod people are deeply deeply afraid – will they survive to manage to die out slowly of old age? or, will they be eaten by the predators and fail miserably at escape?
the result is this logo. i imagine the vampires used every single thing i pointed out above as part of their sales pitch to the pods. they SOLD THE MOTHERFUCKER! i would dearly love to have witnessed this presentation. it must have been like watching najinsky dance. this logo has EVERYTHING! i mean EVERYTING! and it’s all rolled into one big convenient package to swallow whole in a single gulp. it’s a pill to revive the biggest weariest beast. it’s salvation, a path to follow to achieve nirvana.
(a poison pill? go ask curt.)
the pods must have been skeptical at first (trying to drive the price tag down). they are always feeling like they are being had by the vampire elite, sucked off, so to speak. so, they are carefull and weigh all the options. they can actually SEE all those ideas worked into this logo. they finally realize they are getting it ALL FOR THE PRICE OF ONE LOGO! i mean, BEAT THAT!!! it’s like using a sledgehammer to pound a nail, right? ther’s NO WAY it WON’T work and it’ll work so well that the competition with be CRUSHED by the sheer gonzo massiveness of the thing! why it’s a new and cool and american as apple pie, itself as jcpenney’s itself!! this sucker WORKS!!! IT”S HOT!!!
the vampires get their gallons and gallons of blood. the pods buy salvation (and they assume, a future) by opening up their veins. they have to spend even more to apply the thing (and that’s where the real blood flows. that is the cherry the vampires are biting into, not the logo itself, it’s all about APPLICATION man-hours.) everybody walks away happy from battle and american graphic design has another legendary success to lionize and award and hope they can somehow brown nose away a piece of that huge pie. it’s GOOD FOR BUSINESS.
this is called the “design process.” committees of experts voicing opinions and informing their council and mulling it over – brainstorming! this is how graphic design is supposed to operate to create the best of the best. this is what everybody is taught and this is how the entire industry is structured.
of course, the only problem, the elephant in the room nobody sees? nobody ever notices what an fucking ugly-ass piece of shit this logo actually is.
AC:i think the new “moniker” acronym is sort of a spin-off of a corporate culture fad to give everything little letters to refer to. kentucky fried chicken became KFC. pepsi-cola became pepsico, then just a logo. it’s all that sort of abbreviating that is part of the lingo of corporate speak. have you ever read an internal report from within a big company? it’s all acronyms that mean absolutely nothing to an outsider. but if you are “in the know”, you understand what is being said. the government does it too (especially the military). it becomes a sort of subcultural “team player’ language/mentality that they all forget doesn’t translate outside their boundaries. so, now, penney’s is JCP. i imagine if you brought the problem up to anybody inside the corporation, they wouldn’t understand what the problem is. they’ve been calling it that for decades, i’ll bet.