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Warm enough for ice cream

2010 March 8

It seems that the temperature has risen above 50 degrees here in glamorous Lakewood, Ohio, today. Not exactly summer weather, but 1) it’s still early March and 2) with plenty of bright sunshine everywhere, it feels warmer.

So today marked the first ice cream run since October. On the subject of ice cream, I’d like to ask a question which has been vexing me for a year or so, at least:

What was Baskin-Robbins thinking with the design of its new logo?

baskin robbins logo c. 2010

I'm not puzzled for the reason you might think

It isn’t that I don’t “get it.” I’m a designer. I noticed the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo on my own, when it was redesigned; the “31” integrated into the “BR” of this logo was immediately obvious as well. I get that.

I just think it doesn’t work. This logo is in fact a great example of the importance of something I informally call “the smell test” in design. The concept is sound, indeed it’s pretty clever, but the end result just doesn’t “smell” (or rather, look) convincing. The logo tries hard to be both a “BR” and a “31,” and ends up not really looking like either one. The shapes look awkward and tense, rather than smooth and satisfying (like, oh, ice cream).

There may well be times and places when a clever concept can carry a design by itself, even if it doesn’t look visually appealing. This is not one of them. And there may, in fact, be a way to make this particular concept look visually appealing, but this is not it.

Apparently I’m not the only person unimpressed by the redesigned BR logo. Personally I won’t go so far as to call the new design definitively worse… the old BR logo was fine but not really memorable. The new typography is fun and playful, and I suppose that the concept is worth something even if I think it was botched. Pros and cons probably come out a wash, as far as I’m concerned, yet what was the point of investing time and treasure only to end up no better off?

It just seems like Baskin-Robbins’ graphic identity should be better. It should be a classic, really; as iconic as “31 flavors.” Maybe some day.

(Today, for what it’s worth, I had a Blizzard instead.)

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