new-black+decker-logo

That’s why I hate it.

So You Think You Know LogosThe new Black + Decker logo, along with its related packaging and branding is clean, upscale and modern. It embraces the company’s move into small kitchen appliances and the like. Which is exactly why it’s my least favorite redesign of 2014. It no longer says “tools.”

Messing with “my” brand.

The few regular readers of this blog know that I’m generally loathe to bag on other designers’ work. I have no idea of who asked for what, how the original ideas were blanded into submission by committee or the evolution of original concepts that may have been quite brilliant. It’s just not my thing. As a guy who writes about logo design and what-not, I guess I’m supposed to have opinions on such matters, but as a designer I get that the creative process doesn’t always go the way a designer intended.

Me and my power tools.

Having said that, I’m going to totally bag on Black + Decker‘s brand facelift, not as a designer, but as a consumer. And a fan. In case you missed it, here’s the before and after:
Black + Decker old and new logo
Gone is the industrially bold condensed font. Replaced with some vanilla sans serif font that looks like it’s been picked off some upscale espresso machine. Gone is the nut graphic that’s been part of the logo since day one:
black decker logo historyGone too is the trademark ampersand, replaced with an ubiquitous plus sign, turning Black & Decker into Black + Decker overnight. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of Black + Decker tools. Have been forever, finding them reliable, reasonably priced and decent to work with. I’ve often been mocked by pals who stand by more macho, “manly” tools – brands like Dewalt for example – but B + D have been my go-to guys ever since I tried to build my first book shelf. I even viewed my push-back against my brand snob pals as a badge of honor. Not that I’m “Mr Super Handyman” or anything – I’m a fumbling tinkerer at best – but I have a fair sized collection of tool related gizmos, a lot of them emblazoned with this (now old) logo.

Black and Decker old logo designI don’t want to spend a bundle on hardware, but I don’t mind spending a little more for reliability and a trusted name. I’m not an expert, but a guy who likes to think he is, and enjoy a wander through the tool department of Home Depot on a Saturday afternoon. I am (or was) the epitome of Black + Decker’s target audience.

Anyhoo, when the new Black + Decker logo was announced a year ago (it’s featured in our top logo redesigns of 2014 ) I wasn’t terribly impressed off-the-hop. As a designer. Or a consumer. Nothing to get wound up about though – it wasn’t crap or anything – my initial reaction was only that the new design didn’t really speak to tools. It wasn’t until Christmas shopping with the Mrs – and the new logo had started to show up on store shelves – did I realize how much I really didn’t like the new direction. There were instances of old logo and new logo everywhere (no doubt stores weren’t eager to swap out their old stock over some silly brand makeover) and I was able to really compare the two.
new old black decker packaging
For what it’s worth, here’s how the logo plays out on their product line:
Black + Decker drill with new logoFast forward to Christmas morning, when Santa had delivered a spanking new Black & Decker cordless drill (my old batteries had given up the ghost and were about as expensive as a new drill to replace.)

That clinched it.
Black + Decker drill at ChristmasI totally hated Black + Decker’s new “look.” Not because the drill under our Christmas tree featured it. Because I was so delighted that it didn’t. My new B & D power drill and assorted box stuff was emblazoned with their old logo. And I was thrilled that it was.

Not the Worst Logo Redesign of 2014.

As part of our year-end wrap up, I was tempted to call this post the “Worst Redesign of 2014” because it’s the time of year that people write such things and it IS my least favorite. Trouble is, that would have been awfully harsh, as it isn’t the worst redesign of 2014 at all. Not by a long shot. It’s actually quite nice from both an aesthetic point of view and a technical one. The design rationale is solid and solves the company’s marketing goals – that of expanding into consumer level kitchen appliances – really well. Take this package design for B + D’s lithium-power vacuum for example. It’s pretty swell. So is the picture of a nice lady vacuuming her kitchen with said vacuum.
black+decker vaccum boxIt still gives me hives because it doesn’t say tools dammit. It says blenders and microwaves and food processors. Hell, electric toothbrushes for all I care. It’s not cool for the side of my drill. I caught flak from the Dewalt guys for years over my penchant for the Black + Decker product line. I can only imagine what they’ll say about it now.

The emotional investment in a brand

We often tell clients that a logo, and their related branding, are terribly important to the marketing of their company, service or product. That logos can resonate on a personal and emotional level. Sure, it must sound like bullshit to some, and I imagine many think it self-serving piffle: “You would say that. You sell logo design services” is probably how it goes. But it IS true. Changing a logo, especially for larger sized companies, is a massive logistical undertaking (Black + Decker announced their new image in January of 2014 but at Christmas time of the same year – the peak season for retail sales – and while there were instances of the new logo on shelves, I’d say the majority of products still featured the old.) Any logo shake-up doesn’t happen without an understanding that this stuff is important to people who buy your gear. Here’s an example of when a new design direction resonated with yours truly as a consumer.

Not thinking of switching or anything, but show me that Dewalt thingy again.