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Yahoo! logo (2013)

Everyone is mocking this CEO-led rebrand. It isn’t a tragic failure, but the process might be.

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Sep 5th, 2013. Artwork published in .
Yahoo! logo (2013) 1
Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

In describing the new Yahoo! logo that launched today, CEO Marissa Mayer said it is based on “a sans serif font with scallops”. That font is Optima. The ‘O’s come straight from Herman Zapf’s typeface, while the other letters are derived from it. Setting aside the question of whether Optima is a good choice for an internet company that wants to be perceived as forward-looking, let’s just take a look at how they used the type.

The logo designers lowered the crossbars on the ‘H’ and ‘A’, and altered the contrast, making all diagonal strokes the same width. (Symmetry is often an undeniable urge in logotype design.) The result of this lettershape mirroring, other than the fact that the typographic styles are incongruent, is that the new monolinear ‘Y’ is heavier and out of sync with the rest of the letters.

The typorati has already made various complaints about the logo, but what distracts me most is how crammed these letters are — and unevenly so. Looking at each of the pairs (‘AH’, ‘HO’, ‘OO’), it’s clear that the designers considered only the extremes of each letter and inserted a mathematically equal space between those extremes, ignoring the holistic space around and within each letter. It’s a classic mistake made by those who are new to working with type.

For the comparison below, I set the word “YAHOO!” in Optima with the spacing more-or-less as I would have applied it. Kerning (the space between a pair of two specific letters) is subjective, so we could quibble about exact values for each of these pairs, but there is no doubt the tracking should be looser overall. The tighter the letterspacing, the more obvious the inconsistencies become. Making matters worse are the huge interiors of those ‘O’s, inevitably at odds with the cramped spaces around them. Most importantly, logos are usually seen at sizes much smaller than you see them here, further exacerbating the problems of tight spacing.

Taking a step back, the new logo isn’t a tragic failure (not as much as its rationalization, anyway), but some of the decisions made here are quite typical of those cases in which experienced lettering artists or type designers were not involved.

The official Yahoo! logo. The tracking is very tight and the kerning in “AHOO” only acknowledges the extreme edge of each letter, leading to uneven spacing throughout.
Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

The official Yahoo! logo. The tracking is very tight and the kerning in “AHOO” only acknowledges the extreme edge of each letter, leading to uneven spacing throughout.

Optima, tracked tighter than its default but looser than the official logo. The kerning takes into account each complete letterfom and the word as a whole.
Photo: Stephen Coles. License: CC BY-NC.

Optima, tracked tighter than its default but looser than the official logo. The kerning takes into account each complete letterfom and the word as a whole.

40 Comments on “Yahoo! logo (2013)”

  1. Are the rules not there to be broken? Yours is easier on the eye, but it lacks personality … and I think personality goes a long way.

  2. Jonatha says:
    Sep 5th, 2013 1:41 pm

    how about this? found in the brazilian versio of the website:

  3. It’s the same logo with new clothes, right? From jeans and flannel to a department store suit.

    It doesn’t bother or offend my sensibilities that much. It’s a slight step up from where they were, though it still seems to miss the mark of excellent, timeless design.

  4. Matt, my setting isn’t intended to be a logo, it’s just an example of how I would have spaced the word in Optima.

  5. If memory serves, I also think Mayer said that none of the characters had straight lines. She was basically being as descriptive about the font as possible without explicitly stating that the font is a modification of Optima. For someone who claims to appreciate things like typography as much as she does, it’d have been nice if she’d mentioned the font or Zapf.
  6. I didn’t expect attribution, Rob. While it would certainly be commendable, logo designers rarely credit the source typeface for their work. But I do hope the Yahoo folks don’t really mean what was reported in Advertising Age today:

    Proprietary Font

    The new typeface is one unique to Yahoo. “We always knew that we wanted to develop our own proprietary font, and that this would be intellectual property that would come from Yahoo, from our design team,” Ms. Savitt said. And so they did (though Yahoo’s new font doesn’t yet have its own name).

    Perhaps there is some miscommunication here and there is no real “typeface”, just the custom lettering for the logo. If there is indeed a complete font in addition to this design, we’ll have to brace ourselves for more bad type.

  7. David Wolske says:
    Sep 5th, 2013 8:14 pm


    In the intro typography course I teach, I have students do letter spacing exercises all semester long, always referring back to Jan Tschichold’s “The Use of Capitals”, from Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering. “YAHOO” is a great (and timely) example of a difficult “word image”. I love what you wrote about “huge interiors of those ‘O’s, inevitably at odds with the cramped spaces around them”. It recalls Tschichold’s line, “As long as the circular O is placed rather closely to other letters, its white inner circle cuts a perceivable hole into the line.”

    When I first saw the new logo, I immediately asked myself, “What would Tschichold say?”

