On Today’s DnA: Gap Flap

The sign of things to come

Who would have ever thought, one month ago, that we would all be talking about the Gap? I certainly didn’t (and yes, I still call it THE Gap, as does everyone else, even though it’s officially just Gap). I haven’t thought much about the store since I folded v-necks there in high school. I think I’ve run in there once or twice for emergency items—tights? cardigan?—but I have to say the only relationship I’ve had with the Gap is through its advertising, which I happen to catch on a building or on YouTube around the holidays each year, and quite honestly I think is pretty darn amazing.

But when they quietly rolled out a new logo earlier this month suddenly we all reconnected with our old friend the Gap. And that was so we could tell the Gap that we didn’t like their new logo one bit. Everyone had an opinion about it. It was all designers and design blogs could talk about. Even my grandmother, who I saw in St. Louis that weekend while celebrating her birthday, said she wasn’t a fan of the new logo.

So of course, I had to write about it.

First I wrote a story about the new logo, noting that it didn’t really come out of nowhere (see the 1969 jeans branding in the store window above). I noted that a Twitter account had popped up by the name of @GapLogo, so I did an interview with the logo. Then word got out that Gap was actually launching a crowdsourcing competition to find a new logo which made a lot of designers angry, so I interviewed a Gap VP about it. But then, a few days later, Gap said they actually weren’t going to do the crowdsourcing contest or use the new logo. They were going back to the old one. After all that.

On today’s show, Frances talks to branding strategist Sasha Strauss and graphic designer (and my friend!) Mick Hodgson about the power of logos and what happens when a brand suddenly changes its identity. They bring up some interesting points, but I think my biggest beef with the Gap is that they made a huge, huge misstep by going back to the original. That logo was from the ’80s! It looks totally dated and conservative, like a menswear brand. That label is sewn inside of clothes I would never wear today. Clothes that I got rid of a long time ago, actually. And never replaced with ones from the Gap.

Gap has done severe damage to their brand by bowing to a bit of criticism. Not standing up for the creative decisions that you’ve spent years and millions of dollars making tells me you have no faith in the clothes you’re rolling out next season either. Hey, they’re a clothing brand! They should be so forward-thinking, so of-the-moment that we should be trying to keep up. Reverting to what you had yesterday is not fashion, it’s not trendy, and it’s not exciting. It’s just totally…khaki.

You can listen to DnA on KCRW live every 3rd Tuesday at 2:30pm PST, by podcasting through iTunes, or by streaming the audio at any time by clicking the little ‘Listen’ button underneath each show’s title on KCRW’s website. Be sure to check out the DnA calendar this month, freshly restocked with delicious items. And as always, if you know of any design or architecture events in Los Angeles, please send them my way.

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