In late April, Yahoo released a gorgeously designed new Weather app for iOS: a minimalist treat of meteorology that CEO Marissa Mayer said represented the second phase of the company’s attempt to reinvent itselfby “building beautiful products and executing well against our business strategy.”
Pretty much everyone loved the new Yahoo Weather app, except for one thing: the purple logo.
“Officially the ugliest icon ever,” said one Twitter user in response to the update. “Its icon isn’t home page worthy,” said another. Some used their available Twitter character counts to criticize the icon with even more ruthless efficiency: “That icon is ass.”
The icon was such a bust that less than a month later, Yahoo made the extraordinary move of replacing the logo with one that was even uglier. Despite this, the new mark was widely hailed as an improvement. Yet just last week, Yahoo updated its official Weather app again, and surprise! The original logo is back, with not a whiff of controversy.
What is going on here, not just as far as Yahoo’s strange design schizophrenia is concerned, but with the public’s inexplicable abhorrence–and just as sudden acceptance–of having a purple icon on their home screens?
Yahoo’s association with the color purple is so well known that when Tumblr was bought earlier this year, Tumbr’s CEO David Karp could just say “We’re not turning purple” and everyone immediately knew what that meant: Tumblr wouldn’t be subsumed into Yahoo’s corporate biomass. Instead, it would continue to be run like an independent company.
But it’s an interesting turn of phrase that says a lot about the cultural history of the color purple. Ever since ancient Phoenicians first figured out how to grind up rare sea snails to make expensive Tyrian dye, purple has been a color that is associated with kings, priests, politicians, magistrates, and wealthy autocrats. When Karp said that Tumblr wasn’t turning purple, then, he was also saying that Tumblr wasn’t joining the establishment. Tumblr would keep its indie cred.
Read more of Mr. Brownlee’s less than favorable review of Yahoo’s branding: http://bit.ly/11JD0t0
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