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Last week the newly minted Oprah Winfrey Network showed off their brand new logo to an eager public, and reactions were of course mixed. It became a topic of conversation around our office, and we quickly realized that we have many unique perspectives in our office (from marketing and art direction to type design) that were actually relevant to the conversation.

Since the first reaction to something new can vary from subsequent analysis, we’ve asked our reviewers to include an initial, visceral response, rational analysis and finally a pragmatic take on the new design.

For a point of reference, here’s the new OWN logo.

And now to the logo analysis.

Amanda Paull, Extensis VP of Marketing

Visceral response: Disliked it. feels juvenile (coloration) and unoriginal (typeface). It immediately reminded me or Fruit Stripe Gum! Just generally made me feel uncomfortable (almost anxious).

Rational analysis: The all-caps “OWN” sends a really contrary brand message. The intended message (I’m sure) is that this you your OWN network. You tell us what you want to see and we deliver it. However, another way to look at it is “I am Oprah Winfrey and I own everything.” You have to assume that if there is a potential negative interpretation, at least 50% of the viewers will pick up on that.
I was relieved to see that the logo has alternate colorations- all one color- instead of the multi-color fruit stripe variety. But then I see that one of those colors is GOLD. Say what? The ‘OWN’ in pure gold. OK, that is clearly not the brand message you want to send. More Donald Trump than Oprah Winfrey.

Pragmatic take: I’ve been on the creative end of these things- there was a creative brief that isolated the most important requirements. One of those must have been ‘has to stand out in the lower corner of the viewer’s screen and not be drowned out by whatever programming is running’. If this was the most important requirement, I’d say they hit the mark! Nothing could compete with Fruit Stripe Gum.

Thomas Phinney, Typographer and Extensis Sr. Product Manager for Fonts and Typography

Visceral response: Huh? That’s weird, and not terribly functional.

Rational analysis: Wow, that’s very distinctive, and at first I thought it did a great job of communicating Oprah’s brand image (I didn’t have the same negative associations that Amanda came up with). But the graphical effects make it just too busy to work under a broad range of conditions. Elaborate shadows and 3D effects tend don’t hold up so well at small sizes, nor if they need to render it in black-and-white (without shading)…. There’s a reason almost all the megacorporations have simple logos, because they have learned from experience and usage what the logo needs to stand up to. This logo is not going to do well under adverse conditions, including being faded in the corner of a non-HD television screen, when the shading and extrusion will just get “muddy.”

Pragmatic take: Well, at least it’s bright, and really different. I think they’ll have to come up with a simplified version of it, which will either replace or supplement this ornate and elaborate… thing.

Elisha Wettstein, Extensis Art Director

Initial Response: Interesting. I kind of like it. I’m curious what the intended usage is and is it practical for a logo. It reminded me of NBC’s rainbow logo with much more flare.

Rational analysis: Again, I needed to explore usage and purpose so I went to oprah.com and found several color versions and sizes being used. And what do all the different colors mean? Do they represent separate divisions of the network? On the site’s landing page, I don’t see a clearly defined pattern — that bothers me. There is a striping theme that’s used outside of the logo as well as part of the logo. That’s a nice element to see carried out as a branding component but as part of the logo, in smaller sizes the integrity of the logo is compromised, cheapening the quality. As a designer, that’s always something to be taken into consideration for logo design. I would have recommended that the smaller sizes loose that effect completely so that the logo appears crisp and strong.

Pragmatic take: I haven’t done my research to judge from the perspective of meaning, target audience, and overall representation so my judgment will be for design only. The large colorful version is very pretty. I admire all the design details…color, striping, depth, shading, lighting. The small versions would be successful with the removal of all the ‘fluff’ just mentioned – they are not practical and compromise quality. They went crazy with all the separate color versions that are hard to see a pattern for usage.

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