A wolf in sheep’s clothing

On: September 14, 2015
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About Kyra Delsing
I am a master student New Media and Digital Culture with a background in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences.






On the first of September this year, Google surprised the world with a new logo that will replace the old quirky logo that has appeared above the search box since 1999. According to the Google design blog the main reason for a new look is the huge constellation of devices through which users engage with the company. The new logo will perfectly fit on the screens of each new and old device.

The Google logo has always had a simple, friendly, and approachable style but by “combining the mathematical purity of geometric forms with the childlike simplicity of schoolbook letter printing” they made the logo look even more friendly and innocent (Google design blog). Even the doodle Google designed for the announcement of their new look shows a child writing “Google” in chalk.

It seems to be an upcoming trend for big tech companies to choose a “friendly and innocent” style for their brand. Even before Google, companies like Microsoft and eBay felt the need for a makeover to a friendlier logo. But why the pursuit of friendly and innocent in a digital world (Flavorwire)?

According to a research done by Seimiene and Kamarauskaite (431), organizations use logo’s as a way of expressing their strengths and qualities. If done right, the logo can positively influence people’s vision of the company and convey the sentiment of quality (Seimiene and Kamarauskaite, 430). Another research proved that perception is crucial in the decision-making process: “In a market where branding plays a major role, products are no longer only purchased for their functional characteristics, but primarily for the social or in some cases, psychological identity they express” (Soomro, Yasir Ali, and Rehan Shakoor, 3).

Some companies make use of the influence a logo can have on people and act as if they are one thing while actually being something else. Take for example the BP logo. Nobody will choose a logo with a dead tree for a fuel company. But instead, they chose a green leafy logo, which almost makes you think you are doing something good for the environment while filling up your car with petrol. But then again: Why are tech companies choosing friendly and innocent looking logos? Are they also pretending to be something else?

According to Wired Magazine, Google chose a friendly, approachable and childlike style because they “want you to think of it not as an all-knowing, all-powerful entity, but as a benevolent guide to this new world, one that considers humans, not machines, the most important thing.”

If you look at Google’s business design you will see it mostly revolves around data. But to be able to gather all this information, they have to get close to you. And that requires trust. Cyber-image corporations like Google and many other successful companies worldwide do not have big overpowering logos on billboards or skyscrapers nor make use of repetitive visual advertising. The bigger and flashier your logo, the more unreliable you seem. Instead they quietly work their way into our laptops and other devices and eventually manage to be everywhere (Refresher).

Google is a powerful, and for some people, scary organization because of the amount of information they have access to. But Google itself certainly claims it is a friendly company, or at least that is what they aim for having ‘Don’t Be Evil’ as one of their guiding principles. Apparently it is necessary for the company to literally promise they will not do any harm. Throughout the years different people have raised questions about the meaning of what Google considers as evil. This was especially the case in 2012 when the company announced they would be tracking users universally across all its services.

Today, critics of Google mostly write about the slogan in a negative way: According to internet critic Evgeny Morozov “Don’t Be Evil makes as much sense as a corporate motto as it does as a motto of American foreign policy: it provides no answers to any of the important questions while giving those who embrace it an illusion of rectitude.” (4). Other critics say Google just cannot do evil just because it believes it is not doing evil. Evil means whatever Google wants it to be (Quartz).

Although some people have always seen the motto as a joke or meaningless, Motherboard writes this could be the first time the company seems to agree. In CEO Larry Page’s announcement of the new holding company Alphabet “Don’t Be Evil” was nowhere to be seen…

For having data as the centre of their business design Google has to earn the trust of their users. For this reason it is important people see the company as friendly, innocent and especially trustable. By making sure people see them this way, they can get closer and closer. Just like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Morozov, Evgeny. “Don’t be evil.” The New Republic (2011): 1-10.

Seimiene, Eleonora, and Egle Kamarauskaite. “Effect of Brand Elements on Brand Personality
Perception.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 156 (2014): 429–434.

Soomro, Yasir Ali, and Rehan Shakoor. “Impact of logo on consumer perception of a company.”
Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research In Business 3.7 (2011): 1-11.

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