Posted by on 02/24/11 in Branding, Design

24 COMMENTS   »  Leave your Comment

  1. Kaarins says:

    I’d give it a D, if only because I feel like an F is deserving of a company that is still holding on. I don’t expect much from them but to crowd source and rip off failed logo attempts. I feel like the company itself has fallen into the background noise of Macy’s and Fred Meyer and whatever other businesses that are out there being more progressive. Old logo or not, I don’t give them much consideration period, so to get my attention they’d have to do some brilliant revamping. It’s kind of like critiquing a new artist – you do so lightly to give them room to grow, and once they have, then you let loose the blunt criticisms. And like approaching an amateur artist, I rate the new logo with a “meh,” and not much more. Perhaps ‘any news is good news’ and they’re hoping to receive a mirrored reaction to the Gap logo, and that’s their idea of a marketing plan.

  2. Simon says:

    It looks as though they’re preparing the world for them to drop the ‘enny’ and be called ‘JCP’…

  3. erdem says:

    changing the logo is one of the less understandble action in marketing. and if you have that courage (or maybe the nessecité) to realise such shoul be reliable with the roots of the company. about 5 years ago turkey’s one of major house tech producer ARCEL?K performed a very successful “logo change” period. new logo is not very well achieved but the company realised a great “show” period to persuade people to the new logo and this “show” had a great looking to the old retro logo and the new modern and simplistic one you can inner the change. what gap did wrong? first, they did not offer the new logo with a refreshing attitude and it made people to think that new logo is not more then an amateur try. second, the design is a basic design101 students design, it looks like a 90s modernisation effort rather then a 2010s well endoved modernity and simplification…

  4. zx says:

    I like the new one much better. Simply because I don’t think mixing small caps and big letters is a good idea for logo. The old one seems ‘dirty’, the new one is clear.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelby White, Stewart Anthony. Stewart Anthony said: RT @Wanken: JCPenny Inspired by GAP Logo Redesign Fail #design […]

  6. Armando says:

    “Simply because I don’t think mixing small caps and big letters is a good idea for logo.”

    What small caps?

  7. I’m not sure I understand what the issue is here. Is it because the failed Gap log and this one both share some of the same design features of the solid square fill and Helvetica? And because Gap faced retaliation, so will JC Penny? I think this is more of a mole hill than a mountain.

    In looking at the new JC Penny mark, my first observations are 1) It doesn’t look like it was designed by a 5 year old, like Gap’s was 2) It seems to have some purpose to the “jcp” isolated from the knockout. This could signal a deliberate move to promote “jcp” as a shortened wordmark for the brand. 3) The new mark is more dynamic, where as Gap’s seemed like it was “dumbed down” 4) In greyscale, JC Penny’s previous mark is indistinguishable from Crate & Barrel’s, or any other Helveticized brand. They needed something.

    In the end, I guess I just don’t see people rioting over this as they did with Gap.

  8. Shelby White says:


    The issue isn’t that its similar in the output, its that their method of acquiring/creating this logo is wrong. The official JCPenny press release said this: “jcpenney sought submissions”. Perhaps they assumed that they were going to get something great by going to two schools, one of which was Rhode Island School of Design. However, why wouldn’t they go to an agency to help rebuild themselves is the question I ask.

    Sure people may not riot over this like GAP did for a number of reasons. The main possibly being that JCPenny doesn’t hold as much presence with us nowadays even though they still are a massive company.

  9. thehalvo says:

    The new logo is definitely a fail. But I mean let’s be honest, it’s JCPenny, not exactly a quality driven company to begin with. In the case of Gap’s redesign, it was a big disappointment because usually Gap’s overall design aesthetic and branding is relatively impressive. However JCPenny, that’s a totally different story, I honestly don’t expect anything mind blowing coming from them anytime soon.

    But I’m completely on board with Shelby when it comes to crowd sourcing, that’s just not cool. Hiring an agency to handle the redesign would have been the way to go.

  10. Isn’t this just even more proof that crowd sourcing doesn’t work?

  11. brian says:

    You’re all missing the point, crowd sourcing in the United States is more or less illegal. When you commission someone to do work for you without paying them, it’s illegal. In the case of crowd sourcing pertaining to students they likely agreed to work for free. It’s unethical by today’s standards although the idea of working for free for some time to “get ahead” is an antiquated culture practice. You can choose to do it, or not. If you do not like crowd sourcing then don’t participate in it. To all of you who think they should go to an “agency”, stop joking yourselves. I work for a marketing agency and I can tell you that there are many amazing designers around the world who can be far more efficient and effective with their execution than an agency of 150. Hone your skills and stop crying about crowd sourcing. And who really cares about the logo itself or whether or not it’s a “fail”. Logos don’t make a brand good or bad, that’s something you will have to come to terms with as designers eventually. And stop saying “fail”, you sound like a bunch of teenage girls.

