new AOL logoNew AOL logo, by Wolff Olins New York.

The company turned to Wolff Olins, who previous created logos for Wacom, (RED), and the London 2012 Olympics. Tim Armstrong, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AOL, said:

“The new AOL brand identity is a simple, confident logotype, revealed by ever-changing images. It’s one consistent logo with countless ways to reveal. The new brand identity will be fully unveiled on December 10, when AOL common stock begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

“Our new identity is uniquely dynamic. Our business is focused on creating world-class experiences for consumers and AOL is centered on creative and talented people – employees, partners, and advertisers. We have a clear strategy that we are passionate about and we plan on standing behind the AOL brand as we take the company into the next decade.”

Although the AOL logo itself will be constant, the backgrounds will change continuously in an effort to suggest the breadth of AOL’s content.

The period in the logo was added to suggest “confidence, completeness,” said Sam Wilson, managing director at the Wolff Olins New York office, by declaring that “AOL is the place to go for the best content online, period.”

Tim Armstrong said he liked to describe the period as “the AOL dot” because “the dot is the pivot point for what comes after AOL,” whether it’s email, websites or coming offerings that will “surprise people.”

Here’s a video of Armstrong taking about the new brand identity.

“The constantly changing images behind the logo are also intended to elicit surprise,” said Sam Wilson and Jordan Crane, creative director at Wolff Olins New York.

An advertising campaign to promote the new look is being considered, said Maureen Marquess, chief of staff at AOL in New York, as is the role to be played by the AOL brand character, known as the running man.

AOL running man logoAOL’s running man brand character

Whatever AOL does or does not do, Ms. Marquess said, there will be gibes from critics, whom she called “the snarkies” after the snarky comments they invariably make.

AOL logoAOL’s old logo

AOL logoAOL’s new logo

Call me one of “the snarkies,” but when I’m told a brand identity is “uniquely dynamic” my eyes start to glaze with thoughts of pumped-up marketing speak and telling clients what they want to hear.

Tony Spaeth, of the late Identity Works, dropped by with a comment that makes a lot of sense:

“The longterm problem here is the original name decision — America, On Line? Six syllables (which forced initials) plus a counterproductive meaning — the Web is inherently and joyously global, isn’t it? AOL should now have faced up to this fundamental identity problem, which has been compounded of late by a performance reputation problem, and fixed it with a name change.

“Instead, we have a design solution that diminishes, lower-cases, reverses and virtually hides the initials, as if apologizing for them. (It’s a visual equivalent of ‘if you have nothing to say, talk faster and louder.’)

“To be sure, mutable wordmarks (visual play, around consistent letterforms) can be fun. Certainly, MTV and Nickelodeon showed you can get away with it on television, and Google has shown it can work on the Web. But are these particular ‘Aol’ letterforms a strong enough visual anchor? Not clearly. Verbally, they are still a hole in the hull.

“And are we now expected to write not AOL but Aol? (I refuse to add the period, in text.) And thus to speak it as a-awl, or a-owl? The punctuation of the logo introduces uncertainty of the name in text applications… which is not a good a way to build a stronger brand.”

AOL chat elsewhere:

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