An Open Letter To…

October 7th, 2010 by Mat Dolphin

Today Gap have announced on their Facebook Page that they’re considering the idea of ‘crowd sourcing’ logo ideas as a result of the backlash their new logo design has received this week.

In a response to their move which could be pure genius or naive, we decided to write an open letter to Gap which we posted on the page as a response.


Click here to see our post from yesterday – Bridging the Gap


Dear Gap,

I’ll start by letting you know that I’m one half of the design agency Mat Dolphin, based in London, UK. As an agency we’re focused on helping people and companies build better brands.

This week you launched (if that’s the word, as it seemed less fanfare and more under the radar) your new brand identity – a new logo created by your long term advertising agency in the US, Laird & Partners. With no PR release to mark its arrival, the new logo suddenly appeared on your website. There was no tie-in ad campaign or TV slots, it just appeared.

As a branding exercise you went for a revolutionary response to your logo design, rather than an evolutionary development. With no rationale, explanation or statement to the new look, your customers, the public, the design world, and pretty much everyone who has access to Twitter, Facebook or any other social media network has had no option other than to judge the logo on first look. You confused your audience, and left them no other option than to dislike what they see.

As a marketing exercise though I have to congratulate you. As yet I’m not sure if this is for your naivety or your wisdom, but hats off. I’m not a customer of your product, but I’m now talking about your brand. Yesterday we wrote a blog post (Bridging The Gap) on how designers have reacted to the logo and how perhaps we all need to give the logo some time and let it develop. It’s the most successful post we’ve ever written with over 8,000 hits, some 220 Facebook Likes, 219+ retweets on twitter, and 45 people left thoughtful and considered comments. People who might not have shopped in your stores, looked at your website or even thought about the design of your previous logo are now talking about your brand. And now you’re suggesting the idea of ‘crowd sourcing’ what people think. A genius idea to keep the news fresh in peoples minds, and to engage them in your brand. I even had to ‘Like’ your page to be able to leave this comment.

The moment we saw your new look we didn’t have an issue with it, but we wanted to understand the thinking. The hype you’ve created around this new logo though is incredible and we’re pretty sure that in the long term it won’t affect your brand or sales. As we’ve said many times before to clients, in previous blog posts and in discussions with other designers, a brand is more than just a logo.

Whether or not you go back to the existing logo or not due to peer pressure remains to be seen, but if I were American Apparel or Uniqlo right now, I’d be calling my Ad agency straight away to start thinking about about a new marketing campaign to get anywhere near this coverage.


Feel free to leave your own comments.

15 Responses to “An Open Letter To…”

  1. Bad design as a strategic move? Nothing is sacred in advertising…

    Comment by JAWN — October 7th, 2010 @ 3:42 pm |
  2. The design community has undertaken a crowdsourced design project to do a better job with the GAP Logo:

    Already, there are numerous logos that have been created that are better than what Gap’s agency came up with.

    Comment by Matt Mickiewicz — October 7th, 2010 @ 5:42 pm |
  3. i guess we’ve all fallen for the hype because we cant get enough of what people think about the “new” logo. who gives a shit? its the same old same old with the execs. they cant come up with something on their own so they compare products, cross reference companies and demographics. “Hey look at AA, they’ve got a clean look. Hey Laird & Partners, can we do what they are doing but different?” Laird & Partners, “yes, yes we can. we can use Helvetica, make some slight adjustments to the type and add a highlight from the old logo. this will confuse everyone and revitalize “your brand” and it wont cost you that much right now”. “Then we can make your websites all together in a fantastic template so consumers can see the difference in quality of your products, blah blah”
    One cop out logo and a shitty web site later we are all talking about it, now they want to do a “crowd sourcing”, the old “we care about what you think so we are gonna pretend that we give a shit and listen to your logo ideas, but in reality we are just gonna take all of those “hits” and “comments” and show our stakeholders that we actually do have a hold of our customers, not just humping American Apparel’s look”. Or maybe they learned something from the “Tropicana” incident, hmmmm. Is it Friday in London yet? Good times.

    Comment by Nick — October 7th, 2010 @ 6:11 pm |
  4. Matt Mickiewicz, I looked at the designs at 99designs and they are not any better that the gap redesign. All of them are: insert random free typeface + Blue box, there is not research or concept behind them. Just cheap and crappy design.

