The hot takes were flying on Monday when Facebook (or is it FACEBOOK?) released their new corporate logo. Commentators from the worlds of design, media and social media weighed in the effort, labeling it bland and ineffectual.
The logo is doing exactly what it is designed to do. The statement accompanying the logo explains the all-caps type treatment is mean to provide clarity. “People should know which companies make the products they use.” While it achieves that goal effortlessly, that is not what the logo is meant to do.
For over a year, Facebook (I’m sticking with this styling until further notice) CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been trying to convince users and critics of the brand that it does not have a point of view. No, the powerful platform is not an arbiter on any topic. He claims his creation is neither a judge of events in the news nor a proponent of any particular angle of news or stories of any kind.
Zuckerberg has been making the case that Facebook is a pure reflection of what its billions of users share through their own accounts. When there is conflict, it is merely an echo of conflict happening in communities around the world.
Facebook has been shrewdly positioning itself as the platform that most supports free speech. Its policy not to audit or edit claims in political advertisements are the most visible example of that policy. Many of the same people bashing Facebook’s new logo also bashed this policy when it was announced. The new logo reinforces their position. It isn’t intended to design a point of view; it is intended to communicate the absence of a point of view.
In 2018, Burberry unveiled its new logo. A straightforward sans serif number designed by Peter Saville. With its release, Burberry joined Celine, Rimowa, Diane von Furstenberg, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent, which had also replaced distinctive logos for sans serif type treatments. Why would brands move to a neutral font and minimal logo mark in the world of fashion? According to the logo designer, Burberry did so “to work just as well on a gabardine raincoat as it does on chiffon blouse.” In other words, it goes with everything.
Facebook is no different. The logo must be neutral to project neutrality to the user. The content served by Facebook’s core platform or its array of products act as a Rorschach test, presenting stories a user wants to find while offering a community to interact with. A user could curate a feed made up only of ideas to which they subscribe. They could choose content that presents a counterpoint to their beliefs or anything in between.
Facebook doesn’t care. Facebook doesn’t judge. Facebook is neutral.