If you follow US politics, there's a good chance you are familiar with The Huffington Post (now HuffPost). Launched in 2005, it is the go-to news and blog source for those who lean left. It’s one of the top 200 sites, based on traffic, and it was also the first commercially run US digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize. With that much prestige gained in just over a decade, why change the brand?
The previous logo wasn’t so much a logo as it was a simple masthead. An homage to the written news sources that have been around for generations… somewhat reminiscent of mastheads for The Wall Street Journal, Times of London, or even the historic Pennsylvania Gazette. The mark conveyed that the site would provide solid written journalism. Whether it delivered on that promise may be debated by some.
The new branding was designed by Work-Order out of New York, and consists of a bold, italic san-serif font, framed by 2 green trapezoids. Hmmm. The green, although a progressive color, seems a little blah, and doesn’t do anything to help enliven the logo. The typography is a distinct departure from the old. Compared with the former mark, there seems to be a markedly different approach in what HuffPost is trying to convey with the logo – and it is guided by the new HuffPost editorial direction:
"HuffPost’s new editorial mission is to provide a platform that presents news in an inclusive and expansive manner. Its goal is to listen to the people and inform both sides."
One can wonder if this stated editorial approach is an attempt to truly become a source of balanced journalism based on core values, or merely an opportunity to rebrand after the departure in late 2016 of the founder, Arianna Huffington. The Work-Order site goes on to say,
"The editorial switch is echoed in the update from the original ersatz masthead to the bold italic tabloid logo with its plain-speaking empathy, urgency and outrage.”
First, nice use of “ersatz”, but I digress. I would agree that the new mark conveys urgency and outrage. I am less convinced of Empathy. It certainly does look like a typical tabloid logo. Therein lies the rub. It is reminiscent of The National Enquirer, The New York Post, or any number of other shock-inducing, all-headline-little-content publications. “Tabloid” does not suggest substance nor trust. And in this era of feckless clickbait and fake news, I don’t see how this adaptation necessarily helps to promulgate the editorial objectives of the rebrand, at least when displayed in its static primary form. And among many right-leaning conservative viewers, it may just reinforce the perception that HuffPost is just a liberal rag.
However, and this is a big caveat, when viewed in its animated form – helping to introduce or close stories – the logo does convey both “coming together” and “expanding”. From that perspective, it works, although the viewer does not experience that logo animation initially, only upon clicking to a story, and I’m still not convinced it had to be designed to look so much like a less-than-trustworthy tabloid - but I love the animation.
Another key part of the new brand identity is the stylized “Slash-Forward H”. Again, in the static primary mark, it is completely unnoticeable (i.e. the trapezoids I referred to above). However, it becomes apparent and is a key component in the animations. It is also the icon used for the app and social media platforms. Although not an obvious representation of an “H”, and for some reason evocative of a hotel logo, I think it works. Simple, stylized, and a component that helps the mark tell its complete story.
So, as a designer who is also a relatively frequent reader of HuffPost, I am a little disappointed. Perhaps as designers we see meaning in logos where others might not. But no matter, we all want to believe that the information we absorb and connect with is authentic, honest, and objective… the truth. In looking at the new HuffPost logo, the truth I see is that it wants to sensationalize the news.
One last tidbit. We’ve talked a lot about how the new branding works in its primary environment, but haven’t talked much about the name change. That’s not what we typically focus on here. But with the intentional change, I have one question. Why is the URL still huffingtonpost.com?