ListenIn – The clash between marketers and designers

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 12 October 2023

Erik Spiekermann is fed up with marketing people running projects without acknowledging that designers might have an idea or two about what communicates and what doesn’t. 

In a post on LinkedIn riffing on the updated Johnson & Johnson logo, Spierkerman – a typographer, type designer and information designer from Berlin – said that marketers have been told by tech guys and lazy designers that things have to be simplified to work on screens, something he said was knowledge from the 90s and “not true anymore”. 

“Risk and guts have been replaced by bullshit “narratives” invented by people who’ve never taken a risk in their lives,” he said.

“This is the blandification of our world, where fun has to be taken out of the equation because it cannot be quantified. No consumer cares about a company’s internal reorganization, they want to like a brand. 

“When all brands are beige, the beigest one will not win but will be forgotten. The enshittification of our world is run by people who read spreadsheets in bed and look at their smartphones to tell the weather instead of sticking their heads out of the window.  

“Sometimes I’m glad I’m old and don’t have to take orders from gutless employed managers anymore. My best clients were those I could argue with. It wasn’t about winning or being right, it was about doing the best work.”

In the comments, Petr Kraus, a brand and marketing director from Frankfurt in Germany, said that he believes that a lot of this change for the sake of change comes from little respect for the power of brands and for good design. 

“The now old logo remains in the archives and can easily be put back again, once the pendulum swings back to common sense and creativity, away from Excel sheets as bed reading,” he said.

Matt Bowen, president for North America at Brandigo, a brand strategy and research firm, said so many brands would kill to have the authenticity and heritage that brands like this have only to leave it in the dust. 

“Like Burberry, they “modernised” it (i.e. boring sans serif) to reflect the brand today only to realize they made a big mistake and a stylised font was reintroduced,” he said.  

“To me this is code for a confused and troubled brand."

Michael DiTullo, the founder and chief creative of his namesake company based out of Portland, said he’s all for change and progress, but sometimes you just have to recognize when you have a timeless icon on your hands. 

“The original J&J mark was so recognizable and differentiated,” he said.

“I always tell clients to use the dollars where they can help the most... sometimes a logo does need to be updated to work harder for you and tell the story better, sometimes that investment is better spent somewhere else.”

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