On Friday, Google debuted it’s second favicon redesign in the last year and I, along with many other users, am somewhat befuddled by it.
Criticizing Google’s logo is usually a cheap shot. The reason Google gets away with less-than-amazing visual design is because their user experiences are so outstanding. We don’t care that Google Docs and Gmail have less visual flourishes than Word 2007 and Windows Live Hotmail because the interface is more precisely and consistently tuned to our needs. The more obstacles you put in the user’s path, the more important it is to distract them with shiny objects; Google is great at alleviating obstacles.
A “favicon” is a 16 square-pixel image that represents a web page, typically displayed in the browser’s address bar and tabs. Google stuck with the same yawn-inducing yet unoffensive favicon up till May 2008, when it was replaced with an even more milquetoast but still unoffensive lower-case “g” on a light-gray gradient. The switch to a lower-case “g” made sense, as the shape was more distinctive and added an allusion to the concept of “infinity,” and thusly it’s close relative “googol” (the really high number from which Google’s name is derived phonetically). The lower-case “g” was used again for Google’s mobile iPhone app, perhaps most successfully due to the contrast of a white “g” on vibrant blue.
I’m talking about the new icon because it’s the first I’ve experienced that is visually distracting. The lack of counter space between the complimentary red and green hues results in a visual tension that, while initially more eye-catching than previous designs, ultimately results in an abrasive visual strain compounded for every browser tab.
I completely understand Google’s desire to incorporate their logo’s colors into the icon in order to strengthen an already recognizable and trusted identity. But in this case, I believe the icon’s uncomfortable contrast goes against their otherwise smooth-as-silk experiences.
I’ve created a replacement icon which retains the new composition, combined with the colors and dimension of their iPhone icon. While I haven’t incorporated all four of their colors into one image, the icon is more spiritually consistent with the rest of Google’s experience.
You can use it yourself by installing this simple Greasemonkey script.
What are your thoughts regarding Google’s favicon? Am I off the mark? Do you care?
Update: It looks like Brand New agrees, calling the new icon “terrible”.