Sunday, January 17, 2010

The New Holiday Inn Sign Makes Kittens Die

Last week I saw one of the brand new Holiday Inn signs out in the wild. Above is a side-by-side comparison of the classic sign (on the left) and the new one (on the right).

I'm speechless. These new signs depress me so much that I can't even think of anything snarky to say about them. OK, I can think of one thing: Why?

I have to confess: I've never in my life stayed at a Holiday Inn. Back when my family went on vacation, we always opted for the no-name motor courts. Holiday Inn was where families richer than ours went. So why do I even care what they do? Because I like good design, that's why.

You could spot the old sign a mile off. It was recognizable. Recognizability is important when you're designing logos and signs. Corporations spend literally billions of dollars trying to get their logos recognized, world wide.

Recognizability is especially important to hotel chains. When a family is driving around in a strange city and the kids are in the back seat licking their fingers and touching each other, dad wants to find a hotel, and he wants to find one NOW. His eyes scan the busy street ahead, and half a mile away he spots the familiar green and yellow sign, beckoning him in with it's helpful arrow. That's what makes a good sign.

The new one... where do I even start? It looks like a gas station sign. In fact, the first time I saw one I thought, "Huh. Holiday Inn is selling gas now." Everything about it is a mistake, from the bland green and blue color scheme to the uninspired type. The piece de resistance of the entire thing is the faux 3D letter "H," which looks for all the world like the designer had 3 weeks to work on it, blew it off until the day of the meeting with the Holiday Inn board, and drew it at a stop light on the way to their office.

The old sign had a recognizable silhouette. You could cut that shape out of a piece of black paper, show it to someone and they'd say, "Holiday Inn!" If you tried that with the new sign, they'd say, "The letter T!" And what's with all that wasted space on the pole? There's no marquee, no nothing. Just a blank white vertical void under an ugly horizontal sign.

There's nothing wrong with a company wanting to freshen up their look now and then. But Holiday Inn could have updated their classic sign without turning it into this dull and lifeless trainwreck.

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