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If you want to use YouTube‘s logo on your product, Google officially warns you not to change its color, blur it, bend its name, or write out the logo in Comic Sans. Those are very real, very serious violations under YouTube’s brand guidelines, and to demonstrate the point, YouTube even created several incorrect logos to prove why they shouldn’t be used.
Don’t laugh. When was the last time you misspelled “YouTube” as “YouTubey” on your website?
XOXO Festival co-founder and former Kickstarter CTO Andy Baio grabbed the internet’s attention this week after he shared logo misuse warnings for brands such as YouTube, Slack, Twitter, Spotify, and Sandals. That’s for a reason: The guidelines take themselves way too seriously while messing around with some of the most iconic companies and organizations in the U.S.
For instance, one misuse photo from Spotify warns readers not to rotate the logo or apply a gradient, catching their eye with an all caps “NO.” It’s like Spotify is an unhappy parent that caught you, the lowly graphic design intern, messing around with their precious family heirloom.
My favorite part of every brand guidelines is the precious "Logo Misuse" section. pic.twitter.com/Xv2Wi7j30t— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) January 16, 2019
LinkedIn and the University of Michigan both have their own bizarrely cartoony takes on their logos, which will destroy any ounce of respect and dignity you had for their images.
pretty sure i'd use linkedin much more often if it had this jaunty logo pic.twitter.com/qXmnGSQj3f— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) January 16, 2019
our designers worked so hard on our rebrand, why would you do this to them pic.twitter.com/rXhxfrkztT— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) January 16, 2019
Slack, meanwhile, is very, very possessive of its new octothorpe (or “penis swastika,” as Boing Boing describes it).
do the octothorpe shuffle pic.twitter.com/679FqOTNSf— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) January 16, 2019
Some Twitter users now believe the octothorpe is a Lovecraftian monster bent on the mortal plain’s destruction.
do not ANGER the OCKTOTHORPH— Jeremy Sachs (@rezmason) January 17, 2019
lest it awaken from its epochal slumber
emerge from its deep, cyclopean tomb
and offer us what is essentially friendlier Skype
Slack even hopped into the thread to defend its octothorpe’s honor.
Emotionally.— Slack (@SlackHQ) January 17, 2019
Meanwhile after Adam Conover of Adam Ruins Everything fell in love with Twitter’s section, Baio posted Twitter’s most recent brand guidelines with all of its incorrect examples. That post boils down to “our logo ain’t a bird, it’s Twitter, and keep it up-to-date, pal.”
that one's three years old, the new one's more elaborate pic.twitter.com/qbSRKMiVTV— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) January 17, 2019
i love logo misuse but I really love their whole aesthetic of "it's not a fucking bird it's our logo" that twitter has to go with— worst dressed girl (@barelyconcealed) January 17, 2019
i spent FAR too long making this— Adam Conover (@adamconover) January 17, 2019
Baio even came up with a joke version for the metal band Korn.
imagine if bands started making these pic.twitter.com/JEVGWcB46p— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) January 17, 2019
For the record, Baio’s tweet is doing pretty well for itself. After he kicked off the thread on Wednesday evening, the first tweet scored more than 2,000 retweets and 7,000 likes by Thursday morning. Some users even chimed in with their own takes on logos and misusing them.
I really need to find the classic Adobe brand guide where it insists you do not Photoshop something, you modify an image with Adobe Photoshop ™ software— n8 (@onathanats) January 16, 2019
It’s for trademark protection purposes. Trademarks are only supposed to be used as adjectives (which is why you always see a little “sandwich cookies” note on the Oreos package, for instance. They’re not technically Oreos—they’re Oreos®️ brand sandwich cookies.)— Sofonisbe 🥑 (@Sofonisbe) January 17, 2019
Don't forget this one pic.twitter.com/ZyncmPk6Pt— ᮎ ᮔ᮪ ᮓᮤ ᮃ ᮐ᮪ (@moostovus) January 17, 2019
This all inspired me to crack open Illustrator and make a few tweaks to Google's wordmark, feeling pretty good about it pic.twitter.com/PMS5Mux8vR— Nathan Ingraham (@NateIngraham) January 16, 2019
In conclusion: Do not fuck around with brands’ logos. You will go to jail.
Thou shalt have no other logo variants before me— Etaoin Shrdlu (@philcrissman) January 16, 2019
Thou shalt make no altered graven image of the logo
Thou shalt not take the image of the logo in vain
Somebody call the police! This guy cropped *and* changed the colour of the Slack logo!— Benjamin Chadwick (@bchadwickfrance) January 17, 2019
Update 11:57am CT: When reached for comment on Thursday, Baio told the Daily Dot that he came up for the idea after he read through Slack’s full guidelines on the platform’s redesign. Baio said he “enjoys” reading through branding guidelines and that Slack’s logo misuse section “reminded me of how much I love seeing designers torture their own logos.” That led him to share his favorite examples.
“I didn’t expect it to blow up, but I think there’s something innately funny about the seriousness of these branding guidelines—the mix of artistic intent and legal enforcement,” Baio told the Daily Dot. “‘The integrity and effectiveness of our logo must not be compromised.’ And then they show it with dropshadows, goofy colors, and a sombrero.”
For the record, he believes the Slack redesign helped spread the tweet. He also enjoyed making the fake Korn guide.
“Pretty happy with the one I made for Korn,” Baio said. “They’re fun to make.”
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.