When Mark Zuckerberg announced last month that Facebook was changing its name, the company published an elegant animation online that showed logos of all the apps and their products merging to form a sparkling vision of the future: a two-tone blue infinity symbol next to the word “meta.”
The new symbol and name change was a nod to Mr. Zuckerberg’s plans to refocus the Silicon Valley giant on what he sees as the union of different digital worlds into the so-called metaverse, the immersive, interconnected web space largely made possible by augmented and virtual reality. “Metaverset is the next frontier when it comes to connecting people,”[ads1]; he said in a statement.
For design experts, the change to a scandal-ridden company was the latest example of corporate America’s efforts to create brands that are less unique and ultimately less offensive. It was also a reflection of the growing challenge for corporate identities to exist in many different sizes and digital settings simultaneously, from VR headsets to smartwatches – a challenge that is magnified for Meta as it tries to establish an identity for something that largely does. does not exist yet.
“It checks a lot of boxes,” said Michael Evamy, author of “Logo,” an anthology of corporate brands and logos. ‘It’s very simple. It is very visible on all scales. It is blue. “(Blue, he noted, is historically a color associated with security and reliability. The infinity symbol, devoid of corners and jagged edges, can be seen as non-threatening.)
“But in a way, it looks exactly as you expect,” Mr. Evamy added. “A kind of overwhelming and risk-taking.”
Users and legislators around the world are increasingly examining the broad reach of Facebook, whose products – including Instagram and WhatsApp – are used by more than 3.6 billion people every month. Even as Facebook grew to become one of the most valuable companies in the world, it spent the last few years going from one embarrassing scandal to the next. Most recently, a former employee who was a notifier published a large amount of internal documents, arguing that Zuckerberg and Facebook routinely make a profit on people’s well-being.
Mr. Zuckerberg said last month that the name change was a reflection of how much Facebook had evolved. “Right now, our brand is so closely linked to one product that it is impossible to represent everything we do today, let alone in the future,” he said.
Facebook has long been associated with the lowercase “f” logo – a simple brand, but one that became globally recognizable as Facebook grew. The company’s other apps also have bold and colorful logos, which remain as part of rebranding.
Because Mr. Zuckerberg’s vision for the future rests on virtual reality, the company wanted a new logo that felt more dynamic and immersive. In March, the company began developing a logo by focusing “only on exploring concepts of movement, dimensionality and perspective”, Zach Stubenvoll, Sam Halle and Marian Chiao, members of its internal design team, said in an email.
When using a VR headset, people often use a controller to draw boundaries for their virtual experience. Meta’s designers said that the color loop in the new logo, which eventually twists into the infinity symbol, was inspired by these boundary lines.
The design community’s response to Facebook’s change has largely been dampened.
“This symbol does not excite the metaverse,” said Mr. Evamy. “The opportunity they have missed is to produce something really exciting and transformative in their own way.”
Many other brands have very similar infinity symbol logos, including those for web development software sold by Microsoft, a model of Top Flite golf balls, a wealth management company and the rock band Hoobastank. A service owned by Meta called Boomerang also uses an infinite symbol.
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“An infinite loop is not very unique,” said Jessica Walsh, founder and creative director of the design studio & Walsh. “Unlike many brands, however, they are in a privileged position where they do not have to trust that their logo is clear for it to be memorable.”
Paula Scher, a partner at Pentagram, a design consulting firm with clients such as Bloomberg, Citibank and Tiffany, said she had seen increasing pressure for the company’s brand logos to move and be multidimensional. Several years ago, for example, Google added animation to its logo. But Mrs Scher pointed out that making a logo more flexible risked making it less recognizable.
Rodrigo Corral, a book cover designer who has also worked with rapper Jay-Z and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, often incorporates animation into his design work for clients. “But the logo must stand alone,” he warned. “It has to work without movement first.”
In recent years, brands have had to adapt their logos and identities to a wider range of digital platforms. Since websites that were once only viewed on desktops provided space for smartphone apps, logos had to work in smaller and smaller contexts – tiny squares and circles in social media or miniature dots on smartwatches. Virtual reality offers yet another platform for brands to adapt, one that is inherently defined by motion and 3D.
Mr. Evamy noted that the new Meta logo was a departure from an era when corporate branding was much more evocative. “Large companies used to produce very brave, exciting, striking and stop-you symbols,” he said, pointing to the iconic stripes of IBM or the arrow hidden in the FedEx name.
But while a company like FedEx has traditionally had to worry about branding on the side of a truck and in TV commercials, Meta lives mainly in the digital world across different platforms.
It is relatively unknown territory. There is little precedent for corporate logos that can exist in 3D in a virtual space where they can interact with and be manipulated by a user.
“Our Meta design system is designed to grow and change with the company and as the meta-verse is created,” Meta’s design team said in the email. “We needed to secure the symbol for the future.”