So, what do you think of the new Gap winter collection then? I’m assuming everyone has a view on this, no? C’mon, you must have spent hours poring over their choice of fabrics, cuts and colours, cast a critical eye over the merchandising and pricing structure too whilst worrying if the buying department had called it right on some of their suppliers. See, if a High Street branded clothes retailer can create such a reaction when it changes its logo then I’m right in assuming the world must wait with baited breath when its new season launches. Possibly not. The online reaction (and it was online, this type of thing doesn’t happen anywhere but the virtual world) was so strong and so loud that within a fortnight of changing its logo the global retailer announced it was changing it back. That a company like Gap could engender this depth of feeling might come as a surprise to those of us that don’t shop there very often. But the real surprise, for me at least, was that their current logo is so ordinary that surely any change would have been good. It seems not. The new logo was also pretty ordinary it must be said; but was it really as bad as so many people made out? That’s irrelevant frankly, the people have spoken.

I might be naive but I assume that Gap have a strategy. I assume that to achieve this someone somewhere decided they needed a new logo. I assume they then carried out a process where they found a partner to work with on this, someone experienced and talented and that between them they worked on a number of options and styles before deciding on the new one. I assume they tested it too, got feedback and made decisions accordingly. I also assume they spent a lot of time and a lot of money on this process. This makes it all the more astonishing that they got it so wrong. But then did they, did anyone really care that much about their logo beforehand? Certainly did people find it a barrier to purchasing? Do customers not place price, quality, style and access to the store way, way above the company logo in reasons to purchase? The answer to that question is ‘yes, they do’ but what’s different is that never before have the proletarian been able to voice an opinion on something like this. The first time they’d have seen a new logo was when it was on the sign above the shop and emblazoned across a carrier bag. They might not have liked it but other than mention this to their friends there was not a lot else they could do. If they didn’t like the clothes or the prices they could take their custom elsewhere, Gap would have noticed that.

What social media does is empower, those previously excluded from certain decisions now must be consulted. As the Gap logo debacle shows the ‘old’ way of doing what we do no longer works. This might well finally signify a sea change in how our industry works. The previously cosseted and revered world of designers will now be subject to a public scrutiny that everyone can see and comment on. The least qualified person can now make their voice heard and know that it will be listened too. Quite what that means for our industry I’m not sure; greater accountability probably but maybe even more than that. For a long time those of us outside the recognised creative hubs that are normally based in large cities and owned by large groups have said we could do better than that if we were ever given the chance. Now the chance is nearing. Being owned by a PLC and based in the trendiest district of San Francisco or London is going to mean less and less if the work you produce is pilloried by the plebs that live in the provinces. Us plebs are the customers and now we must be consulted too.
Gap’s mistake seems to have been not to understand this. It would folly for all of us not to take note of that.