  12. MK says:

    I like the new one better.

  13. @shelby

    Perhaps I have this misunderstood, but was it not _after_ the backlash that Gap appealed for submissions? This was their official response:

    “We know this logo created a lot of buzz and we’re thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding! So much so we’re asking you to share your designs,” the company said on its Facebook page late Wednesday. “We love our version, but we’d like to see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowd sourcing project.”

    To me this signals that they had some sort of closed process for developing the new mark. Then when people revolted, they came out with the “let’s see if you can do better” strategy.


    Your tone really doesn’t do much to advance the discussion. Regardless, if what you say about the legality of crowdsourcing is true, than what do you say to 99designs? I’m not saying I advocate that type of model, but the fact is nobody is stopping them. There are many submissions and ideas put forth by students and professionals alike which go uncompensated. Only the selected work is paid for. To say if JC Penny did or didn’t compensate the creator of the selected work is all speculation.

  14. brian says:


    Well firstly it’s illegal to commission work that isn’t paid for, I’m referring to all the participants who weren’t paid. Imagine if someone were say “I want to build a house”, so they go to 200 contractors and say “this is how I want my house to look, go build it the best you can, and I’ll pay for the one I like the best”. Obviously this never happens. Crowd sourcing, from a business perspective is not legal, but who is going to enforce that if someone agrees to do spec work on a logo? Nobody.

    As for my tone, so what? This type of garbage is why designers get a bad wrap, we’re seen as pushovers that don’t know business (which is true, generally). I’m sure JCPenny paid for the winner of the work (as they’re using it now). 99designs is an Australian company, they aren’t subject to US laws. Likewise most laws, especially patent, copyright and the like simply can’t be enforced, not all countries recognize patent/copyright laws, which is precisely why Chinese designers can get away with directly ripping off designs.

    And yes, this is advances the conversation. Once you realize that crowd sourcing is here to stay, the better you can combat it. Crowd sourcing is (as much as it pangs me to say) a lovely tool for entrepreneurs who don’t have the expenses for marketing.

  15. I guess my view on that is a little less passionate. If my goal is to get paid for my skills and my time, then I simply don’t participate in spec work. I personally do not need laws to protect me from this. But then again, I don’t do ID and logo design, which is plagued by spec work.

  16. Shelby White says:

    @Aaron: Yes you are correct and I agree.

    @Brian: My point wasn’t that crowd sourcing is just bad and thats the end of the story, it was that crowd sourcing is probably and more than likely not the best solution to solving a creative problem so large as this.

    While I dislike the idea of crowd sourcing and agree that it is a tool for some, I don’t actually believe that it is illegal. It would be interesting to know the source where you’ve heard/read about it being such. Essentially it is simply asking for a favor—who knows if anyone was paid. But moving back to my original point, the problem I have lies with the fact that this is probably not the best solution for a billion dollar company to take.

    “Logos don’t make a brand good or bad, that’s something you will have to come to terms with as designers eventually. And stop saying “fail”, you sound like a bunch of teenage girls.”

    Brian you are correct—a logo doesn’t make a brand, however a logo is part of a brand. A logo is part of the face and recognition of a brand. The same is such for people: our names and our faces are at the forefront of our self-identity. See where I’m starting to go with this? Recognition is hindered by the inversion of JCP. Something that plays a role in recognition is the subconscious connection between mark and emotion. This is where I personally see the “fail” occurs (I’m yelling the word right now to sound like more of a man).

  17. brian says:


    “…crowd sourcing is probably and more than likely not the best solution to solving a creative problem so large as this.”

    That’s impossible for us to tell, we didn’t see any creative brief. Perhaps the creative brief from JCPenny said “we don’t want to use a different font or colors and we like squares, please spruce up our logo”. Well then that changes everything, suddenly the logo seems a bit more sensible.

    “While I dislike the idea of crowd sourcing and agree that it is a tool for some, I don’t actually believe that it is illegal.”

    I don’t think crowd sourcing is bad in a say-all-end-all way either. I think it can actually be used as a tool by designers to practice their design skills and client skills (as well as for entrepreneurs as mentioned earlier). Crowd sourcing has a lot of shady sides to it. If you’ve ever cruised those sites you’ll notice that designs get blatantly ripped off, often at the expense of the designers who don’t win (ripping off design ideas is illegal). I think this is the biggest threat crowd sourcing poses—a general “dummying” down of the design field, not the fact that it can be technically considered illegal. I’ve seen firms that go on crowd sourcing websites and pay $500 (a drop in the bucket for most firms) for a logo they never use. The strategy is simple, for $500 you get a wide range of creative takes on a logo. The winning designer is nonethewiser and neither is the client of the firm. Nobody is going to go after someone for holding a contest for a logo design. The best legal reasoning I’ve heard is that—although you enter into a verbal agreement, you’re not bound to anything. So to say, you know full well that when you enter a contest you may not win.

