An assessment of two identities
January 24, 2013 by gj
I loved the Avengers. Joss Whedon was able to capture the spirit of everything I remembered and made it great today. It’s like, well…it’s rough, isn’t it? He just got it. And it’s in this family of films Marvel Studios has brought out of the last few years that are just consistently very good to downright great. They’re on a roll.
So I was watching the movie again the other day, and what struck me most happened before the movie even started really rolling. The Marvel Studios intro identity starts playing.
Marvel Studios Identity
It’s the flip roll we’ve all come to expect. It’s their legacy, their history. It’s the visual summation of the moments that make up the pattern of their brand. The energy builds, and the wordmark comes to life. Marvel, quite simply, is the sum of their experiences.
They get the idea of the pattern of the brand and they’re capitalizing on it. They’re changing and evolving from a world of paper and moire patterns into a world of 2.4/1 aspect ratios and motion-first thinking, but not giving up what makes them special or unique. As I’ve said here a number of times, your brand is the sum of all of the experiences you’ve created…whether you’ve intended to create them or not. Customer service, product experiences, targeted marketing — all of these add to the signal received by your customers on what you really stand for. Marvel took the approach with their identity of simply being. It feels like Stan Lee opening his arms wide saying “we’re everything you’ve always known and more.” So smart. And it just adds to my belief that they really just know who they are right now. The executives driving the creative know the pattern of the brand and intentionally know how to push it further. Identity, as you would expect, is the signal of something more than just the visual tag.
Now, let’s compare this against it’s major publishing competitor…whose new identity just sucks.
DC. Yeah, me too.
I’ve been looking for a reason to speak publicly about my disdain for the new DC identity for a while, and this is just a great springboard. You see, DC threw away everything they’ve been for fifty years to create an identity that’s aloof, overdesigned and out of place with the content. But my point isn’t aesthetic. Landor just created an identity that’s not borne of the pattern of their brand.
Let me explain.
The problem with the DC logo is that it doesn’t actually convey anything. The page curl is inherently skeuomorphic (meh), and the letters D and C are the least meaningful symbolic artifacts of what they are or do. The aspect ratio is built to do very little with other than tuck it up in the upper left hand corner where logos traditionally go to die.
But then, they have this idea of adaptation. You can can read more about it over at DesignWeek. Now, being a part of the story that’s being told? Very modern. Absolutely with you. But you have to be something to be a part of the story that’s being told as well. The DC identity is reductionist to the point of being a blank slate (as Chris Claremont like to say, a tabula rasa). And, as such, dressing up to match a bit of everything DC does actually just reinforces that DC doesn’t stand for anything. There’s nothing additive about it. In fact, there’s nothing there of any character at all. It rips the soul out of DC.
Does this all mean that I don’t want to see Man of Steel, or don’t have an interest in whether or not the Batman movies will continue on? No, not really. But it does certainly mean that I don’t trust DC to know how to bring a coherently exceptional experience to the screen. And that we’re likely rushing headfirst into a range of movies they’re in production with that will likely either be soup de jour or of rambling quality. Green Lantern was crap. The last couple of Superman movies have done their very best to define mediocrity. The brand isn’t able to establish the foundation and springboard of a coherently excellent experience. You might argue — rightly — that the outcomes represent leadership qualities rather than those of the brand,but maybe my real point in this is that leadership creates the identity, and that identity is merely symbolized through the visualization process.
DC appears to be only in it for the buck. Marvel feels like they’ve got a series of stories to tell the world.
And that’s something you just get from how they express themselves.