Knowing Just Enough to be Dangerous

What is the role of a CEO? Usually it’s to bridge a corporation’s board and its day-to-day operations and provide high-level strategy and direction. Designing logos is not typically part of the job of the CEO of a 30 billion dollar company.

From the Tumblr blog of Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, on “Geeking Out on the Logo“:

On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator.  I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made.  I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)

So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma.  We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail.

This is almost as bad as the archetypal “14-year-old nephew with a pirated copy of Photoshop who can design our logo for free”. The CEO, three random guys, and an intern knocked out a logo over the weekend?

Now this would be perfectly understandable for a small company with no budget, something like a college student starting a t-shirt business, for example – but it’s borderline outrageous that a multi-billion-dollar publicly-traded corporation would allow this to happen. But then again, who would dare tell the CEO “Wait, this is a dumb idea”?

Fortunately the logo could have turned out worse – it looks like slightly-tweaked Optima, which is a safe choice – but it could have been a lot better. There’s a reason designing logos is a job usually done by professionals – designing a great logo, like that of FedEx, is a lot of work. it isn’t something you just cobble together over a weekend using mathematics and your favourite software.

Worse still is the fact that Mayer felt more qualified than the myriad people she could have hired to do the job, people who are the best in the world at designing logos. I can’t help but wonder at which other levels she is interfering in this way, overriding experts with her layman’s grasp of any given field.

The one positive repercussion of this is that everyone is talking about Yahoo and its logo, something that probably hasn’t happened in 15 years.