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New Palm Logo Critique

Heard from both Michael Ashby and Russell Beattie that Palm, Inc. (formerly palmOne) has a new logomark as of today. If you don't know, PalmSource sold the rights to the Palm name back to palmOne at the recent DevCon and July 14th was the day palmOne changed to Palm. Confused yet? :-)

Names aside, I wanted to comment on the new logo design, from a designer's perspective. Here are the original and new logo, side by side (thanks to Russ):

Palm Logos

Too Much Orange

Russell Beattie seemed to dislike the orange ball versus the original black and blue mark:

Call me a stick in the mud, but I think the new Palm logo doesn't have the same cool-factor that the first one did. The old one reminds me of BMW - especially when you see it as a button on a device - it conveys a sense of technical excellence. The new one is like a dot-com startup which alludes to the old logo, but then adds orange as a sign of “innovation,” but I don't think it works.

I agree. I love orange, but in this case I think the color doesn't display enough weight. That, combined with the very light gradated metal ring edge, further reduces the 'gravitas' of the mark. Hardware has weight and volume, so by representing the company with such a bright, light logo, I feel the substantial presence projected by the original mark is lost.

Font Problems

I actually dislike the new typeface more than the colors. The original typeface was very vertical and compressed, yet was quite easy to read in an instant. The original blue mark was immediately identifiable, while the new orange mark takes a few seconds to process. This is even more of an issue having such a bright color and weak gray gradation ring around it — there is literally no weight to make the mark stand out. Even worse, the white type on orange is difficult to read.

Notice how short the new font is compared to the original — the height of the palm letters are half of the very tall, compressed letter forms of the original logo. This is a pretty big deal, because it limits how small the mark can be on hardware, websites, printed materials and so forth. Because of this very small font size, the new mark on Treos and LifeDrives will have to be larger than the original logo.

The original compressed typeface scaled quite well to small sizes — to prove this, look at the flat, one-color Palm logomark on most new Palm OS devices. The new shorter font just doesn't scale well at small sizes — the “a” starts looking like an “o” and there is less vertical area to help your eye sort out the letter forms.


It's too bad Palm felt they had to do something new, because they've lost an excellent, memorable and readable logo mark. Honestly, I think even hard-core Palm fans like me are still confused who truly “owned” the Palm name.

Oh well.

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Reader Comments (14)

YUP! I agree. Maybe if the typeface color were darker it might have looked better.
July 14, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSteve R
Mike, it's not been communicated in the materials around the new brand, but in this morning's Palm company meeting, they indicated that on devices, the 'palm' logoword would be used by itself, without the surrounding orange circle, usually in a color that complimented the device well. One of the reasons for picking that font was because the word by itself would stand out well even when made fairly small. The orange "palm ball" would show up in larger contexts, such as the side of a building or on product packaging. The old "blue ball" was difficult to use on devices, and reproducing it in full color was expensive.

I'm still not crazy about it myself, but it's growing on me, especially after seeing it in a lot of "possible future contexts". I can't say any more :)
July 14, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBen Combee
I agree, I agree, I agree, I agree, I agree, I agree.

The new logo is the answer to the question that nobody asked.

I used to believe than Palm was run by savvy, no-nonsense bussiness people... but I was wrong
July 15, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterZac
I like the old one better. The font on the new button is too..uhh..umm.. childish? I can't really find the right word to say.
July 15, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNola
Ben, thanks for the insights! Using text alone shoudl help with device branding and other small-logo uses, though I'd still argue that the new palm typography is still harder to read than the old.

But maybe Palm was not in a position to keep the original logo -- I realize there's a desire to go a new direction and maybe some constraints... too bad that at least the original compressed type that' shared by the blue round logo and the 'palm' of palmOne couldn't have been spared.

I am looking forward to seeing what "possible future contexts" are coming down the road... :-)
July 15, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

I agree - right away you look at the new logo and think orange? It is not Sunkist soda but a small computer. I think Palm is thinking less about design these days, the cases of the new handhelds all are plastic and not metal, which holds up better in the case of my T3. I still am waiting for a new handheld from them that says I have to have it, I haven't felt that way about any of the new models even the LifeDrive, it is too big. Maybe the next one will be it. They still have to do a lot better on battery life as well, and why not make them removable like the Compaq's used to have. Well, we will see what the future brings.
July 15, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterlarrybrew
Too much like ON Semicondustor's logo, albeit not in green...
July 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMarkie
Mike, it's neat to see that you and I have similar criticisms of the new logo. I made some comments about it in this thread in my forums at Tapland:

I also took about five minutes and came up with a modified version of the logo which I felt improved it. You can see that in that thread I linked to, but basically I replaced the outer soft gray rim with a simpler, bolder black circle.

For those who think they should have kept the old logo...I'm not sure that they could have done that, and I feel strongly that they shouldn't have been allowed to. Remember that a simpler version of the old logo was found silkscreened on non-palmOne devices (e.g., the Tapwave Zodiac), so if palmOne "inherited" the old logo, they'd now be getting free advertising on their competitor's products. As it is, I can't imagine that the other licensees are crazy about this, but perhaps that's part of the reason why there *aren't* many other licensees.
July 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterScott R
Hmmm, strange. I seem to be the only one who disagrees.

The old Palm logo? Brrrr! I never liked it. It oozes ancient 80ies Corporate America. It looked dated and dusty from the day it was introduced.

The new logo on the other hand, I liked immediately. It looks fresh, juicy and warm - simply pleasant. It has good connotations.

I guess it tells where Palm wants to go. Do they want to sell organizers to Corporate America or fun digital gadgets to everyone?

The answer is in the new logo.
July 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAndy
I'd guess the new Palm could not keep that old logo for many reasons, so I think they were going to change no matter what.

However, I'm not so much having a problem with orange... its the font I probably feel is difficult to read. I think it really needs more weight against the large orange field than now � something more vertical.

Not that Palm is going to listen to me though... :-)
July 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Hi,would you tell me the name of the font they use?
October 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMai Xuan
Max -- it's a totaly custom font as is the original Palm font. A colleague contacted the identity firm to verify this.
October 25, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
It's what I though. I agree with you the original logo was great. However the friend for whom I'm designing a logo loves that font: i'm gonna send him to your forum.Thanks.
October 25, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMai Xuan
Mai, for a similar font to the compressed font, check out either a Compacta Extra Compressed or maybe a Helvetica or Univers Extra Compressed as a starting point.

As for the new font; not sure where to start with that -- there's probably some font that you could start with and then edit in vectors (assuming you use Illustrator) to tweak to your needs.
October 25, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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