What an accessibility nightmare looks like today

shape

This post was inspired by my own struggle: Recently it takes so long to find Google maps on iOS when it’s needed. Not like I can go anywhere specific with the whole lockdown situation so I’d better get used to the new logos until we can leave our neighbourhoods.

I know it’s sounds such a first-world-problem but I feel like all logos nowadays are basically the same. The lack of branding and rainbows everywhere steals the attention right away.

I decided to dig a little deeper in the topic and realized that I’m not the only confused person out there, not to mention people with varying visual and cognitive abilities.

It’s not surprising that there is already a Chrome extension to get back to the basics.

Not like the icons were beautiful works of art before. They just went from a collection of disparate and boring icons to a set of internally consistent rainbow icons.

I get that probably Google’s intention was to be more friendly, alive, fun, etc. but I’ve identified 3 main issues.

  • constant changes
  • color
  • shape

Constant changes

I’m not saying change is always bad but why do all big corporations have this nasty habit of reevaluating/updating everything so often?! You don’t even have time to get attached to anything because it will surely be replaced soon. I think consistency should be a key differentiator for such a brand.

Color

One of the most basic things they teach you in design is that the 2 most important stuff for a quickly recognisable logo is the color and the shape.

In case of Google, some color have a long history: the iconic red of Gmail has been the same for like a decade, or the blue of the Calendar has also been there for a while.

Now all logos contains all colors which might look great full screen when the designer presents it for the client, but in real life during actual usage when they are just tiny little icons, you cannot even say the difference between the colorings, you are just confused.

Shape

The main problem is that the perceived shape of these icons change depending on their background, not to mention that they are all hollow, and four of them are rectangular.

Google-Workspace-Icons-bad


Gmail is now just an M with no connection at all to what it’s doing.
Calendar is a square with one beveled corner and a thin 31 inside. Honestly, they could’ve just left the square thing off and used a plain 31; the square serves no purpose at all at this point.
Drive didn’t get any worse because the Drive logo never meant anything in the first place. Also it barely changed.
Docs is again fairly meaningless but at least “upright rectangle with beveled top right border” has some connection to documents so there’s at least some recognizable intent there.
Meet at least has something resembling a recognizable shape but that’s because I know what it’s supposed to be.

To summarize the whole thing, I think the designers behind the rebranding wanted the users to be able to easily know “this is an app by Google” and not something else. And it works. Now you can tell it’s an app by Google easily. But you can’t tell which app by Google it is.

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