The Olive Garden’s new logo was last Monday and is still being slammed by many designers and laypeople out there. When I first saw it I had a similar negative reaction – before knowing why, I knew it didn’t appeal to me. Here it is:

Olive_Garden_logo_2014 2


When we create visual branding, I always advise clients to forget about what they like or don’t like, and try to view things through the eyes of their target demographic. Because I try to practice what I preach, and because so much of the negative feedback was very reactionary and/or focuses on disdain for the food itself, I thought it would be interesting to do a more objective critique.  Before we get into it, here’s the old logo for reference:


The question I want to answer as objectively as possible is, “Is the new logo an improvement or a step backwards?” Let's look at three different aspects to evaluate.

The Typeface

Critiquing a typeface might at first seem more subjective, but in the world of type design readability is rather objective. Part of my negative reaction to the new logo was that the type didn’t flow correctly – it looks cramped – which is due partially to the kerning (spacing between letters) and the way that the letters are connected or not. All in all, it’s a typeface that wants to appear handwritten but captures only the illegibility and misses the charm.

The old logo’s typeface is not one I would recommend either, but it does succeed in being easily readable at a glance and has some flow to it. If it has the cons that go with a dated cursive font, at least it also has the pros.

The Mark

The “mark” is the illustrative part of the logo that accompanies the type. In this case the new logo wins – it actually includes an olive branch with olives, rather than a non-sequitur cluster of grapes. The color of the branch in the new logo has been criticized but I think it goes along with the olive theme.

The Aesthetic

This is again something that could easily be done subjectively, but remember we’re not talking about whether we like each logo or not, we’re asking how they appeal to their target audience. In this case, that would be people who, either because they can’t afford it or don’t have any other options, consider anything that is not fast food a “nice meal.” Olive Garden wants to appeal to them as authentic and (probably more importantly) affordable Italian food.

The new logo has certainly taken on a more modern look, using a minimalist three tones and no gradients. In contrast, the old logo is very tactile and faux-rustic. Now, putting these traits alongside the objectives, I would say the new logo fails to convey even the fact that Olive Garden is a restaurant (putting aside the words “Italian Restaurant” of course), let alone embodying the any sort of Italian feel. The old logo does better on both these fronts.

The Conclusion

So I don’t disagree with the majority people out there – the new logo doesn’t look good, it doesn’t do its job, and it’s a step in the wrong direction from the old logo. The important part though is why – this is not based on my personal taste or vehement hatred for their food, it’s a failure based on their own objectives (or my understanding of them).

What do you think of the new logo? If you have some other opinions I’d love to see them.