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ComicsAlliance Design Critique: New Oni Press Logo

There must be something in the water. No sooner does the comics internet settle down from the commotion caused by DC Comics’ new logo rollout than Portland, Oregon’s Oni Press announces that it is revamping its look as well.

With a host of projects in development for other media – like The Sixth Gun TV series at Syfy and Marc Guggenheim’s Resurrection being optioned by Universal – as well as signing with the William Morris Agency last summer, (a move which netted them a first-look deal with CBS) Oni is poised to branch out in new directions beyond the comics and graphic novels it has been known for since launching in 1997. If there was ever a time when it made sense to update Oni’s brand, it’s now. So let’s take a look at the new identity system and figure out what works, what doesn’t and how it could be improved.Created in-house over the last year, the new Oni look will be rolled out on comics covers this March. The new logo keeps the same color scheme – red, black and white – but they have dramatically updated the mark and logotype and created a “word balloon”-style containment device in which to hold all of it. They’ve simplified the Dave Gibbons-designed demon head of their original logo, zooming in on the eye and nose, and have stripped the type down to simple, geometric letterforms. Here is the cover element mocked up on the cover for Brian Churilla’s new full-color ongoing, The Secret History of D. B. Cooper:

Overall, it’s a clean, modern-looking logo, despite the fact that there are a lot of elements in that containment. Let’s go over that list again: we have a mark and logotype, a tagline in the main logo and issue number/price in the cover element, and finally, the URL for the publisher, all in that “word balloon” element. Thankfully, it’s organized well, because otherwise this could be a huge mess.

The “demon face” mark itself is just okay. If you’re not already familiar with the logo, I’m not sure that you’ll read it as a face at first glance as it’s perhaps a little too simplified. There’s something about the bulbousness of the nose and cheek that doesn’t work for me, visually. It seems at odds with the more organic, rounded elements of the rest of the mark and also seem to clash with the stridently geometric letterforms of the “Oni” wordmark. The contrast of the two almost works, but if there was a little more visual cooperation* between the two, it would help it feel a little more of a piece instead of there being the tension there is between the mark and logotype. (*I just made that term up.)

The good news is that with this many pieces, it offers the perfect opportunity for using the different elements as parts of a system. The mark, tagline, word balloon shape and logotype can be used separately and together for convention backdrops, T-shirts and apparel, advertising, and even re-purposed for production company titles before a film or after a TV show.

The main mark has a little kerning issue in “Comics” where the “C” and “S” are a bit too close together. I’m not sure about the Condensed Gothic (I think it’s Franklin, but I could be wrong) paired with the Helvetica Neue Bold (or something very similar) used in “Press,” as the leg of the “R” has a kick to it that the “R” in the tagline does not have. That’s totally nitpicky, but when there are this many elements going on, stuff like mismatched typefaces start to degrade the logo. But that’s some real deep “Inside Baseball” stuff. Overall, the type is handled well.

The real test is how this design is going to look on the comic book covers, and I have to admit, it looks really smart in the corner there. It’s a strong enough element to be used across all of Oni’s varied output without it overpowering the rest of the cover. The placement of the “balloon” element on the monthly books could possibly be a problem when it’s racked on a store shelf, but when they say stuff like “We have plenty of [...] new publishing initiatives on the way,” in their press release, it makes one wonder if Oni is going to be pressing more into the digital space than they already are.

All in all, Oni’s new logo looks good. I’m not sure if it’s a trade up so much as it’s a lateral trade – if that makes sense – but it’s a good step for a company whose profile is on the rise. As much as I love the former logo, it’s hard to get too upset when the new one is this versatile, organized, clean and modern.

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