In early October 2010, Gap replaced its classic blue square logo. This reportedly happened suddenly without any announcements. Due to negative response from customers, on October 11, one week after the new logo was introduced, Gap announced that they would revert back to the old square logo. Since then, this Gap logo has often been referred to as one of the worst logo failures of all time.

Gap Logo

One million dollars in one week?

Despite the astonishment among the community, I can clearly understand how this could have happened. To begin with, Gap employees see their logo every day, all the time. It is everywhere they look: signage, stationary, products. Needless to say, it is the representation of their brand, so it should be displayed as frequently as possible.

The problem with seeing the same thing every day is that people get tired of it. This doesn’t happen for customers because we only see it for a few moments, along with every other logo that is being thrown into our visual field. We see it quickly, it registers, and we go on to the next thing. Ah… the beauty of symbol semiotics.

So, one day someone at Gap (no longer THE Gap, that got dropped in 1986) decided they were so sick of that darn logo they were going to do something about it. A few emails and conversations proved there were other people that were sick of seeing the logo day after day after year. Eventually a small contingent were able to procure a budget for a logo redesign.

One could easily envision the enthusiasm that resulted within the company. Assume that everyone wanted to help abolish that tired old logo and needed to provide input. Imagine the focus groups, the email battles, the conference room presentations. Imagine the budget Laird & Partners proposed for the redesign, and imagine how far over budget it went!

The rest is history. The new logo lasted less than a week. Due to the pervasiveness of online commenting the backlash was tremendous. The executive who oversaw the logo change resigned less than four months later. For a company with over $800 million in 2009 revenue it was a drop in the bucket, but for anyone who has ever designed a logo it was a great lesson in the exercise known as “spinning our wheels.”

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Chris Bird is a designer for print and web specializing in the development of marketing materials for a varied spectrum of clients. He currently resides in Santa Rosa, California. His music website is at and his painting and fine arts website is located at