Yes, we know it's only April, but it's never too early to recap on the worst logos of the year so far, right? After all, every time we stop to analyse unsuccessful designs and where they went wrong is a chance for designers to avoid similar mistakes in the months ahead.
While we're only four months into the year, there are already contenders for the worst logo of 2022. In most cases, the designs didn't work because they break some of the basic rules of logo design (keep it simple, anyone?). Sometimes they followed the rules, but the designers should have asked for a second opinion (or more second opinions).
A logo is perhaps the most important part of the branding process, so we can't emphasise enough the importance of getting it right. It's what people see and remember first, becoming the main identifier for a brand. Take a look at our pick of the best logos of all time to see how successful the results can be. In the meantime, these are our contenders for the worst logos of the year so far.
The Barnstaple logo
One of the golden rules of how to design a logo is to make it easy to recall. That normally means keeping it simple. The less complex the design, the easier it will be for people to remember it, and to remember the brand as a result. So just what is going on in this logo for the town of Barnstaple in Devon?
Confusing to say the least, the messy design is almost impossible to interpret with its apparently random multicoloured lines. There's a clue, it turns out, in the tagline that accompanies it: "streets ahead". Ah, it's a map of Barnstaple's town centre. But of course!
We always say a logo design should be appropriate for its audience and use, and it's possible that for the good people of Barnstaple, this jumble of coloured sticks may be recognisable and meaningful. That doesn't mean they were impressed though, "Load of cr*p. Two-year old could have done it for a free Farley's Rusk," one person commented on Facebook. On the upside, if you're lost in the centre of Barnstaple and Google maps is on the blink, look out for the town's logo and you may just be able to find your way out.
The official county seal of St Francis County, Missouri
Town and county authorities turn out to be responsible for several of the worst logo designs. I have sympathy for them. It's difficult to please your own residents and also arrive at a design that successfully represents a place at a wider level. It can be tempting to go for something abstract that only someone local could understand, but another danger is throwing in every icon ever associated with the jurisdiction and then some. And that's just what the county of St Francis in Missouri did with this chaotic affair.
There's a lot to be said for town crests and flags that combine symbols with historic meanings. The official seal of St Francis County includes elements common to many US government seals. There's an eagle (at a rather odd angle) a waving American flag, a cross and a Bible. There's a shovel and a pickaxe in there too. Oh, and a map, get that in too! The whole thing is exacerbated by a somewhat childish font. The culprit? The head commissioner of St Francois county himself. Harold Gallaher decided the county seal needed an update, so he took on the task using "some simple software".
The seal has actually looked like this since 2018, but it was only picked up by Reddit earlier this year, and the resulting derision of the logo's clip-art feel has led St Francois to launch a contest to redesign it. Any requirements? Well, Gallaher, who's admitted that "a 5-year-old kid with a high fever could do a better job" says he wants it to include the colour red, and "some symbol about parks," because the county is known for its parkland region. "I would like it to be better than the seal we have now, which would be a slam dunk", he added.
The Australian government's Women’s Network logo
The last thing you'd want the logo for a women's network to look like is a... well, you can probably see it in the image. But it seems nobody at the Australian government's Women's Network saw it. We've come across plenty of accidentally rude logos in our time, and this is perhaps one of the most embarrassing given the context.
The logo features a curly 'w' and a girthy line that together look very much like a juvenile sketch of a penis. The purple colour even recalls the aubergine emoji. The Twitterverse was quick to voice its amazement. "I thought this was satire, but it is either thoughtless or an insult," one user tweeted, while Yumi Lee at the Older Women's Network was upset about "how little they have thought about women".
Some even alleged that the resemblance was intentional. One designer wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab), "Looking at this logo as a graphic designer, I can tell you the designer knew EXACTLY what they were doing from font choice to layout to colour. This isn’t a mistake. It reeks of teenage boy mentality malevolence." Meanwhile, another body also called the Women's Network was so aghast that it released a statement to clarify that it had nothing to do with the matter.
Please be advised that Women’s Network Australia has been around for 30+ years. This is our trade marked logo. We are in no way affiliated or associated with another #womensnetwork organisation and logo, the design of which has been subject to much comment. pic.twitter.com/6lx2EBxGRLMarch 14, 2022
Looking at the logo alone, it's almost impossible to understand what the designer was going for. It only starts to make some vague sense when you see the whole suite of existing logos for other government departments (click right in the image above). The logo was designed to fit into the family, but still should never have happened. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of Australia seems to agree and has since removed it. In a statement in March, it explained: "The rebrand was completed internally, using existing resources, and designs were consulted on widely. No external providers were engaged for this work. The logo has been removed from the department’s website, pending consultation with staff." The lesson here? Always ask for a second (and third) opinion.
The new Buick logo
Ok, I'm not saying this leaked Buick logo redesign is as terrible as the logos above. It ticks some of the right boxes in that it's fairly clear, simple, versatile – memorable even. But all the same I – and the internet in general, it seems – find it pretty confusing. Instead of diagonally, the three shields are arranged horizontally, and, at least for now, it appears to be monochrome, doing away with the red, white and blue hues. It's clear that Buick wanted to follow the recent trend to flatten and simplify logos – something we've particularly seen in car logos. That can be a good move. Simplicity can make for a more memorable logo, and it can make the design more flexible too, serving for different mediums.
The problem is that in this case, it's clear what Buick's traditional logo shows: three shields (apparently based on the Buick family's ancestral coat of arms). The new minimal design looks like it's supposed to represent something other than abstract shapes, but it's not clear what. Vampire teeth? A beard trimmer? Bullets? Claws? The internet isn't sure. "Call me when Buick changes its name to Wolverine or All Day Nail Spa," one person tweeted. "Judging by the Twitter response, this is more like a Rorschach test than a car brand logo," one car fan quipped. It's not clear how – or if – Buick will actually use the logo. While General Motors has filed the trademark, we haven't yet seen it in use, so maybe they've had second thoughts.
And the worst logo of 2021?
A definite contender for the worst logo of last year was another unfortunate example of a design that looks like something else. The calendar and scheduling tool Calendly's previous logo was simple if not exactly attention-grabbing: a 'C' in the centre of a page in a calendar, clearly related to what the brand does. But the new design bowled us over, and not in a good way. It shows a rounded hexagon inside a hollow letter 'C'... or rather it shows a birds-eye view of a toilet seat.
Even without the unfortunate resemblance, the logo is rather busy and kind of looks like it was drawn by a kid – or like it could have been another case of a brand jumping on last year's intentionally bad logo trend. Many of the worst logos we've seen have been designed by amateurs with no design knowledge or experience, but this time it was the work of the usually impeccable Pentagram (opens in new tab). The studio says the logo was designed to be “engaging, expressive and versatile,” and to reflect the platform's "intelligent design, improved workflows and incredible ease of use.” Hmm, if you say so.
It's not all bad design in 2022 though; we have seen plenty of new logos that we liked, including Baskin-Robins' new logo and the new Wrigleys logo. What do you need to design a good logo? Well, design knowledge, experience and practice for one.
The best software can also help you hone your skills – we have guides to the best logo designer tools and even the best free logo maker. But at the end of the day, there's no comparison to professional software (and hiring a professional designer!). See the best current prices on Adobe's Creative Cloud packages below if you need to kit yourself out.