New Department of Defense Logo: I Hope This Is Fake News
New Department of Defense Logo
As with most of my ReBrandNew posts, I try to decipher how a new logo design is driven by a shift in the mission of the brand. Oftentimes the creative agency will spell that out in a detailed justification. But aside from a seemingly new mantra of “Let’s not communicate with our Commander-In-Chief”, I’m not aware of a strategic shift within the Department of Defense. So, why the new mark? And more importantly, why on earth THIS new mark?
I assume that somewhere high in the chain of command, a vague directive was given to “simplify” the logo. “It’ll be more effective on social media”. “We can make it look like the Pentagon. Pen-ta-gon! Pen-ta-gon!” Unfortunately, the hierarchical military model is rarely the best method to make decisions outside ones area of expertise. At some point, someone needed to ask the “why”. Why simplify? Will it help achieve any specific objectives? Why stray from the seal? It’s a government department. Is the seal a great logo? No. Is it easily reproducible as a social media icon? No. However, the seal is recognizable, and creates a visual connection with the other departments within the government. To substitute it with, what seems to be a rushed and unpolished effort, tarnishes the image of the DoD.
DOD Seal and New Logo
With the political climate these days, you can never be totally sure of the authenticity of something you see on the internet. Is it real, or was it manufactured by some teenager in Macedonia? Generally, those stealthy Slavic scribes limit their craft to the written word, a misleading meme, or the occasional doctored photograph. But when I first stumbled across the new logo for the Department of Defense, I was certain that the fake news had broadened its misinformation tools. And the one thing that gave me confidence of its bogus origin was its obvious amateurism. However, when I looked to the DOD website for verification, I was dismayed to realize it was no joke. I should have trusted that the Russians would produce better work.
With so little information on the "why" of the logo change, we need to focus on the "what". As in…What the hell is going on here? I assume the new mark was developed internally. I can’t imagine any self-respecting agency would attach their name to this. But all 5 branches of the military offer a career path in Graphic Design. There had to be some trained professionals. There had to be some review process. But if this is the best we can expect from our military training, I suddenly feel much less secure. Whoever approved this deserves to be stripped of a few bars or stars.
The obvious imperfections of the logo confirm that the process was not well-thought-out. There are at least 5 areas that would cause most designers to scratch their heads:
The Weird Shading: I’ve looked at the new mark about a dozen times for several minutes each time. I have yet to figure out which direction the light source(s) are coming from. Maybe there are individual spotlights on the actual Pentagon that would offer some clarity.
The Chopped-Off Bottom of the “S” in “DEFENSE”: This is particularly noticeable in the website header logo, which would be the primary information avenue for the DoD, but seems to have been addressed in some other areas. I don’t see any “Defense” of this other than oops!
The 3-D Shape: The dimensional treatment of the mark creates a less dynamic, less flexible visual. Furthermore, the proportions and perspective make the mark reminiscent of something you’d find in the Nuts & Bolts aisle of your local hardware store. I think you can get them in a 20-pack.
The Inconsistent Use of Punctuation: I wonder what went into the decision to use periods in “U.S.” but not at the end of the abbreviated “Dept”. This feels like a late-stage, top-down directive that a subordinate didn’t question. “Private, add the periods to US”. Yes sir!
The Unknown: If part of the argument was to simplify the logo, I would assume there may be secondary marks: A stacked version? A “DoD” version? Or at least updated social media icons, which by the way, are still presented as the full seal. Alas, none.
DoD Twitter Page
When one looks at these oversights (i.e. poor design) it would have been truly helpful to see the rationale for the change and the design decisions. However, I can’t even find a link to the announcement of the logo change on the Defense.gov website. Too be fair, the News section only goes back about 2 weeks, but a search for “New Department of Defense logo” yields no results either. And when you search on the previous department website, it clearly states, “There is no such substitute for the Department of Defense Seal.” Hmmm, very covert.
It's Gotta Be The Russians
So, without an explanation or design brief, this post (much like the creative process for this new mark) is rather abrupt and superficial. I guess I’m back to my original hypothesis that this is actually fake news, or I guess, fake-branding. The DoD did not authorize this. Perhaps it was created by an unknown source to highlight how easily our brand identity systems can be infiltrated. Perhaps it’s a government plot to convince the unwoke that design is purely subjective. Perhaps General Mattis discovered the truth but had to be silenced. It must be one of these hypotheses. The only other possible conclusion is too scary to even consider - that it was intentional!
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