Laughing all the way to the Bank - AT&T Rebrand

Established in 2005 in its current corporate form but with roots back to 1885, AT&T is one of the leading telecommunications companies in the U.S. and the the world’s largest provider of pay TV with customers in the U.S. and 11 Latin American countries. AT&T also offers mobile, high speed Internet, and voice services. With its acquisition of DirecTV and new partnerships, acquisitions, offerings, and global expansion, AT&T is positioning itself to become the premier integrated communications company as it also expands into Mexico. This January, AT&T began rolling out a revised logo that marks the beginning of a larger identity overhaul taking place this year, most visible now in new TV commercials and capital expansion projects like corporate signage, retail signage in Mexico, and DirecTV’s vehicle fleet. The revised logo and identity are being designed in collaboration by AT&T Brand Identity & Design and Interbrand New York.

“As the AT&T business expands in new directions, their visual identity needed to evolve to flourish in new markets and environments. Interbrand has been working with the internal brand identity team at AT&T to update their core visual assets — including a new logo and color palette — providing flexibility for the brand to connect with an increasingly diverse audience across mobility, entertainment and business solutions. Together, we’re creating a brand optimized for an always-moving and mobile-first world, and this is just the foundation of many exciting updates.”

Darrin Crescenzi, design director, interbrand new york

For us designers the 2005 and this newer version of the logo aren’t so much AT&T’s new logos as they are Not-Saul-Bass’-AT&T logo, which we’ve placed so high on a pedestal the air pressure changes up there. We will always compare any updates to the logo back to the original not because it was a perfect logo but it serves as a touchpoint in the development of logo and corporate identity by one of our heroes. Mainstream consumers don’t give a shit, of course, and good for them because then they can just focus on whether the service is good or not, not moan every time a bill comes in the mail with the shady globe logo. Anyway, with this latest iteration, the comparisons to the old logo will be even more poignant as Interbrand is trying to right its own wrong from when they volume-ized the logo in 2005 back when marble logos were all the rage.

Let’s start with the good: The 3D effect and the lowercase at&t wordmark are gone. The logo is now a single color, easy to reproduce, scale, rotate, embroider, silkscreen, whatever. The corporate wordmark is back to uppercase and looks sharp and strong. Now the bad: If you stare at the Globe on its own for a few seconds, the curves don’t make a lot of sense, feel wobbly, and shows no evident pattern or rhythm to how the blue lines thicken. In the original, it was clear there was a light source hitting the globe and the rudimentary “3D effect” was clearly achieved. The 2005 version was too literal in how it represented volume but its 3D rendering made it clear how the lines behaved. This new version, without the precedents, feels like random strands of blue wrapping around a sphere. On quick glances and at small sizes, the logo does convey volume and is recognizable as AT&T so I guess the solution is to not look at it for far too long or when it’s too big.

Not much in application yet, only a few corporate uses that are very basic. The stationery set with the AT&T wordmark on the bottom right corner is the highlight. Typographically, it looks like they are sticking with Omnes, which is one of my favorite typefaces and it works nicely as a playful corporate typeface in its lighter weights (as seen in the first signage image and the new tagline) and it’s been widely used in AT&T’s consumer materials, so we’ll see if that continues in the long run and if it has any effect with DirecTV’s use of DIN. Overall, it’s a good change in its simplicity, flexibility, and thinking of the globe icon as the cornerstone of the new AT&T empire but, with it being the key element, the execution of the globe had to be perfect and I don’t think it is. It’s serviceable, yes, but a touchpoint in the development of corporate identity in the twenty-first century? Not quite.