  8. Nothing to say of the bevel? 

    To your point about scalability, the smaller light-on-dark logo is really out of balance, to my eye — not just the unproportional heaviness of the Y, but the thin horizontals of those giant Os.

    Yahoo Sports Logo

  9. Nothing much to say about the bezel, other than it doesn’t help. My guess is that it was tossed on near the end to add interest. It’s not a surprising affectation given the current retro fad of faceted and chromatic type styles. This bit from Mayer’s justification is just silly — on the same plane as the mathematical grid/diagram nonsense.

    the thin horizontals of those giant Os.

    Yes, the hairlines do get lost. It could help to start with a heavier weight of Optima, but that wouldn’t fix the dissonance of styles caused by deleting the contrast in the ‘Y’ and ‘A’.

    BTW, perhaps that “SPORTS” line is set in the “custom typeface” mentioned in the Ad Age story linked above.

  10. I think your post is missing the point — the kerning is supposed to be awkward to the point of “playful” so that the word seems to bend inward and the last ‘OO’ projects forward to jump out of the page. I find it kind of Disney-esque.

    I think the bevel is the weak (crass) point. Such photoshop effects are still too new, too shudder-inspiring, in my mind to start being incorporated, even as a homage to the ’90s (’90s grunge music and clothing may be in but photoshop effects need to wait a little longer before they can be cool).

    This post reminds me of the comments on Apple’s iOS 7 icon guidelines — something new, to the point of seemingly awkward, and the design community missing the point. I do, however, hold iOS 7 icon grids in higher regard than this new logo. 

  11. Steve L says:
    Sep 6th, 2013 2:12 am

    When this logo popped up on my screen, it was like a punch in the face. Yahoo!, how could you do this to yourself?

    This new logo seems to me truly amateurish. It represents the kind of clueless typography I often see in real-estate or home-improvement ads in junk-mail shoppers. Those kinds of printed communication vehicles are usually produced by the lowest bidder, and quality is sacrificed for low production cost. But, for heaven’s sake, Yahoo!, this is your new business image. Spend the money to hire someone who knows something about typography.

    The beveled type is so faint that it will fall apart in almost all uses. I must at least give Yahoo credit, however, for not adding a drop-shadow, vignetting or some other bad-Photoshop artifact.

    This logo now joins my Hall of Shame, along with the short-lived Helvetica Gap logo and the new American Airlines (formerly Greyhound Bus) logo.

  12. As I recall, Marissa Mayer has rubbed the design community the wrong way before, back when she was at Google.

    My theory is that she is playing on that resentment to generate attention for yahoo by trolling the Internet with a poor logo and accompanying backstory that seems tailored to push buttons.

    Well played, now lets see the real logo?

  13. Luis Masanto says:
    Sep 6th, 2013 2:21 am

    Other than all the correct comments posted already and in the article, what I think was lost is the “shouting” cadence of the original logo.

    It always appeared to me like extracted from a comic book where a newspaper boy was announcing “War!” (I’m not saying that this was good, just what I feel.)

    The redesign “carries on” some of the “distortion” in the letters but sterilized any possible meaning or representation. It seems to me more like a defect, if you do not know the previous design.

  14. It seems misguided to criticize this design at a formal typographical level when the logic of its construction is so clearly operating at the iconic level of “word as image”, with the compressions and expansions of font size and spacing visually representing the timing and volume dynamics of the performed speech act… a yodel, depicted in the typographical conventions of a cartoon.
  15. Paul D. says:
    Sep 6th, 2013 2:25 am

    Does anyone else think that Optima doesn’t work well for low-resolution screen logos? Instead of a flare at the ends of strokes, you just get some fuzzy pixels.


    Look at the bottom of the ‘H’, even in the larger version of the logo. Fuzzy.

  16. I agree with Ivan. It’s also bad typography because it won’t scale well. Picture this logo reduced down to a couple of picas or enlarged to several feet wide. It either disappears or picket-fences into hash. This is junior-league design work.

  17. I’m not a bevel expert, but why is it that the ‘A’ and the exclamation point are the only shadows that arn’t to the left. I guess you could argue that its more realistic and changes up the repetition, but i don’t know I would have preffered it all left.

  18. kizedek says:
    Sep 6th, 2013 8:16 am

    I am wondering why they didn’t round the tops of the Y, A and H, as they did on the exclamation point.

  19. Non-designer here. I was really curious about Mayer’s geometric proofs and mathematical justifications behind the new logo. Is this stuff really part of a standard design process or just some strange obsession (as it appears to me)? I am not seeing what any of it accomplishes.

  20. Nobody have said a word about those poor employees forced to work on a weekend. No doubt the product looks like a quick hack: they were on a hurry to finish it and go hanging with their family and friends.

  21. On the cramming of the letters, my bet is that they kerned the purple on white and then just inverted the colors—which makes the white on purple too close because of the well known optical illusion.

