When Crowdsourcing Goes Bad: The Google Favicon Fiasco
The world of the favicon is a harsh one. Of all the challenges facing graphic designers, compressing a company's identity into an area 16 pixels square has to be one of the toughest. Some firms, such as Apple and Adobe, catch a break, since their graphically simple logos translate well into favicondom. But others find the task daunting, not least of which, it would seem, is Google.
For the first eight and a half years of its existence, Google was content to use a simple G, surrounded by a colored border, to mark its place in browser address bars and bookmarks, as shown at left. But last summer that old friend vanished, replaced by the small g below. The change was driven by the need for an icon that would perform better on mobile devices and was the pick from hundreds created by Google designers. Okay, no problem there, the original G was both generic and boxy, so you can see the logic in going for the small g. I don't remember the switch taking place but apparently users weren't happy with the new look. True, the g was so modest as to be easily overlooked and it had a Web 2.0-ish faint rounded container that was a bit corny. So it was back to the drawing board.
But instead of Google's staff designers trying harder or, better yet, hiring a top design and brand management firm, this time around Google inexplicably invited anyone and everyone to submit their take on what the next version should look like. Response was apparently heavy and from the submissions Google picked the work of Brazilian computer science student André Resende, shown at left. Another take on the small g, this one sports the four colors used in the Google logo. I could have lived with it but the Google designers saw fit to "improve" it by moving the g to the left, thereby making it look like... what, exactly? They also added a second area of blue, reducing the simplicity of the original submission. The dominant color is now green, the color least present in the Google logo.
Perhaps the new favicon serves the design objectives of Google but I find it a crude, unwelcome intrusion into my browsing environment. I've been trying to acclimatize myself to its presence for weeks now, with no success. Will Google change it again? Probably. Until then, if you know of a hack for suppressing it or changing it back to the original G, please let me know.
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