Design Disasters: 7 Of The Worst Logos Of All Time

When you encounter a new brand the first indicator of its identity is its logo. Logos are the face of any brand. Better yet, logos are one of the greatest marketing tools. What your logo says, determines how much people will connect with it. In most cases, you can say what industry a logo belongs to by carefully studying it. It is a very vocal brand asset. 

A carefully crafted logo will speak volumes about how professional your company is. Regardless of the type of logo you use, it’s an important asset in your brand’s repertoire.

And interestingly, most logos have embedded messages in them. Some are more obvious than others. Then there are the messages that they never intended to send yet ended up sending anyway. These can be comical or controversial. But whatever the case, a logo that can be misinterpreted is a bad logo. And that’s a huge liability for your brand.

In this blog we break down some of the worst logos of all time so that you can learn from their mistakes.

Let’s jump right into it then.

7 worst logos of all time

1. The London 2012 Olympics Logo

The London 2012 Olympics Logo was under much scrutiny since its debut. The bizarrely placed elements are supposed to be the year “2012”. 

The Olympic logo gives its host country the opportunity to show off its culture. However, England seems to have gone in a much different direction. We’re not even sure if they knew which direction they were going in. 

Different groups of people assign meaning to this absurd logo, based on their social, political, or religious standings. On one side, the Iranians were dead opposed to it and claimed it read the word “ZION”. They did not tolerate the word’s religious and political implications. 

On another side, there were people claiming it looked like a Swastika. But the most disturbing interpretation was that the logo had sexually explicit positioning. Some people joked that it looked like the cartoon characters Lisa Simpson and Bart Simpson committing immoral behavior. Yes, it’s quite disturbing.

The other fact remains that it has nothing to do with the Olympic games themselves except for the Olympic rings logo placed on the ‘supposed’ number zero. 

The problem with this logo design as many argue is the crude and jagged appearance of the number 2012. It’s open to much interpretation because of its unruly shape. For example, the recurring number 2 does not even look uniform. A journalist by the name of Simon Garfield, in his book Just My Type made this font number 1 in his list of “8 worst fonts in the world”. 

None of the design principles that govern the crafting of a logo have gone into this design. It looks like a lazy excuse for a logo given that the price tag reads £400,000

This ultimately goes down as one of the worst logos of all time.

2. The Tropicana Logo

Tropicana is a family-favorite brand of fruit juice. It has been around since the 1940s. So you can imagine how long people have had to engage with this brand and grow in love not only for its contents but with the brand itself.

 Although there have been slight changes to the logo throughout the years, nothing compares to the rebranding blunder that happened in 2009. 

It was most certainly not well received by loyal consumers. As part of their rebranding not only did they change the beloved carton, but they decided to go in a whole other direction for their logo.  

Tropicana shifted from their traditional logo style with its unique green color and traditional typeface to a more minimal-looking modern logo.

There was a 20% decline in sales since the logo and the packaging changed. This tells you how much people rely on the outer look of a product.

But why does this really deserve to go down as one of the worst logos of all time? Some might argue that the logo itself looks pretty cool. What then is the problem here?

The agency responsible for this rebranding had tampered with people’s emotions that were tied down to the product. The marketers at Tropicana didn’t account for sentimental value. That’s what makes this one of the worst logos of all time. 

It doesn’t matter if you think you’re adjusting to the times or if you’re trying to keep up with popular trends. It’s best to avoid making drastic changes when you’re rebranding if your audience already loves your brand.

This is a good lesson for marketers to consider when coming up with new and innovative concepts for an existing brand. As the saying goes, Old is Gold. 

3. The 2010 Gap Logo

Another brand that flopped in attempting to modernize its logo is the clothing retailer Gap. Gap’s longest-standing logo version is the serif typeface logo set in a blue box. This is the typeface that we associate with Gap clothing and anyone who has been a loyal customer of the brand knows it very well. 

When they decided to rebrand it, (for who-knows-what reason) they completely compromised its unique brand identity. Loyal consumers found it hard to associate the clothing brand with this new logo. As a result, it was short-lived. To be exact it only lasted a week owing to the displeasure of consumers. They immediately reverted back to their old version. 

Gap’s decision to make a drastic change to its logo sprang up from the want to make it more contemporary. Opting for a Helvetica font which was a complete deviation from the previous typeface was not a suitable decision. Not to mention the iconic blue box was diminished to a small square at the side. 

People were so used to the sleek tall all-caps wordmark logo that this new chunky sentence case version didn’t relate well with them at all. The identity of the brand was lost making it one of the worst logos of all time. When designing logos for clothing brands minimalism is key. The old Gap logo already had that factor. It’s hard to imagine why they needed to make that unnecessary change.

When rebranding, one of the biggest mistakes brands make is going too big. Especially once you’ve established well as a brand you should not go and make obvious changes to your logo. Your logo is like the face of your company. When you change that familiar face, consumers lose their trust in you. 

4. The Pepsi “New Generation” Logo 

Out of this list, Pepsi is deemed as the company that changes its logo way too often. 

One of the main reasons why Pepsi keeps rebranding and making changes to its original logo is because it too closely resembles its predecessor and nemesis, Coca-Cola. These rebrandings have cost them quite a fortune over the years. 

