June 21, 2012 | Branding and Rebranding
Eastern Mountain Sports has a new logo, and I hate it!
My love affair with Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS)
In the summer of 1991, a good friend and I planned a 10-day road trip as a way to celebrate the start of our senior year at Carleton College. I used money I had saved from my summer job to buy a tent.
I had very little camping or tenting experience when I headed into EMS’s Boston store. But the people working in the store were helpful and assured me that I’d be able to put up my new tent easily. The salesperson explained that the beauty of the tents they sold were how easy they were to put up, and he quickly walked me through the process.
After taking it apart and stuffing it back into the sack, he said “You can put this tent up in less than 3 minutes.” I balked, reminding him that I didn’t have any experience with tents.
He picked up a stopwatch and told me to get started; he was timing me.
As I unfurled the ball of light blue fabric he gave me a piece of advice:
An easy way to find the front of a tent is to look for the logo. Every company wants their logo front and center.
I put up the tent in about 90 seconds and bought it. That little tent served me through that road trip and many, many more road trips, camping trips, canoe trips, hiking trips, and more. We still use it if we want something small and lightweight. (Note: the actual brand of the tent is not EMS, but EMS sells both their own brands and others).
An example of great corporate branding
Twenty years ago, nobody had heard of the term “branding”, but my story talks about everything a company hopes to achieve with corporate branding.
- Unique and wonderful customer experience
- Great customer service
- Turn the customer into an evangelist
- Quality products
- Put your logo where it is memorable
New logo for Eastern Mountain Sports
Fast forward to Portland Maine, 2012. I recently heard that EMS was opening a new store in South Portland. I happened to drive by, before the store was finished with the remodeling, but saw that the parking lot sign was already installed.
When I saw this sign, I assumed it was some generic signage provided by the strip mall. The typography looked plain, cramped and not well placed within the margins of the sign.
As the store opened, I realized this was actually Eastern Mountain Sports’ new logo.
Why this logo doesn’t work for me:
When I look at this logotype or wordmark I see: a very boring, corporate font logo; very middle-of-the-road corporate-looking blue; all capped letters that are very tightly typeset and look crowded.
When I think about Eastern Mountain Sports I think: adventure; wide open spaces, the great outdoors; using their products to get away from the boring corporate life and experience nature and create memories.
Is this their logo?
I went to EMS’ web site and saw that they are still using their old logo and incorporating with this new corporate logo type.
I also felt that the typography was much more refined looking when used blue on white, rather than reversed out.
This is the logo they are using as their Facebook avatar.
Compared to the building and parking lots signs, this is a lot better looking even though it’s still plain white type on a blue background. Decent margins make a huge difference! Also, the typeface appears to be thinner and more refined than initially presented.
My final thoughts
The logo is not a poorly designed as originally thought. But, if you know you’re designing for a retail brand it seems that how a logo will translate to signage should be a critical concern. This production question should be central when evalating logo options.
The biggest question is will we see this plain jane new logo on products? When done well (like the Facebook Avatar) it looks elegant, but not outdoorsy or rugged. When done poorly (like the signage) it looks too corporate and downright ugly.
What do you think of their new logo? What applications have you seen it applied to?