    Comment by Andres — October 8th, 2010 @ 2:09 am |
  5. What I want to know is: did they even use an agency or a designer to make this logo?

    As designers, we’ve all had clients that tried to control the creative process and in the process, screwed themselves and their company by not relying on the designer to do what their paid for and pushed through the horrible design they came up with themselves. This looks like that.

    Comment by Protoguy — October 8th, 2010 @ 8:53 am |
  6. This whole thing has to be a viral PR stunt!

    Comment by Keith — October 8th, 2010 @ 12:24 pm |
  7. MAT:
    I am also in branding, and appreciate your cool-headedness. However, there are a couple of issues not addressed in your post or letter:

    1) The old “GAP square” was so out it is in again — has no one in their design firm noticed that in 2010, from FB to Twitter to favicons, logos are SQUARE? They threw away the most current aspect (and retain the old square as their Twitter / FB avatars)

    2) I have not seen anyone question the issues with the tiny gradient square in being embroidered in a label, but I foresee this as a real possible issue for an apparel brand.

    3) In the modern branding and Social Media Marketing world, does “continue the conversation” / “join the converstaion” even have meaning any more? Is deliberately f***ing up in order to create “dialogue” a legitimate replacement in our business for making well-reasoned decisions in the first place? I recently did a campaign with a “social marketing firm” who mis-spelled the product’s name in their posts! When the client nailed them they said “It’s called ‘dropped handkerchief marketing’ — there is no such thing as a ‘mistake’, we are opening the opportunity for people to join the conversation and correct us” What a load of bollocks! Honestly, if we in marketing follow this trend we will devalue our profession to the bottom of the barrel, like Realtors have.

    4) Crowdsourcing: see point 3. Does this not anger your calm head even a bit?

    Comment by Strepsi — October 8th, 2010 @ 2:32 pm |
  8. f**k you 99designs for degenerating the design industry.

    Comment by pablo — October 8th, 2010 @ 2:51 pm |
  9. Guys, can we keep this on topic. We’re all entitled to an opinion but lets discuss the post.


    Comment by Mat Dolphin — October 8th, 2010 @ 2:55 pm |
  10. excellent insight. i wonder how this will play out…

    Comment by wei — October 8th, 2010 @ 2:56 pm |
  11. In keeping on topic and discussing the article… Too flim-flam… to whishy-washy… Sorry. You can’t make everyone happy all the time, and writing a non-position position paper about what is ostensibly the most publicly flogged re-branding in history is either trying to win more bees with honey or trying to say nothing but get attention… neither of which are strategies that really work in the creative world.

    Neither your letter nor the article that precedes it bring up any relevant elements of the debate. Neither address the backlash in any competent way. Neither address the “crowd sourcing” issue at all. Neither say *anything* to create movement in any direction. Only thing I can say is that as an art director you’ve failed to say something that could generate any movement and, not to tell you how to do your job, the best art directors in the world are the best because they gather the right people and inspire them to do something. Your article and open letter only inspired this critique of your article and open letter.

    Comment by James Jackson — October 8th, 2010 @ 5:37 pm |
  12. As a designer of over 10 years I have seen the highs and lows of the creative industry. This PR stunt has to be one of the top five of the LOWS.

    Comment by Josh T. — October 14th, 2010 @ 4:48 pm |
  13. I like that you mentioned American Apparel. Seems as if GAP couldn’t resist aping the look of its youthful rival. serifs are sooo stodgy. it is the same as if it were 1994, GAP would have sprinkled a little David Carson salt to capture the beach culture moment. Actually, I think Pepsi tried that. It’s all very curious. The new starbucks logo – a clear extension of one of the few super brands, one that is so ubiquitous, it can confidently push forward without its name. The new GAP logo – a fumbling me too stumble… or as you rightfully point out – or so it appears (without context). If it is all a carefully crafted PR stunt – I would have loved to have been in that pitch meeting. After all, they weren’t purposefully releasing a terrible line of clothing to get people talking – for that would be akin to Tylenol slipping a little cyanide into their tablets to get people talking. Thanks for the post – enjoyed it.

    Comment by Hans Lushina — January 6th, 2011 @ 3:58 pm |