In 2009 the Arnell Group were given the task of rebranding the Pepsi logo and this is what they came up with. 

It was not received well by consumers. The globe and its weird wave in the middle seemed to create such discussion among people. And not in a good way.

Below is an example of how some people were making fun of the new logo. 

With the incoming critique, there was a document released explaining in depth what the globe and the wave meant. People found the explanation even more absurd. It was like they were trying to instill meaning into their failed logo design. 

Another fun nugget to keep you intrigued, it was this same brand consultancy company that messed up the Tropicana logo. Imagine being responsible for messing with 2 well-known brands. Could be part of the reason they ended up closing shop in 2013.

This rebranding of Pepsi goes down as one of the worst logos of all time because of its absurd globe element that made no logical sense to its target audience. 

5. The 2010 Winter Olympic Games Logo

This logo truly deserves a place on the list of worst logos of all time. The 2010 Winter Olympic Games logo includes an element that some people (who knew what it meant) found extremely disturbing.

The logo features a man made of rocks which was actually a representation of an inuksuk. An Inuksuk is a stone landmark built in honor of a dead person. There are other instances where they have been used to mark other things of a similar nature. However, many felt that the main concept here was not suitable for the occasion.

Some deem that it pays tribute to the inuksuk set in place by Alvin Kanak at English Bay. Supposedly both inuksuks are meant to be an indication of welcoming the world. We assume this is why the artist came up with this concept. Most people wouldn’t hear of this though. 

While the heart of the designer was in the right place, trying to showcase the host country’s culture, their approach to it has not been wholly a success. 

The fact that the emblem represents death is quite disturbing, given that this is a sporting event. 

The structure of the logo also seems a bit childish as well for an Olympics logo. One native leader from Nunavut, a Canadian territory, claimed that the emblem looked like Pac-Man

It’s also surprising that this was chosen from out of 1,600 entries. So you can see why this is clearly one of the worst logos of all time. 

6. The Airbnb Logo

Airbnb’s new logo design launch made people take a double-take. And not for the right reasons. The famous company that lets individuals rent private rooms, had to face the wrath of the internet audience due to its logo design.

The design company called DesignStudio which was responsible for this campaign, actually had some lovely thoughts that went into the creation of this logo. Here’s an illustration of their thought process from their case study

In their case study, they call this emblem the “Belo”. They say that since it can be drawn by anyone anywhere, it transcends languages and cultures just like Airbnb’s welcoming spirit. 

This may be a lovely sentiment but sentiment has no value in a world where the slightest thing can be misinterpreted. There were crude interpretations of the logo that don’t bode well to be pictured here but people went crazy with it. That’s why it deserves a place on this list of worst logos.

The designers at DesignStudio were so caught up in their very suitable and appealing theory behind the logo that no one stopped to think about how it could be viewed by the larger audience. 

Not to mention it had an uncanny resemblance with the Automation Anywhere logo. This too stirred up concern as to why they didn’t do their homework before venturing in this direction.

We wouldn’t say Airbnb intended to copy their logo but they should’ve looked into the similarities further before proceeding.

From a designer’s perspective the logo does look nice with its minimal and modern look but if the larger audience is triggered to scrutinize in a negative way then something has definitely gone wrong. 

7. The BP Logo

BP, formerly known as The British Petroleum Company plc has been found guilty of depicting something they clearly don’t stand for.  We all know that you can’t stand for something that you clearly are working against. 

In 2000 they went for a logo rebrand which had them change their logo from a shield emblem into a logo with a sun-like shape that had green tones. Quite pro-earth. 

As seen above, the progression of the different logos across the years doesn’t seem too bad. Nothing controversial happening here. 

But take a look at the new logo here. It screams green initiative.

This logo failure is one of the top examples to show that your brand values and your brand’s logo need to coincide. It may not seem like it, but people are very much invested in how much your brand stands for what you showcase. In fact, 42% of consumers believe that a brand’s personality is reflected by its logo.

This rebranding was however not made an issue till the year 2010 when BP was responsible for the biggest oil spill in the history of marine oil drilling operations. This company with a logo that seemed eco-friendly was completely tainted by this incident. 

They spent millions of dollars on this rebranding instead of directing this money to projects that mattered. They worked on their outward appearance which turned out to be a mere facade. Their real operations were completely contradictory to what they communicated with their logo.

And for that reason, this makes it to our list of worst logos of all time. 

What’s the takeaway?

  1. Design culturally appropriate logos when creating for special occasions and events.
  2. Try and avoid controversial subjects and insignia when designing cultural logos. 
  3. If your logo has been around for a while and consumers have made no complaints regarding it don’t go for drastic changes during a rebranding.
  4. Don’t add elements to your logo that have no meaning. There has to be a real story behind it that relates to your brand. 
  5. You may have a well-thought-out story behind your logo but don’t forget to test it out before launching. There may be others outside your team that can provide valuable input. 
  6. Make sure your logo is a valid representation of your brand’s values. People care about these things, even more so than you think.

If you’re in the pursuit of creating your brand’s logo be sure to take a lesson or two from these worst logos of all time so that you can avoid these mistakes. Remember that creating a great logo for your brand is an important feat for the future of your brand. 

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