Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is That Really The Pepsi Logo Design Brief?

So remember when Pepsi came out with its new logos a few months ago? The varying 'smiles' of the Pepsi logo? Well, it appears that the Design Brief was leaked—a lovely 27 page document title Breathtaking. It does take your breath away too. I found myself gasping for air from laughing so hard while reading it. Honestly, at first glance the document seems so completely out there I was sure it was a hoax. An elaborate hoax, but still a hoax. Then I started digging a little deeper.

Oddly, no other blogs really seemed to think it was a hoax. Some of their commenters did, but overall the authors were all on board that this was a legit document leaked from Arnell Group, the agency behind the brand redesign and Tropicana's recent package design flop. I was still finding this a little hard to believe, but one blog directed me to AdGabber's post back in October when Pepsi unveiled its new logos.

In a brilliant move to debut their new line of logos, Pepsi sent 25 top bloggers a kit filled with a evolution of Pepsi logos and packaging, a DVD of Pepsi's history highlights and a set of new packaging with the new logos—everything these bloggers needed to announce Pepsi's new logos to the social media world. It really was a great move. In the DVD video contents from those original kits is a short video, posted on AdGabber and I've included it below as well. It shows an animation of the design process to make those weird 'smiley' logos. Check it out and pay attention about 45 seconds in (the music shifts there too). Then look at the selected Design Brief page to the right (click to enlarge). Uh oh, looks like this document might be legit after all.

You can see more excerpts at Gawker and Brand New or you can download the whole PDF at Fast Company. I'd recommend it, it's a good laugh.

Yes, I thought this was a hoax at first, but when you look closer there are a few legit parts in this overall relatively absurd document. They discuss Pepsi's logo and bottle evolution and there's a lot of talk of about the Golden Ratio, in fact they dedicated an page illustrating how the Pepsi logo smiles are same aesthetic geometry. I have to disagree since the end result smiles look more arbitrary than anything else, but the defense is there. It may be a bit pretentious and overstated, but we are talking about a huge brand here and no one pours millions into a brand without some justification as to what makes it great. Many large corporate logos, or even small business logos, have a lot more precision and thought behind them than the average person realizes—it's not intended to be elitest at all as much as it's just part of the design process of pushing to make just the right mark. The issue I have with the Pepsi brief is you can justify whatever you want with circle proportions, but that doesn't automatically make it good. Yes, the old Pepsi logo is balanced and aesthetically pleasing—the new ones, not as much, no matter how many circles within circles you draw for me.

The Golden Ratio stuff isn't what got me the most though. What really had me convinced it was a hoax at first was a little further on in the document where they start discussing the Pepsi Globe, where they compare the Pepsi logo's energy fields to the Earth's magnetic fields, and the Gravitational Pull of Pepsi diagrams, where they compare the gravitational pull of the sun to the gravitational pull of Pepsi. It's a little unclear what they're trying to represent there, but after looking at it for awhile I'm hoping it's referring to some kind of three dimensional in-store display and not that Pepsi is the center of the universe.

After looking through everything and writing this post, I'm pretty convinced it's a valid document, though probably incomplete. It is marked as a draft on the first page of the PDF. Unfortunately, valid or not, this is a PR nightmare for Pepsi and Arnell with all the negative criticism that's floating around about it.

What do you think? Real or hoax? Is the Design Brief too condescending?


Anonymous said...

Nice post. There is a fine line between thinking at a deeper level than most people are accustomed to and overthinking. And process always seems absurd when viewed from the outside so it's pretty easy to throw stones. The bottom line is whether the finished work succeeds or not. For Pepsi, I tend to think that ultimate payoff is there. For Tropicana, not so much.

Megan said...

Love your thorough posts! All I have to say is that I'm glad I don't have to follow any brand guideline gibberish in my work, just the infinetly confusing rules of grammar ;)

I'm watching Criminal Minds right now, partner, and I hope you are, too.

logowhiz said...

the video looks fun but i don't like the logo design. what happened???

Whole Truths said...

My new goal in life changed once i saw that brief! I immediately e-mailed IT to everyone in my unit ( I work in corporate communications) and
My new goal is to write a brief that defies any creative interpretation! Thank you Pepsi & Arnell Group!

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