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The ANZ’s new logo. What is it?

It’s happened. On 23 October 2009 ANZ (Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited) launched its new brand.

The redesign and switch to the new logo can be very costly, as it includes everything from concept development of a new logo through to its implementation when building signs, brochures, letterheads, stationery, business cards, envelopes, badges, etc have to be changed. Unfortunately, even the huge cost did not prevent those involved in redesign from forgetting the main definition of Design as a process of finding the most convenient, simple and elegant solution without losing the sense and purpose.

As a designer, a customer of ANZ and just a person blessed with common sense, I cannot join the “The Emperor’s New Clothes” game just because some “experts” encourage it.

First, have look at what ANZ decided to get rid of. Maybe the old logo was not a brilliant one, but, at least, it was simple and meaningful. There was not anything strange or anything useless. People did not even need to know how the ANZ logo looks to guess which one belongs to ANZ. I would prefer a lot more to see the old meaningful logo on the cards in my wallet, on my statements, and on the branch signs.

Blue ANZ old logo on a bank building
The ANZ’s old logo in blue colour on a branch building in daylight
White ANZ old logo on a bank building
The ANZ’s old logo in white colour on a branch building in daylight
Blue ANZ old logo on a bank building
The ANZ’s old logo in blue colour on a branch building at night
White ANZ old logo on a bank building
The ANZ’s old logo in white colour on a branch building at night

Now, let’s see what the world has got:

The ANZ's new logo
The ANZ’s new logo

Do you have any idea what is shown in it?

An alien? A croissant and two biscuits? A hygiene product? It does not seem quite related to a bank.

Is it a person crying for help as it is getting eaten by a monster? Three parts of something broken? I doubt any bank would promote itself like that.

To find out what the new logo actually means, I had to find and read the official ANZ media release, where ANZ Chief Executive Officer explained, “The central human shape represents ANZ’s customers and people and the three shapes signify ANZ’s three key geographies — Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific.”

Wow! As far as I remember, logos are a form of visual art, while texts and oral explanations do not belong there. It means, to understand a logo, we are not supposed to listen, talk or read anything. Now I am really curious what kind of thinking people are supposed to have, to figure out the meaning of the new ANZ logo by themselves, without any explanations.

By the way, if there is really a person in the ANZ’s logo, then it looks very similar to the logo of Arthritis:

Arthritis Australia logo
The logo of Arthritis

ANZ will definitely have to use the new logo in conjunction with the letters ‘ANZ’, otherwise new customers will never find their buildings. This means that the logo became more complicated: three letters, as it was before, plus the new strange geometric shape.

The ANZ new logo on a bank building
The longer sign: three letters plus the “shape”

The new ‘ANZ’ letters lost the dynamic incline of the old logo, as well as three of the four horizontal lines which also added some dynamic and style to the previous logo. The designers kept one horizontal line, probably to not lose all the connections with the well-known old logo, but now this lonely line looks like a gunshot through the name of the bank. I hope they did not aim to kill “the human shape [that] represents ANZ’s customers”. :-)

I really cannot get the point why ANZ needed to spent $15 million to change its good logo to a bad one. The Chief Executive said, “Our brand needs to reflect that no matter where our customers deal with us, we want to deliver one high standard of experience, based on understanding their world better than anyone else and working hard to make banking less complicated.”

How is the new mysterious squiggle going to reflect that? And why the old logo could not do it? How can the more complicated logo reflect less complicated banking?

After all, if they want to deliver high standards, work hard and make banking simpler, then they should do just that. There is no need to destroy the logo; it won’t magically help work better. Instead, the $15 million could be better spent on new technologies, so ANZ employees in half of the branches would not write the account details manually when cash is being deposited. The money could be spent on further development of the Internet banking, making SMS notifications available and customers’ online access to their details possible. The money could be invested in upgrading the bank’s database structure, so that the customers didn’t need to contact the bank multiple times after changing their name or address, because the previous data remains un-updated in some “corners” of the database and keeps popping out in letters, statements, cheques and emails...

I was happy to be a customer of ANZ with the old logo. It represented everything it needed to represent: the name of my bank. Simple, laconic, in nice shape, easy to read and with no oddities. ANZ was doing well: lots of branches around Australia and New Zealand, vast amounts of ATMs, the Internet banking that doesn’t show “currently unavailable” every time it is needed. That was the right way. They should continue there and leave their logo alone. Instead, the logo has been screwed up and everything turned upside-down.

Wait a second, upside-down! How does it look upside-down? Every logo must look at least OK from any angle, especially a bank logo which can be often seen upside-down in brochures, letterheads and documents on teller’s tables.

The ANZ's new logo upside down
The ANZ’s new logo upside down

What do you think it looks like when viewed upside-down? It is a pig’s head! Does anybody know what ‘ZNV’ may stand for? ;-)

Actually, this way the logo at least could look funny and make more sense. The piggy’s head could symbolise a piggy bank:

Pig's head made of ANZ's new logo upside down
An invented version of the logo: “Saving customers’ money is our custom”

By the way, ANZ used to give real piggy-shaped piggy banks to their customers for a $10 donation to support some chimpanzees in a zoo. Those pigs looked quite cute: one was in a builder’s working suit and the other was wearing a witch costume for Halloween. That was a case of nice design and good sense of humour. I guess, now pigs tend to be avoided for the sake of international/intercultural expansion.

At the end, I would like to consider another example of a bank logo design. BankSA (The Bank of South Australia) depictures itself by a schematic picture of a Sturt Desert Pea’s flower, the floral emblem of South Australia. So, the Bank of South Australia represents South Australia. Nice, simple, meaningful, stable and dynamic at the same time. The designers of BankSA logo knew what Design is about.

BankSa logo on a bank building
The BankSA logo on a bank building

At the same time, I do not favour the logo of St. George Bank, the owner of the BankSA. They have a dragon there, while Saint George himself is famous for killing the dragon. It feels a bit strange to show a smiling victim on the logo.

A logo is not just a fancy graphical shape that every company must have because everybody else has it. It is a sign that represents the company and makes it easier for customers to identify the company, to remember it and to distinguish it from others. After a company became famous under one logo, they should think ten thousand times before making any changes to it, especially in the case of a bank where stability must be the main feature.

Just imagine how much mess we would have on roads if the meaning of the road signs was unclear and somebody was changing them time to time.

Everything in this world should either make sense, or be beautiful, or both.

ANZ bank building
Can you guess which bank is in this building if you have never seen ANZ logo before?
ANZ bank building
ANZ has lost the point: with their old logo they were the only Australian bank which did not need to write the name of the bank in addition to the logo
National Australia Bank (NAB) building
NAB’s (or nab’s, as the sign says) sliced seven-pointed star
Westpac logo
Westpac’s ‘W’ is quite clear and simple. Also the W has something birdy in its shape, which may have connections to the fauna emblem of Western Australia, swan
Westpac logo on a building
Westpac’s logo is also functional: it is used as a part of the bank’s name
Commonwealth Bank logo on a building. Yellow square, rhomb, black side
The yellow square of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia trying to balance on one corner with one side stained. Though, according to verbal and written explanations, it supposed to represent the Southern Cross.
BankSA building
BankSA’s floral emblem of South Australia. I hope they are not going to “improve” their logo

Nota Bene: all the illustrations for this article are based on photos of buildings and their parts that have been taken by the author in public places. The images are not used for any commercial purpose neither to mislead anybody, and, therefore, do not infringe on any trademark. The content of the article has absolutely no aim to defame of favour any bank as a financial institution; it is logo design criticism only, written with the best author’s intentions to make the world more sensible and beautiful.

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