Elon Musk's overnight rebranding of Twitter as 'X' was a masterclass in how to destroy a brand identity as quickly, and seemingly as thoughtlessly, as possible. Sure, a brand might usually hold months of behind the scenes rebrand meetings with multiple design experts – but who needs that, right? Musk went blundering in, in a way only Musk could – crowdsourcing a logo and instating it immediately without a thought for the rest of the identity (even the app icon took a few days to catch up).
The Twitter brand was one of the most coherent identities out there (see our Twitter logo history for more). From the iconography to the language, the entire branding system was carefully constructed – whether or not Twitter as a platform was beginning to fail. And it only took a couple of tweets to take it all down.
The X logo itself couldn't be more different from before, in process or in final design. Where there was a carefully constructed bird, chosen from 24 sketches and based on 15 overlapping circles to ensure the curves were completely perfect, now there are two overlapping lines inspired by an online font – and it's even been used as a logo before.
Musk has already indicated the X is likely to be a placeholder, with further rebranding on the horizon (even though it's already been redesigned, twice). And in many ways this will be in his interests. It's hard to imagine how a brand identity as complex as what came before could possibly come from the shoots of the X. Because Musk and his team will need to find replacements for many design elements. If there's no bird, how will we tweet? And what is the equivalent of the little feather icon, reminiscent of a quill, that denoted creating a new message?
In a way, Musk's destruction of the brand was perfect. If your aim is to undo a decade's worth of work, how better could you achieve that aim by launching a totally unrelated symbol with no process whatsoever? Now the design team has to catch up, and quickly. I just can't imagine how they will scramble to create related iconography and language to match that of what came before – whether or not they stick with the X.
Actually, the whole thing couldn't be more 'Twitter' in concept. Send a hasty tweet out for crowdsourced suggestions and implement one of them (that has already been used somewhere else) before anyone has a chance to blink. It reeks of a drunk decision easily regretted but difficult to take back.
But we've all been talking about it. All week. In a way we wouldn't if the rebrand process was typical. And crucially, no-one is talking about Threads anymore.