What You Should Learn From These Horrific Logo Fails

Logos are a tricky thing. You want it to look professional, but you want it to catch someone’s eye.

If you’re not too careful, you could catch too many eyes for the wrong reasons. And that’s not what you’re setting out to do. Or is it?

We’ve collected some of the best logo fails on the internet right here. Let’s take a look at what was “really” wrong with these logos.

1. The 2012 Summer Olympics Zionist Conspiracy

When you upset a whole country with your logo, you should probably fire your graphic designer. But when you spend $400,000 on a logo like the London Olympic committee, you’re kind of stuck with your decision.

In fact, Iran threatened to boycott the 2012 Summer Olympic Games because they thought the logo spelled “ZION,” a reference to a Jewish holy state. Of course, the poor (albeit, rich) graphic designer for the logo probably intended nothing of the sort.

But it’s a good reminder that if you make a logo, test it on your audience before publishing it. You don’t want any unintended political connotations.

2. Bloody Sherwin Williams

We live in a world of bloodshed, certainly. But this is not the ideal we strive for.

If you took Sherwin Williams age old logo and decontextualized it, you’d think it was some warning about the ills of war and violence.

Now here’s the thing: This logo has been around since 1905. It’s obviously not a logo fail…right?

Well, it depends on who you ask.

In an age where environmentalism is popular, a logo depicting a paint can covering the world in paint isn’t chic. And if Sherwin Williams were a new company, I’d certainly call their logo a fail.

The outrage would be real in the Twitterverse if a new company came out with this logo today. But in 1905, this was actually cutting edge surrealism. It’s remained a classic symbol for generations.

So, what can we learn from Sherwin Williams?

Find something that is cutting edge today and perhaps it will be a classic tomorrow. Even if what is cutting edge today would be mildly offensive in the future, it’s more likely to stick around and represent you well.

3. The Pepsi Bloat

Cartoon logos can be effective. They harken back to a time when you played outside all day and then came inside to watch cartoons and eat grilled cheese and tomato soup.

But you have to be very careful with cartoon logos. There is a certain line you could easily cross where professionalism instantly disappears.

The Pepsi “bloat” logo is a great example of a simple cartoon logo gone horribly wrong.

We all know sugary sodas aren’t good for you. And it might be better for us all if a soda’s logo reminded us of this fact.

Way Too Bold

But we’re quite certain that Pepsi never intended on reminding people of the effects their soda could have on your body. Yet, in 2009, they accidentally created a logo that looked like a large individual wearing a shirt that’s too small for their belly.

A blogger even drew in what they saw when looking at the Pepsi logo. It’s comic and sad all at once.

Pepsi understandably changed their logo. And now it’s not really as weird.

But the lesson here is plain. Test your cartoon logos for an extended period of time on many focus groups before making them yours.

4. A Gap in Decision Making

We all remember when The Gap was popular…or maybe I imagined that. But whether you were a fan of khakis and polo shirts or not, The Gap is still a well-known clothing brand.

In 2010, The Gap made a horrific mistake. They changed their classic logo.

Now, when you change your logo, it can go one of two ways. Incredibly or horribly.

The Gap’s Change Went Horribly

What was wrong with the logo? Nothing offensive, unless you’re a graphic designer or someone with a sense of style.

The Gap changed their typeface from Spire Regular, a classy font designed by Anne Pomeroy, to Helvetica.

Presumably, The Gap was merely attempting to emulate the success of their competitor American Apparel. The problem is, American Apparel chose Helvetica not to attract customers but to make an ironic statement about branding.

Helvetica is old. It was popular in the 60’s and 70’s.

The Gap obviously did not get this little caveat.

Their other faux pax comes in the form of a little gradient square. This was 2010, not 2001. Gradient squares belonged on early versions of the Windows operating system, not on a major brand’s logo.

The effect was akin to printing out a blurry JPEG and calling it a logo.

In The End

Suffice it to say, The Gap returned to their classic logo and didn’t look back. But we can learn from their mistake.

Plenty of fonts exist today that will propel you into the next 20 years. Don’t settle for what you find in your word processor. Do your research.

And be sure to avoid any graphics a fifth grader would have used in a science presentation back in 1999. It just makes your logo look cheap.

5. The Black Metal Effect

Most black metal bands use DIY Logo design and they turn out pretty awesome. But if you are a business that doesn’t pierce body parts or inscribe works of art on a skin canvas, then you don’t want to emulate black metal bands.


Their logos are the most illegible things in the world — beautiful in their own way sometimes — but indecipherable most of the time.

Just because you think Celtic lettering looks cool doesn’t mean you should use it as your type font. There are plenty of ways to convey classical or romantic without completely confusing your audience.

Keeping your typeface clean is a must in business logos. If not, how will your customers know who you are? And how are they going to even remember your business?

Logos aren’t there to impress. They’re there to remind. Clean and simple is the motto. Follow it.

Logo Fails Don’t Have To Happen To You:

Your logo is the first thing the public will see and remember you by. Your tagline and website will always be secondary.

Make sure you heed my warning and keep it clean and professional.

Do you have any logo fails you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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