Google Changes Favicon, Challenges You To Do Better

Matthew Magain

Last week Google tweaked their favicon (that little 16×16 pixel icon in your browser’s tab), changing it from an uppercase G to a lowercase g.

Now, a change like this is normally something that shouldn’t matter — it’s not like they changed their actual logo to begin with a lowercase g, or made any changes to their home page. They just tweaked the 256 pixels in the browser’s tab. But this is one of the strongest brands in the world, and tabbed browsing has become a standard feature in all browsers.

Favicons are no longer an optional “nice-to-have” — users come to rely on them as a usability aid, so those 256 pixels are an extension of a company’s brand. Add to that the fact that people generally don’t like change, and the result is hundreds of blogs complaining about how ugly the new icon was.

Personally, I don’t mind it. The new icon threw me at first — the big G was instantly recognizable, and being able to jump to a tab based on that visual aid is a crucial part of how I navigate. However, after a few days of getting used to it, I realized that change was inevitable, for a number of reasons:

  • Lowercase letters just look better at small resolutions. I don’t have any data to back this statement up, it’s just my opinion.
  • Lowercase logos say “friendly and hip Web 2.0 startup“. Uppercase logos say “stuffy corporate”. Google has started to make efforts recently to open up and engage with their user base more; this supports that approach.
  • The G was starting to look a little old. With mobile services forming an integral part of Google’s future offerings, it would have been difficult to make a big impact with a tired logo.

Google’s Marissa Mayer obviously isn’t completely sold on the new look though — Google is crowdsourcing the next stage of the icon’s design, in case someone outside of Google can come up with an improvement:

The design process was much harder than we thought at first. By no means is the one you’re seeing our favicon final; it was a first step to a more unified set of icons. If you have your own notions about the Google favicon, please send them to us … maybe your idea will be the one that people see billions of times per day.

If you think you can do a better job, Google have opened submissions for improvements on the little g. You have until June 20 to submit your image.

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  • http://www.mikehealy.com.au cranial-bore

    The new ‘g’ is really bad, mostly because it is different.
    As you mentioned Google has a very identifiable brand, and some people would see that little icons hundreds of times a day. When Google messes with that, and makes arbitrary changes they bugger up the familiarity, comfort and usability of their site.
    It’s one of those cases where change needs to be very subtle and ‘evolutionary’ or not happen at all.

    If Google are NOT changing their logo, I can’t see how “forking” the favicon could possibly be helpful.

  • Jim Neath

    I really dislike it. It throws me off all the time.

    If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Baby -> throw -> bathwater

    Essentially they’ve taken a company asset with a measurable dollar value and pulped it. They may be able to build another asset over time with a similar value but it’s highly unlikely the new asset will be more valuable than the old one.

    So the result is they spend the next 6-12 months without their asset for no net gain. Silly IMO.

    There are at least 5 or 6 designs above that still riff on the established ‘G’ but that give it a different spin with color or placement.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/christophedri Chris_lu

    In my opinion, the uppercase “G” was much easier to understand. When I see the “g” letter, I think at first abouth the FIRT uppercase “G” of google, and then I think, why the hell is it now lowercase ?
    Hard to change habits

  • http://www.jtresidder.com/ jtresidder

    I prefer the new look (less stuffy), but I think they’re mad to make the change. Not only have they discarded the recognition they’ve built for the old style (reason enough in itself), but they’ve also shot themselves in the foot with regards to their recent trademark kerfuffle. They’ve been asking people to capitalise the word when using Google as a verb in order to protect their trademark – it’s hardly a good idea then, to teach people to associate a lower-case g with their page.

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t they make the first “G” on their home page lowercase also?

  • http://www.calcResult.co.uk omnicity

    I’m not sure that this disproves your point about lowercase letters being more legible than uppercase, but in this case I have great difficulty in seeing as a letter at all, never mind associating it with Google. I’m sure that brands like Boots or Ford would love to have a ‘modern’ logo, but they have enough sense not to confuse their users by breaking their existing identity.

  • http://www.Isquaretechnologies.com

    I don’t like to lower case ‘g’. Upper case ‘G’ is better

  • http://www.corporatewebsolutions.net Diego

    I don’t know I think a little change is always good

    Diego

  • http://www.bloggingelements.com racefly

    actually I really like the lower case g as well it to me is not as formal as the upper case. Plus they are google and they can do anything the want right?