  22. I agree with pretty much all of what’s been said. And yet despite all the post-rationalization given for the design, I am truly baffled by the choice of Optima as a starting point for a couple of reasons. The first being it is incredibly reminiscent of a past period in time, which for a technology company, seems so misguided. Secondly, as some have alluded to, with its onomatopoeia, the word Yahoo! is literally crying out (exclamation!) for a more forceful and impactful typeface, and they decided on something so understated. To me, part of Optima’s indelible heritage is its usage on the Vietnam Memorial. Given that context you’d think the designers would have shied away. Perhaps they didn’t know any better? Or maybe as a dying company, a typeface for a memorial is in fact, very fitting.

  23. Gabriel Berson says:
    Sep 6th, 2013 4:10 pm
    For more insight into the design process here, I refer you back to the Google logo. Marissa Meyer was in charge of Google’s search page for years, which (when not occupied by a doodle) has at its center an especially hideous logo with an out of proportion capital G. The Google logo has the same amateurish feel to me, with its misshapen type and multiple colors.
  24. Riccardo says:
    Sep 6th, 2013 4:39 pm


    My theory is that she is playing on that resentment to generate attention for yahoo by trolling the Internet with a poor logo and accompanying backstory that seems tailored to push buttons.

    Yeah there must be some trolling involved.
    I mean, a bad logo can always happen, but if the backstory is serious it’s beyond surreal.

  25. parkinson says:
    Sep 6th, 2013 5:08 pm

    The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the CEO at Yahoo! said she helped design the logo in one weekend last summer. That explains a lot.

  26. You don’t mention why you resized the ‘Y’. It’s a big improvement over the incongruous, oversized original.

  27. Eric Schatz says:
    Sep 6th, 2013 6:09 pm

    What if this is more of the same publicity stunt that ran through the last month, playing with refjected logotypes. Sort of a New Coke stunt to generate all this ridiculous buzz far above what is deserved.

  28. I am wondering why they didn’t round the tops of the Y, A and H, as they did on the exclamation point.

    kizedek, Here’s a collection of logos you would enjoy.

  29. While at small sizes (whereas the clumsy bevel is barely noticeable) the new logo at least seems more modern than the previous Bazooka Joe-inspired version, but they’re a big company whose audience won’t raise any issue with a PowerPoint object as a logo. It almost seems pointless to scrutinize it because there would be no discussion if this exact logo were that of some two-bit fax machine repair shop in the middle of Wisconsin.

    Is it a piece of crap that looks like clip art? Yes. Will anyone care besides designers? No.

    Believe me, I agree that it’s painful, and that proprietary font business they’re pushing is weak (Optihoo!?) but… have you seen their Angelfire-inspired web site? Fits right in.

  30. I would guess in most situations the bevel would not even be apparent.

  31. @Sally – which makes it all the worse, Photoshoppery for its own sake.

  32. Fitoschido says:
    Sep 10th, 2013 4:50 am

    This logo would only be appropriate if Yahoo sold cosmetics/health care products.

  33. @RG

    With all due respect, a wordmark meant to communicate “word as image” does not disqualify the fact that it’s poorly typeset. Since it’s a logotype rather then an illustration it ought to comply with typographic rules. It appears to be composed by someone with very poor typographic skills.

  34. Many have said it, and I’ll repeat it because I think it’s imporant; it’s not the design and how it looks that should get all of the critique, but more the process and the way they went about it… Designing a logo for a 10 billion dollar company is something you don’t do in a “weekend”… Even if you could… I don’t know any agency or designer that would hear a claim like that and not shake his/her head…

  35. the dongix says:
    Nov 4th, 2013 12:52 am

    It’s like going backwards. It feels like a non-designer owner of a start up company designed his own logo. So sad! The old logo may have needed a re-design but it had far too much character than the new one. And no! You can’t mix Optima with fun or whimsical. 

  36. Blake says:
    Feb 2nd, 2014 8:15 pm

    Does anybody knows which is the font used to name Yahoo! properties? (such as News, Movies, Sports, etc.)


    Thank you

    Yahoo! NewsYahoo! Music

  37. Blake, see my comment above. It is a custom typeface, and a pretty sad one at that. I assume it was optimized for the very small sizes at which the logos usually appear, but even then it is really wonky — not in a good way. Similar ideas are in Cosmos or URW Imperial. Comparing these professional faces to the logotypes, you can quickly see where the Yahoo face goes awry.

  38. It turns out that the secondary typeface is the Latin part of Myanmar MN, bundled with OS X. This was confirmed by Jackie Goldberg at the Typographics conference today.

  39. Some more examples of the logo + MN Latin as they appear in 2017:

  40. Pentagram launched an new brand identity refresh in 2019, desgined by Michael Bierut and team. It seems the logotype was an modified extra bold weight of Centra No. 2 (Sharp Type, 2017), replacing Optima (Hermann Zapf for Stempel, 1958).

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