27 November 2017 · Dennis Schmidt

The Right and Wrong of Formula 1’s Redesign

Since Liberty Media took over the Formula One Group in September 2016, a number of things changed. They introduced an Esports series, added more prominent numbers to the cars, improved F1’s digital marketing – and recently changed the logo of world’s most famous motorsport series. The new Formula One identity was unveiled at the 2017 season finale in Abu Dhabi and was met with very mixed reactions.

Out with the old, in with the new, image courtesy of: www.designtagebuch.de

Gone is the old trademark that was best known for its clever use of negative space and made people believe that the red part was the ‘1’. Created by the agency Wieden + Kennedy London, the new logo shows the letters ‘F1’ in mostly red application divided by thin lines. Besides that, three new custom typefaces were introduced as well as some mockups of the logos on merchandising and advertising boards on race tracks.

And that’s were things take the wrong turn.

Seeing the new icon in mockups or actual usage blurs the lines—quite literally. The thin lines between the ‘F’ and ‘1’ and within the ‘F’ itself are not recognizable anymore at small sizes and far distances, so the icon just appears as an unclear shape. Some people even read it as an uppercase A or ‘rr1’. The logo being very wide doesn’t help. In the Instagram feed for example, it’s only visible as a red line instead of a distinguishable shape.

While the word mark in the old logo was almost absurdly slanted, the new one is very straight in stark contrast to the icon. The other two new typefaces meanwhile appear highly futuristic — and barely usable. Not only do they look like the kind of free font you get on the internet (which design schools teach you completely rightfully not to do), they are not very readable on the TV graphics either which is terrible for making information conveyable quickly. They’re display fonts after all and thus not very suitable for this use case.
This also brings up the question, why a company needs three custom typefaces, especially when the ‘Benton Sans’ they used so far worked really well, particularly on TV.

I’ve seen typefaces like this before: https://www.dafont.com/theme.php?cat=303

Why change?

As almost any redesign ever, the new logo was met with a lot of negative feedback from the community. Most of them brought up the question why the logo had to be changed in the first place. While the relaunch was answered by a lot of reimaginations from fans, it has to be clear that none of those designers got the briefing that the executing agency worked with. Also, it must be kept in mind that any logo is just part of a bigger design system.
While it’s highly likely that Liberty Media want to put their mark on the racing series, companies evolve—especially brands like Formula One who live off speed. Having a new identity is thus understandable and from time to time even necessary.
The actual execution, however, lacks quite a bit, not only in terms of (always debatable) subjective liking but also quality and applicability. How exactly the new identity will be used remains to be seen over the winter and at the beginning of the 2018 season. Based on the mockups, there is a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, it’s still unique enough to stand out and be easily linked with Formula 1 once some days have passed. As with every redesign, people will eventually get used to it.

Either way, props to the people involved in this project. You can find out more about the redesign here: https://www.creativereview.co.uk/formula-1-unveils-new-identity-wieden-kennedy-london/

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About the author

Dennis Schmidt is a graphic and UI/UX designer as well as motor racing enthusiast from Hamburg, Germany.