Detective Comics: The Logo
Even if you’re not a fan of superhero movies, you probably recognize the DC Comics logo. It’s a simple slab-serif D and C within a circle. It sounds rather plain, but it’s evolved over the last 80 years to what it is today, evolving well beyond it’s predecessors while still acknowledging its origin story. I’m a fan of the new DC Comics logo and it definitely seems to be the best version they’ve had in decades. Now let’s see how it’s evolved and judge it by the criteria for an effective logo.
The DC Rebrands
In the last ten years, DC Comics has gone through two, very distinct rebrands. In 2012 they launched a unique identity design to replace the previous logo, which was last updated in 2005. The rebrand was needed. Their 2005 logo wasn’t terrible, but it did look a bit more like a dish soap company rather than a comic book brand.
The 2012 rebrand was a big change for DC. Their prior logos all shared a similar look, and even the 2005 version still carried some of the iconic DC appeal. However, the 2012 logo brought something new into the mix; an opportunity to explore the unique imagery of each DC property within the logo itself.
The 2012 DC Logo
The 2012 DC logo was met with a lot of criticism since it was such a major change to the brand. The logo no longer had that classic, comic book appeal that so many kids grew up with. For that reason, a lot of people hated it. I, however, absolutely loved it. To date, it’s one of my favorite logos. Maybe it’s because I get what the designers were trying to do, or maybe because I love superheroes.
What is apparent though, is that the design approach was to bring DC comics into the mainstream with a modernized, adaptable logo. The logo itself works on a few levels. The first, and most obvious, is the representation of a turning page in a comic book. DC started out in comic books after all.
The other aspect I love is the idea of the secret identity hidden within. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a common theme in superhero stories. On top of all that, I love the built in versatility it has for each different DC property. Pretty cool right?
The 2016 DC Logo
The 2012 DC Comics logo was only in use until 2016 when they launched a brand new logo. This time, they went back to their roots. A solid DC within a circle. It’s not revolutionary or as fun to play around with as the 2012 version. There’s no secret identity within it, and no specific call to it being a comic book brand. But it felt uniquely DC.
In addition, distancing themselves from the specific ‘comic book’ concept was needed, as DC was becoming more known for their film and television properties than their comics. It’s also worth noting that their brand was now called ‘DC Entertainment.’
Their 2016 logo somehow appears more on-brand and more in-sync with their fans than anything they’ve come up with since the 1970’s. It appears both powerful and menacing. Heroic and villainous. It’s classic and uniquely DC. I love the 2012 logo, but the 2016 one fits the DC brand so much better.
Pentagram designed this logo and they really did a great job capturing the DC legacy. According to Pentagram, “The launch of the new logo is the perfect tribute to DC’s legacy, exciting future and most importantly, our fans.” and I absolutely agree.
Judging The 2012 Logo
In order to properly determine if a logo is effective, we need to judge it based on some set criteria. I love the 2012 logo, but does it hold up to scrutiny?
Is is Appropriate?
I think the 2012 DC logo is appropriate for a comic book brand, but not necessarily for one that has been around since the 1940’s and already had a well established place in the mind of the consumer. The 2005 version needed an update, but the 2012 logo seemed to deviate just a little bit too much from the DC brand. Visually and conceptually it’s really well done, but it might not have been the most appropriate choice.
Is it Distinctive?
The 2012 DC logo is certainly distinct. I haven’t seen anything quite like it, though most of its criticism came from those who thought the logo was a little too distinct from its predecessors.
Is it Simple?
On the simplicity side of things, the DC 2012 logo works, but not as well as it could. I am curious to know how the icon is perceived when the text is removed. If you remove the ‘DC Comics’ part beneath the icon, does it read as DC? Does it need to? If a teenage fan of the comics wanted to redraw the logo in chalk on the sidewalk, would he be able to recall it from memory and have it be recognizable?
The most glaring issue I see with the logo is the gradient. Logos need to work when you can’t use a gradient; when you need to be able to reproduce a logo in a single colour. This logo, as is, doesn’t work. Converted to a single colour, you lose much of the its identity. The designers would likely have created a single colour version of the logo, but how different did they need to make it?
Judging The 2016 Logo
Now’s lets analyze the 2016 DC Entertainment logo based on the same criteria.
Is is Appropriate?
Not only does the 2016 logo feel like a comic brand, but it feels like the DC brand, specifically. It fits the brand personality, the genre of media produced by DC, and it works well on all their properties. So yes, it’s appropriate.
Is it Distinctive?
I’d say that it’s distinctive enough among other comic book brands, as well as being distinct from its predecessors while still embracing its origins.
Is it Simple?
The 2016 DC logo is remarkably simple. It’s reproducible, memorable, and works in any colour. The DC text within the logo is far more legible than in the 2012 version as well. Its simplicity allows it to be adapted into the various DC properties with only minor adjustments.
I really am a fan of the 2012 DC logo. Is it a good logo? Sure. But it’s not the best for DC. I love the adaptability of it and how it was designed to work in the superhero universe of DC, integrated within each DC property. The 2016 logo, however, is better. It also happens to look really great in the opening sequence of DC movies.
Do you like the DC logo? Which version do you like best? 2012? 2016? Or one of their previous logos? Let me know in the comments.