Critics all around SA in a spin over Absa’s ‘copycat’ logo
Social media users say it is way too similar to the logo of Telkom subsidiary Open Serve ... you be the judge
It’s almost like an argument going round and round in circles: this is the discussion revolving around Absa bank’s brand new logo, which social media users say is way too similar to that of Telkom subsidiary Open Serve. But designers – and Absa – beg to differ, saying theirs was even created with a font specially designed for the bank, called “Absa Brave”.
Absa made sure its rebranding grabbed the attention this week with 300 drones flying at the launch to showcase it. But what it probably did not predict was that Twitter users would have a field day comparing the new Absa logo with Open Serve’s logo – and they seem to show many similarities, with some suggesting they even share the same font.
The logos for Telkom’s fibre company and Absa were both designed by the South African branding agency Grid Worldwide.Grid Worldwide founder Nathan Reddy and brand experts say, despite what consumers believe, the two logos are very different. Consumers just see a circle and think they are the same, Reddy explained.
Telkom was quick to respond to criticism that the Absa rebrand looked like the logo belonging to its company Open Serve, with a billboard put up on Friday in Rivonia Road in Sandton reading: “We see you Absa”.However, in its official media response, Telkom said: “It is true that both logos use circles and similar fonts, but we believe they are substantially different logos.”
Branding expert Sarah Britten, who was not involved in the rebrand, said the logos were very different.
“The ‘Serve’ of Open Serve is outside the circle for one thing, and there are details on both that make them quite distinct, in my opinion.”
She said a design company would never copy its own logo.
“A new corporate identity for a big brand is a long and often expensive process. It would have involved many meetings, a lot of research and many, many PowerPoint slides, and the end result would have been chosen by committee.”
She said people would not confuse the logo.
“Normally, brands want to be clearly differentiated. I don’t think anyone will seriously confuse either logo. After all, colour plays a very important role in brand recognition, and Absa does not compete with Open Serve.”
The font for both brands appears to be called Ubuntu and is available with Adobe software:But Absa says it uses a different font that was specially designed for them overseas, called Absa Brave.
Absa Group marketing head David Wingfield said: “The fonts look similar because they are both friendly and accessible.”
Britten said she believed Grid Worldwide’s statement that the fonts were different.
“I trust Grid on this – they are a very good design agency, and they would have done their homework. It can be difficult for a member of the public to tell at a glance. Very few people can tell the difference between Helvetica and Arial, for example.”
On criticism that the Absa logo was so simple “a two-year-old could have drawn it”, Wingfield responded: “Well, a two-year-old didn’t.”On a serious note, he explained that people see brands on their phones, which are much smaller than television screens or billboards, which mean logos had to be simple.
“When you are designing for digital, it is a race to simplicity. Many digital brands are simple, such as Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb.”
When searching for an app on one’s phone, he said, one “recognises them when scrolling on one’s phone rather than reads them”.
As for the circle in the Absa logo, Wingfield said: “The circle shows infinite possibility as an expression of Absa’s business purpose statement, which is ‘bringing your possibility to life’.”
“I am aware of the Open Serve logo. I drive past the Telkom trucks often on my way to work. It is different. The colours are different.”
Grid Worldwide’s Reddy said the logos “tell a different story”, had different designers and completely different briefs from the companies about what they had to represent. “The only thing similar was they both used a circle.”
Wingfield said: “Our new visual identity, of which our logo is just one aspect, was the outcome of a considered process which included consultation with thousands of employees and customers across the 10 countries where we operate.”
Grid Worldwide added that, in creating the Absa logo, “themes like oneness, inclusivity, wholeness, humanity, community, collectiveness and single-mindedness surfaced very early in the strategic process. These were themes that maintained their importance through 12 workshops across Africa, 4,000 interviews with key individuals and around 130,000 conversations with Absa colleagues and customers.
“These are themes that drove the overarching design, and are expressed in their simplest form of a ‘circle’ logo, of which there are many ... Simple shapes, are simple shapes and are not unique to anyone.”