Logo Critiques: Formula 1 and Houzz

Zach Stevens

Creative Director & Founder

February 7, 2018

It’s been one helluva year

Keeping up with some of the biggest brands and their new identities has designers’ heads spinning. Classic logos were put through the gauntlet for massive overhauls. I was super excited, as it’s a pleasure to see how these companies evolve and how they adapt their identities to better fit the ambitions. Everything seemed cool until I got on the designer forums and saw nothing but negativity. More importantly, negativity riddled in subjective critiques.

“I hate that color.”

“That’s so boring, I can’t believe they paid millions of dollars for that.”

“Blah blah, why can’t I get paid millions of dollars to do that, blah blah.”

“I don’t like it.”

Chris Cocker, leave the logos alone
Leave the logos alone!

This is what separates big league designers from rookies

We wrote an article not too long ago about how to gauge the effectiveness of a logo. Within that article, we discussed that subjective polling is a terrible process for developing effective identities. So, during these critiques, we will not be taking a stance based on personal preference. We will instead uncover why these organizations wanted a new identity and if the responsible agencies delivered a new identity that fulfilled the mission. Big league designers go into these projects with objective goals, so we must critique them with the understanding that they were solving a problem.

Formula 1 by Wieden and Kennedy

F1 New logo and old logo

Normally, I’d take the side of any logo that utilizes gestalt principles to make the viewer part of the process. Allowing them to put the pieces together to understand that the “1” is generated by the space between the “F” and blur graphics is a surefire method of engagement. But, there are drawbacks to this logo that outweigh that experience. The full color logo is only effective on lighter backgrounds and it hasn’t aged well to fit digitally. Apart from that, the organization was also acquired by Liberty Media and needed to revamp the perceptions of the brand. Carey Chase of Liberty Media gave this statement regarding the new identity:

"What we wanted to do was provide a fresh energy to the sport and I think we have a lot of plans for the future, a lot of things we want to do and we thought the logo was a good way to emphasize the excitement, fresh energy and a new day to take the sport to a new place… That's respecting what the sport has been. We're not looking to change the sport, we're looking to provide a fresh innovation and energy to a great sport that we can enhance in a number of ways."

Fresh energy

New leadership is change. The brand didn’t change as far as services or core competencies, it’s still a high-performance racing brand, but they needed to showcase adaptability.

Plans for the future

Formula 1’s previous logo was 30 years old and while there are some logos that have stood the test of time, they did not believe that to be the case with their mark. This is a simple business decision, if you’re unable to move forward, your business dies. Embodying the rush of tomorrow was a core goal of the new identity.

Technical Improvements

When designing a new logo, it’s important to gauge all aspects of application. For example, a pen manufacturer needs a logo that maintains form at less than .25” in height. Formula 1’s logo was applied to their website, merchandise, signage, digital media, and several other environments. It even holds up as a favicon and works as a one color graphic. These are benefits the old logo could not achieve. When the new identity is looked at as a whole, it becomes clear that Formula 1 is striving to be on the forefront of professional racing.

New F1 Logo on helmets
The new logo is easily integrated into odd shapes like helmets

Did the new logo accomplish Formula 1’s goals?

By my records, yea. Without so many components, the new logo looks faster. Slanting forward as if to cross the finish before a competitor. Since it is so different from the previous version, F1’s new logo rekindled a vitality within the company and generated that “fresh energy.” Lastly, the new look is easier to work with from a design standpoint, capable of standing alone completely, big, small, on any background, and next to any other supporting graphics.

New F1 Logo
Que bella

Houzz by Paula Scher of Pentagram

Old Houzz Logo and New Houzz Logo

I never actually knew what Houzz did until they redesigned their logo and worked with one of my favorite designers. They have an office in San Diego, but I had always assumed they were a telemarketing conglomerate or some kind of sales company. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one either. One of the primary objectives that Houzz’s designer director, Tom Hacohen, had was to create a direct association with Houzz and homes.

“Our goal was to create a simplified and clean look that better represents our brand today as the only place where you can find everything to design or renovate your home, from inspiration to products to home professionals… We wanted our new logo to be warm and to clearly communicate home, while keeping the ‘h’ and the word ‘houzz’ recognizable.”

Simplified and clean look

Effective logos are not complicated. In fact there is not a single, well known logo I know of that is more than two shapes and a solid color. Houzz’s old logo was derived from a technical, 3D “h.” Based off the requests that were made with the new logo, I would speculate that not enough viewers were able to make association with the letterform. Paula Scher did what designers do best, she distilled the intricate into something easily understood.

Warm

Depending on who you ask, the new logo may not be considered warm. But it is clear between the old logo and the new one which is warmer. By changing up the green to a lighter tint, simplifying the shape, and emboldening the typography, Houzz’s identity took on a friendlier appearance.

Clearly communicate home

Hacohen used a key distinction in her description: home, not house. We associate different emotions with the word “home” than we would “house.” A house could be representative of safety, shelter from the elements, craftsmanship and other, tangible adjectives. But home is synonymous with life, joy, community, and family. Houzz is trying to preview the intrinsic benefits of their products and services rather than the products and services themselves.

Technical Improvements

Simplifying the logo to one shape made for easier application across multiple platforms, including an app icon, horizontal and vertical lockups, scalability, and multicolor use. Unfortunately the old logo was too complex to size down and the multitude of colors made it complicated to place among other graphics.

New Houzz logo, vertical lockup
new houzz logo multi color

Did the new logo accomplish Houzz’s goals?

This is tough because I know there were time constraints and while this logo is all around better than the previous version, I do wonder if more could have been done. Specifically, I wonder how the concept of home could have been pushed. I agree that it does connote the idea of family and living in harmony, but I think there is room for diving deeper. That being said, this was a major step up from the previous, hard-to-decipher logo and is easier to work with.

new houzz logo

That’s all folks

Thanks for reading. I had a lot of fun writing this article and nerding out over these new marks and plan on writing more as new identities come about. That’s where I need your help, if you can think of a new identity you’d want to dissect shoot me an email with details!

zach@sygnalstudios.com

Is your brand working?

We'll send a brand report card to you so you can find out

Awesome, check your inbox for the report card.
Whoa there, something isn't quite right with that submission.

Want to learn more about branding?

Sign up for our email list

We got some good stuff in store for you.
Check you inbox for a confirmation email.
Whoa there, something isn't quite right with that submission.

Ready to rebrand?

Let's light this candle

We will get back to you soon.
Check you inbox for a confirmation email.
Whoa there, something isn't quite right with that submission.

Some other articles you might enjoy.

Want to learn more?

Get on the up-and-up with brand thinking by subscribing to our blog, we'll send new articles to you.

Thanks! We will get back to you within 24 hours.
Check you inbox for a confirmation email.
Whoa there, something isn't quite right with that submission.