Ernst & Young Rebrand

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Established in 1989, Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. They help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. This past July they decided to scrap not only their logo, but their name as well, changing to simply “EY”.

The decision to redesign the company’s logo is not surprising, as their peers like Deloitte and PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently rebranded as well, apparently in an attempt to distance themselves from any public memories of the financial market meltdown in the ‘00s. The previous logo (below left), while admittedly stodgy and old-fashioned, had fairly straightforward typography and an interlocking E and Y that always reminded me a little of a bar graph (below right). Not the most elegant treatment, but at least it showed a little imagination and represented some aspect of the business. It seems too often today, logo redesigns and company rebrands are more style than substance, and that’s a shame.

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When analyzing corporate identities, I always look for some meaning behind the design and try to determine if the new mark better represents the company’s brand than the previous one. Try as I might, I cannot find any rationale behind this design.

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The notch where the E and Y intersect is awkward at best, and the negative space created between the two letters is clunky and distracting (below).

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I wonder if they explored integrating the beam with the letters somehow. The choice of gray for the monogram is also puzzling, as it feels too soft and delicate for a company with big ambitions to be the number one accounting firm in the world. Choosing bold sans serif letters and coloring them a muted gray sends me a conflicting message. Perhaps a bolder color would better reflect their mission.

The beam icon was already in use before the rebrand (below left), so it makes some sense that they carried it into the new identity. However it looks disconnected here, appearing more like an afterthought than an integral part of the logo. I understand the beam as a metaphor for moving forward, increasing profit margins and “lighting the way” of progress, but here it seems too generic and reminds me more of Budget’s similar shape (below right). Martin, a theatrical lighting company, makes use of a very similar yellow beam-shape.

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The choice of Interstate for the tagline typography is also a bit curious. While I’ve always liked this font by Tobias Frere-Jones, it feels a bit too out-dated for this new, “edgy” look (it was designed in the ’90s!). Use of this ubiquitous highway signage font (below) with the generic tagline “Building a Better Working World” brings to mind a construction or architectural firm more so than a financial services corporation, especially one of this caliber.

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Overall this rebrand feels unresolved and uninspired to me, like an early draft or a rejected proposal. In an apparent attempt to simplify both their name and logo, I feel they missed an opportunity to do something really great, and perhaps show the world just how unique they are. I don’t think this new logo communicates the brand equity Ernst & Young has built over their 180 years of history, or where it wants to go into the future. It’s one thing to update your look to better reflect your positioning, but in this case it feels like a half-hearted attempt to look fresh and more like their competitors.

One last comment: To add insult to injury, EY also happens to be the name of a racy magazine featured teen boys. Yikes!

FINAL GRADE: D

About author: Scott Schiller is a Milwaukee-based art director, graphic designer, illustrator and fine artist. He has experience in corporate branding, logo design and marketing and advertising design. He is also an accomplished wildlife and pet portrait artist.

Written by on October 9, 2013

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