Thursday, October 03, 2013

USAT wins design award, fails public relations 101

Comedian Stephen Colbert lampooned the new logo last year.

In a comment, Anonymous@2:25 p.m. wishes I would devote more space to an award given jointly yesterday to USA Today and the vendor that redesigned the paper's print and digital versions a year ago -- including the now-(in)famous blue ball logo.

"Jimmy," 2:25 wrote, "you won the Mirror Award and devoted a whole page to it. USAT wins an award and, 'it's primarily an ego stroke.' Can you spell hypocrite?"

The 2013 Innovation by Design Awards were given by Fast Company magazine. There were 1,200 submissions, 54 finalists and nine ultimate winners. USAT and design firm Wolff Olins shared the 2-D award.

"As a newspaper," the magazine says, "USA Today’s diverse, bite-sized stories made it the Internet before the Internet. But in the age of the actual Internet, the print icon has re-imagined its identity--creating a tablet-inspired, cross-platform redesign that includes the paper, the website, and apps."

The mag continues: "But its most notable update may be the blue dot logo, which now updates dynamically to reflect the day’s news. '[The paper] feels like you’re taking a little piece of the web along with you,' says Robert Anderson, creative director at Square. 'For business impact, it’s a Hail Mary. You either alienate all the people you have, or you attract a whole different audience.'"

Of course, comparing USAT's redesign to a Hail Mary pass is a backhanded compliment at best, since that's a move resorted to only in desperation.

Still, whatever its contribution to the bottom line, the new logo certainly sparked a funny Stephen Colbert segment.

Comedy of error
2:25 may have been unhappy with a comment of my own, where I wrote: "All that effort, and the judges single out something USAT contracted to an outside designer, the silly blue ball. What's that say about in-house innovation?" (It was actually another reader who called the award an "ego stroke.")

I heard about the award when a reader posted details starting here. USAT's own public relations around the award have been . . . well . . . hard to gauge. If the paper issued a press release announcing the award, it sure didn't come my way. It's not clear the P.R. staff even wrote one.

I went to USAT's website this afternoon in search of a release, but didn't find anything -- literally. That's because for weeks now, every time I click on the press releases link, I get the same error page:

Oh, snap, indeed.

[Updated at 9:25 a.m. ET on Oct. 4.] Someone's paid attention; the press release link has now been fixed.

Earlier: the infamous Blue Balls memo endorsed by CMO Banikarim.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Anonymous@2:25:

    Thank you for suggesting I devote more space to this award. I hope you're pleased with the result.

    Best regards,



Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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