    But there’s a difference…the companies who hold the contests that benefit from the skills of all the designers whom they don’t employ/pay (99designs). 99designs itself does nothing. They make money by essentially holding a forum and trafficking money. This is all the shady part of the copyright/creative rights/intellectual property/whatever-you-call-it aspect of working in a creative field. JCPenny, from the looks of it, didn’t go through a money grubbing middle man (like 99designs) to round-up unsuspecting designers. They went out and asked companies and programs if their employees or students would be interested in designing a new JCPenny logo. This is a HUGE difference compared to going through a company like 99designs. What we’re apparently starting to see is nomenclature issues surrounding the term “crowd-sourcing”. Either way, any time you offer money in a contest for a service, you should pay.

    Personally, I like to think there is value in our design skills, people want it, it adds prestige, professionalism, cleanliness, etc, to their image. So, because a company benefits from the skills of ALLLLLL those designers that enter a contest, shouldn’t they have to pay?

    “A logo is part of the face and recognition of a brand.”

    I understand logos and marks and design are all part of brand identity—to which you’re right about. My point about logos not making the brand was in response to the people saying they already had a negative image of jcpenny before the rebranding. “Well JCPenny was a crappy company before so I only expect them to do such a heinous thing”. What good then does a logo rebranding make? pretty much none. If you didn’t like jcpenny before their rebranding then I certainly hope a simple logo revision wouldn’t change your mind.

    “This is where I personally see the “fail” occurs (I’m yelling the word right now to sound like more of a man).”

    Funny. :p

  18. Jack says:

    And I thought we had weathered the recent spate of arbitrary, antsy-pantsed logo redesigns. Ah, well. A few comments–first of all, I have been following this site for some time now and this is my first comment, wanted to congratulate you on such a nicely put together and enjoyable site, please keep up the good work.
    The other comment is that Brian is right, please everyone curb the desire to use what appears to be timely net-related lingo. “Fail,” as many of these net-related phrases and such do, originate from the very lowest, ugliest nethers of our fine interweb, and most of the original practitioners themselves find the use of the term deeply passé now.
    I don’t mean to fret like a kindly, elderly relative (don’t I just), but earnest usage of completely known outdated slang (“jeepers,” or even “rad”) would be more welcome because such usage would at least at least entail a knowing irony, which “fail” simply cannot. It is deeply juvenile, which I believe what Brian was trying to get after, not so much the gender coloration. No adult man or woman (nor indeed truly hip teenager) would be caught saying “fail” or “win” or any such formulation of “epic”.

    If you would suggest it is neither here nor there to arbitrate hipness of language on a comment for a design blog I would surmise that graphic design is very, very much conscious of it’s own catty universe of “in” and “out,” and that design blog readers are all very much wrapped up in their own conceptions of cool, as I clearly am, my understanding of your hipness being temporarily punctured by way of gauche internetese.

    Now that I’ve fully outed myself as as slang-snob I will close once again with commending the quality of your site and it’s contents. Cheers! :)

  19. Jim Mitchell says:

    Agree. A fail. JCP ENNEY? who they? If you’re going to rebrand as JCP or jcp just do it. Old name in small type below if you must, later to be dropped. But hell, even for dummies the JCP or jcp identity where JC Penney once was seems a pretty obvious connection. In this instance you don’t need your cake and eat it too. Just a bit of the required commercial arrogance. Timidity fails.

  20. If ever proof were needed that crowd sourcing is a bad idea then this lame attempt at a rebrand by JCPenny is it.

    Hopefully brand managers will learn from this and it will never happen again — unfortunately I expect this not to be the case. :(

  21. Adam says:

    Lame. Crowd sourcing is garbage, paving the way to devaluing the job that designers do every day.

    Oh well. Guess it’s also our jobs to convince clients this is the case and have them hire us instead.

  22. paul says:

    The first GAP logo redesign was not actually crowd sourced, originally. They crowd sourced it after all of the criticism.

    Illegal? Maybe. Shit? Yeah.

    (didnt read all of the comments, so maybe someone mentioned this already)

  23. Gregory Peña says:

    I think that the new JCPenney logo is a major disaster. You are changing the brand face of a company whose stores were mostly built in the 1970s and 1980s. I do not consider JCPenney’s action a wise one. I do admit that the old logo was a bit stale, but this new all-lowercase logo, it just does not look good. It reeks of cheapness and it seems that JCPenney is following a trend of lowercase logos, which many companies have adopted these past three years.

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