(photo credit A&E)
Most of us are familiar with Lifetime and still connect the network with one of its earliest taglines, “The network for women”. But can frequent changes to the Lifetime network logo support negative misconceptions about women?
This is the fourth installment of Brand New, and we’ve tried to highlight logos that represent brands with broad familiarity. This month, we are going to look at the Lifetime network logo redesign (again). Lifetime describes itself as “the premier female-focused entertainment destination, and most favorite and trusted network for women.” Known for shows like Project Runway, and original series and movies, Lifetime has been a successful media company since 1984.
Now yes, I am getting older, and with age comes inevitable change. But since I graduated from Iowa State in 1990, I have seen more Lifetime network logo variations than I have had Presidents (7 to 5). Is this inherently bad? Well, yes it is. Especially for Lifetime with its mission of empowering women. A logo should be designed to provide clarity and establish a visual foundation for the brand. Changing one’s logo every few years can create the sense of instability and uncertainty around the brand (and its mission), and ultimately damage that foundation. As Paul Rand (designer of logos for UPS, IBM and Westinghouse) says,
"The principal role of a logo is to identify, and simplicity is its means... Its effectiveness depends on distinctiveness, visibility, adaptability, memorability, universality, and timelessness.”
So what about the new Lifetime logo? It is certainly a move away from distinctiveness. No matter what you felt about the previous logo, the “Exclamation L” was at least identifiable and unique. In almost all previous versions, the wordmark and tagline were uninspired, but those flaws seem to be amplified in the new mark. It feels like Lifetime is moving toward a visual brand that may be trying to appeal to a broader audience, or extend their media channels. It’s more generic. The simple circle and block font are not particularly unique, and not typical of logos focusing primarily on a female audience. It has a very corporate feel, and perhaps that is intentional.
The new Lifetime logo comes in two variations: horizontal with the name on one line; and a stacked version that breaks LIFE and TIME onto two lines. Why!? Lifetime is one word. Lifetime ≠ Life Time. It is confusing visually to have an alternate mark that breaks the entity name as though the designer just ran out of space (and ideas). OK, maybe it’s a subtle reference to the (previous?) tagline, Your Life. Your Time, but it does nothing to address issues where a secondary logo usually provides benefit. It doesn’t offer improved readability. It doesn’t extend the ways in which the logo can be reproduced. It’s unclear if it will identify a certain segment of programming. It feels like Lifetime was presented with two options from which to choose, and they just said, “We’ll take ‘em both!”
Aside from the uninspired visual presentation of the updated logo, I think one of the bigger negatives of such frequent changes to the brand identity is how those changes may be perceived juxtaposed against the female-centric mission of the network. The old adage says, “It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.” In the business world, that is often viewed as a weakness – a sign of indecisiveness. Perhaps it is indecisive leadership (male or female), or a “grass is always greener” mentality that precipitates so many changes in the logo. But the danger is that since Lifetime is a network for women, the decisions will be attributed solely to weak, tentative, or unqualified female decision-making. And those assumptions are in stark contrast to research on men vs. women leaders.
So, the decision-makers at Lifetime may love the new Lifetime logo or hate it, but I hope they realize that it is a visual representation of the Lifetime brand. And frequent changes, without strong rationale, may do more harm than good to that brand.