Several weeks ago, my tech comm classmates and I had a long discussion about logotypes. Which logotype would we recognize anywhere? To what did we ascribe its power? Was it designed well? Or just ubiquitous?
At first, I had a hard time thinking of a well-known, instantly-recognizable font. Irony of ironies! Finally, though, it came to me:
Well, why not?
I’m not a big Wally World fan. But I also live in a small town. Sometimes, especially late at night, it’s our only option. Heck, Wal-Mart is our town square. While I do my grocery shopping at Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, and the Farmers’ Market, I venture into Wal-Mart every few months for cat litter and household goods I can’t get elsewhere.
When I was in the seventh grade, Wal-Mart was not just a place to go, but the only place to go. The store was exciting! (Hokey, but true.) I could recognize its all-caps letters anywhere.
So imagine my surprise when, in 2008, Wal-Mart unveiled this new logo as part of a rebranding campaign that was announced not as such, but as “another way for people to save money and live better.”
What’s with the cutesy little star? For weird reason, it reminds me of Microsoft’s much-maligned Clippy. Which typeface is that? Calibri? Nope, more like the love child of Calibri and Cambria. Or maybe it’s a cross between Arial and Calibri, with smidges of Franklin Book and Gotham thrown in just for grins. Call it Dr. Fontenstein’s monster.
The redesigned Wal-Mart typeface is trying hard to be friendly, with its curved-over points on the W and the cutesy, Comic Sans-esque, almost cuddly rounded vowel shapes. Note that I said almost cuddly. Like a playground bully, it’s turned cute and cuddly only because it got caught beating up other fonts.
After a few years of (deservedly) bad press, Wal-Mart attempted to shed its old employee-abusing image with this redesign. Perhaps they could capture some of the Target crowd while they were at it. But as one commenter posted, “I’d rather be the store with the bullseye than the store with the butthole.” Yeah, me too.
Wal-Mart’s logo fonts with which I’m most familiar are those used between 1981 and 2007. Below is an image from Brand New charting Wal-Mart’s logo history.
Embarrassing as it is, I associated the WM logotypes (1981-2008) with reassurance. “I need tampons, toothpicks, and ketchup NOW! … Whew! There’s Wal-Mart.”
Masculine, or feminine?
Are either of these Wal-Mart fonts masculine or feminine, as Dawn Shaikh and her colleagues mention in “Perception of Fonts: Perceived Personality Traits and Uses?” The old one is on the masculine side; looking at the all-caps WM logo, I find it reassuring in a blast-from-my-miserable-junior-high-years way. It’s not as reassuring as, say, the Waffle House logo. Since 1955, Waffle House has been a stalwart beacon of strong coffee and greasy-good food. Wal-Mart? Hmm, more of a necessary evil. (When FEMA assesses hurricane damage by how many of your restaurants are open, then you know you have something good going on.)
Is the font friendlier?
Sure, if you’re prone to falling for that sort of junk.
What made the old (1981-2008) Wal-Mart font succeed?
Its ubiquity. And no matter how small the printing company, chances are that they’d have the old WM font (or something close to it) somewhere in their typeface stash.
What makes the new (2008-present) font fail?
Everybody has Calibri on their computer. This is neither original nor reassuring.
What does it portray? Any more adjectives you can think of?
That contain more than four letters? Sorry, can’t help you there.
Okay, fine. I’ll try the adjective ratings from “Font Perceptions” for this one.
What are your “ugly font” gripes? Post them in the Comments section.