It’s not every day that you realize that your new logo looks like a pair of underwear.
But that’s exactly what happened to RJ Metrics, a data analysis company, when they revealed their carefully designed and tested logo, last year. I can imagine that they were excited to adopt the new design, eager to hear all of the positive feedback about their rebrand, but instead, their announcement was met with tweets asking why their new logo looked like a pair of bright orange y-fronts.
As logo designers, we can imagine that this moment of realization wouldn’t have been a good one.
In the RJ Metrics blog post dissecting the events, they mention that this particular logo had been painstakingly researched and shown to various focus groups so that something like this couldn’t possibly happen, but as it turns out, they missed one audience: people from the UK. As the tweets started flooding in, the fine folks at RJ Metrics began to notice that everyone making the underwear observation was located in the UK.
Surely this wasn’t a coincidence. In fact, it wasn’t. As they went back through their research, the RJ Metrics team realized that in all of the different groups of people they asked, none of them were from the UK and, as a result, no one caught the resemblance.
Robert J. Moore talks a little bit about their guesses as to why people from the UK saw this connection when no one else did:
“We were faced with an interesting anthropological question: where does this difference come from? What is it about Brits that causes them to see underpants in our logo?
I read up on the history of y-fronts and called everyone I know who grew up in the UK. I walked away with a few anecdotes that seem to tell the story:
- The prominent upside-down “Y” made up by our logo’s edges is reminiscent of the same “y” from which y-fronts get their name.
- The white background of our Twitter logo makes these transparent edges look like elastic bands.
- The term “y-fronts” never caught on the US because American underwear maker Jockey convinced the buying public to use the term “Jockeys” instead.
- Y-fronts/briefs/etc. are substantially more popular in the UK than the US
- UK schoolchildren sometimes tease each other with insults like “I bet you wear y-fronts.” One Englishman I spoke with suggested that this might etch y-fronts more deeply into the psyche of the British.
It appears that y-fronts are a uniquely British phenomenon whose popularity doesn’t extend far past their borders.” (Read the entire article here)
As branding experts and logo designers, we know that it isn’t always possible to remove every unknown when considering how someone will interpret your logo, but an example like this sure supports our argument that a logo is an important part of your branding and requires careful thought.
While the entire experience made a great post, RJ Metrics didn’t really want their customers to think about orange y-fronts every time they saw the logo and have made the necessary adjustments. Thankfully, this is a funny example and gave them some good publicity, along with a lifetime of company jokes, but if the object audiences saw in the logo was more offensive, the situation might not be quite so funny.
If you’re considering rebranding or creating a logo for your company, come talk to us. Your branding is a crucial part of how the public perceives your business and is worth taking the time to get right.