Zara's new logo (right) has come in for some harsh criticism from consumers and designers alike, but it's not totally justified argues Pearlfisher founder and creative Jonathan Ford.
Spanish fast-fashion retailer Zara’s unveiling of its new logo has caused a - mainly - negative outpouring from the industry: some are saying it looks like it’s been “kerned by a robot”, others that it’s, “the worst piece of type they’ve seen in years”. Consumers are also getting in on the action, claiming that they’re confused and disappointed and that it’s leaving them “stressed” and “claustrophobic”. Taking it a tad far, I think.
But, a couple of interesting posts coming out of leftfield are speculating that it’s a ‘promo’ logo - a clever PR ploy to launch the corresponding new Spring/Summer 2019 campaign - and get us all talking. Well, if that's the case, job done.
We’re all very aware (brands and agencies alike) that radically changing your equitable brand elements can be a dangerous game and we’ve all seen some spectacular fails. But I don’t believe that this is one of them. This is only the second time the brand has switched things up with its identity in its 45-year history. Zara has become an icon of the high street and all icons need to keep challenging; finding ways to take creative steps to evolve. As consumers, we don’t want brands to stand still but we’re also quick to criticise change.
The real issue here just seems to be space – the previous identity was lambasted when it launched for having unnecessary space, this one for too little and too much overlap.
Sorry, but designers are full of paradoxical, ego-driven shit sometimes. Someone makes a big change and suddenly it's all, 'Oh, check out that letter-spacing!' When, actually, it's just the scale of change that shocks them and subjective petty whims get in the way of objective respect for the freshness and drama that something new brings in. And the opportunity that this presents for us all.
Having defined premium high street fashion, Zara’s partnership with Baron & Baron – and the link to Fabian Baron’s iconic graphic design for Harper’s Bazaar – feels totally natural. In their own words, the collaboration – and the identity itself – “gives rise to an approach that blends elegance with edge – lifting the retailer to the level of luxury contemporaries, in a celebration of art and fashion for all."
In this age of individuality and inclusivity, clear and targeted messaging – both visual and verbal - and Zara’s mission of ‘art and fashion for all’ is, I would say, crucial for survival and success. The high-street fashion retail model is subject to such swings of fortune, as is what we are looking for from our chosen fashion brands, and Zara is single-mindedly looking to disrupt its offer and our idea of high street fashion, create a new position, a new offer – perhaps even a new category.
Could the logo be better? Maybe. But overall, I really like the rebrand and the stylistic links to whatever and whoever don’t really matter – it's fresh, bold and stylish in a world of fashion-brand 'sans serif, all-caps' ubiquity. Like with everything Zara does – from its modern collections to its digital marketing campaigns and content – the new identity steers away from generic category norms to create a desirable future for the both the brand and the lifestyle of its customers. So, whilst I may not be a typographic detail designer, I'm an ideas-based designer and I like that it conveys an idea about the brand and is bringing this to life across its platforms.
Zara is not just challenging to look edgy, it’s challenging because it has conviction in its idea and wants to represent this through its brand identity. It’s often human nature to reject instant change but when there is a big idea behind something that’s been created through thoughtful and expert design, it creates our future.
Is it just a question of space? Maybe. Personally, I think it’s about watching Zara carve out its future space, and hopefully that of the entire fashion industry.
Jonathan Ford is the founding creative partner at design agency Pearlfisher. He tweets on @Jforddesigns