Does the New Google Logo Really Look Like Comic Sans?

Alex Walker

Google doesn’t change it’s brand often, but when it does, it’s hard to ignore it. From search pages, to app icons, to browser tabs, it is a brand that is stitched into the linings of our online lives.

Yesterday the ‘Big G’ rolled out probably their biggest re-branding effort ever. Here it is.

Animation: Old logo to new

“I Shot the Serif”— Google moves to a geometric sans-serif typeface.

As you can see, the new logotype retains Google’s trademark colorful letterforms, but is now rendered in a sharper, slightly heavier san-serif typeface.

The color theme is pulled through to their square logomark too — the familiar white lowercase ‘g’ on blue back, is replaced with a new uppercase ‘G’ diagonally segmented into colored pieces.

That multi-colored ‘G’ seems more ‘googley’ to me than the white and blue ‘g’.

Designers Alex Cook, Jonathan Jarvis, & Jonathan Lee talked about their week-long design sprint on the Google Design Blog.

New 'G' logomark vs old 'g' logomark.

To me, the update to a sans-serif typeface seems to make more sense. Their former serif font — particularly that ‘reading-spectacles g’ — always had an older, bookish feel of romance novels and Bronte sisters. The new geometric sans-serif is much more of a happy engineer’s construction.

But What Does ‘The Internets’ Think?

Sifting through the press, Twitter and Facebook, there seemed to be two distinct streams of reaction:

1). Designers by-and-large like it

Connie Birdsall, Creative Director, for Lippincott said “Google’s new logo is elegantly simple but still maintains the fun and playful quality of the original design.

It’s really about much more than a logo and more about kind of a smart system” says Geoff Cook, founding partner at Base Design.

SitePoint’s own Design & UX writer Laura Elizabeth tweeted: “Yay I LOVE @google’s new logo. Lovely stuff

Wired called it “.. simpler, younger, and friendlier”.

But it’s not all ringing endorsements.

2). Many non-designers are wringing their hands.

Professional grump, Jon Gruber groaned: “Their old logo was goofy. This new one is simply garbage. Just right for a company with no taste”.

Public comments on the Official Google Blog include:

  • Went from a nice professional looking logo to a basic noring(sic) 1st grade font and you like it?
  • Yeuch…. not an improvement at all
  • Make that 2. The new favicon STINKS!. Hard to find on favorites bar

Another tweet by @desusnice insistedGoogle’s new logo is getting us closer to their eventual transition to comic sans”.

So… We know some people don’t like change.

Just not your type?

It’s interesting that many complaints portray the update as more unprofessional and childish than the previous incarnation.

'Google' in Harmonia Sans

‘Google’ in Harmonia Sans.

Although the Google design team tells us the ‘new logotype is set in a custom, geometric sans-serif typeface’, the letterforms closely echo a handful of very well-established typefaces, including Harmonia Sans (check that capital ‘G’), Twentieth Century and perhaps the godfather of geometric fonts, Futura.

Here’s a visual comparison of the new logotype with classic Futura.

The new logo overlayed with classic Futura

The new logo overlayed with classic Futura.

As you can see, there are some minor differences — that jaunty twist to the ‘e’ being an obvious one — but the major characteristics are all there.

Futura was designed in 1927 by Paul Renner and is one of the most evergreen and well-loved fonts ever created. The complete roll call of Futura’s famous usages would be a phonebook, but a quick ‘greatest hits’ list includes:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey titles
  • The Social Network movie posters
  • Red Bull cans
  • Volkswagen ads
  • Louis Vuitton branding
  • The Apollo moon landing plaque
Red Bull, Louis Vuitton, 2001:a Space Odyssey, The Social Network, The Apollo 11 Moon plaque and Union Pacific (Clockwise)

Red Bull, Louis Vuitton, 2001:a Space Odyssey, The Social Network, The Apollo 11 Moon plaque and Union Pacific (Clockwise)

Those are some unbelievably elegant and upmarket usages. It’s hard to think of a document with more ‘gravitas’ than the moon landing plaque, while Louis Vuitton is the very definition of high-end refinement.

There’s nothing inherently crude or backwards about type with those characteristics. So, why is it that some people are reading a very similar Google font as ‘unprofessional’ and ‘like comic sans’?

I think it’s because the Google logo has been practically invisible for so long. Most of us probably first came across that Google logo 15 years ago. If you can remember those first 10 seconds you saw it — I won’t blame you if you can’t — I suspect you’d have thought this new search engine looked a little childish and unprofessional.

But, hey, that search worked really well, and a minute later you had forgotten about those pre-school colors at the top. You’ve been staring intently at the search box ever since.

Until today, that is!

A new font arrives and people see (I mean REALLY see) the logo for the first time in years. It’s a case of: “Oh my god! Google has been using kindergarten color schemes all this time and I nobody told me! Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!

I calculate we have about 24-hours before the new logo goes back to being practically invisible to most of the planet.

I’m counting down in my head.