Seven Design Fails to avoid at all costs!

In our time creating great brands for our clients, we have come across countless design fails and branding disasters.

You have to wonder what on earth was going through the client’s or designer’s minds when you look at these examples of the seven branding pitfalls to avoid…

WARNING: Content is #NSFK and not for the easily-offended!

Seven branding pitfalls to avoid…

  1. The expensive high-profile mistake

Whilst you are unlikely to be spending billions or even millions on your branding as an entrepreneur, it is still a significant and important investment in your company’s future.

So it’s somewhat reassuring (in a schadenfreude kind of way) to know that even the biggest organisations can get it wrong.

Only last month, Thomas Cook rebranded all of their planes. An open door left the company somewhat open to ridicule all over social media…



One of the most high-profile branding gaffes of the decade was for the 2012 Olympics – a much-derided logo which got comparisons to Nazi symbolism, but more usually, Lisa Simpson in a compromising position…

London 2012 logo


And let’s not forget the GAP debacle of 2010. They launched a $4billion worldwide rebrand which subsequently got ripped to shreds by the design community (largely over the use of the too-common-and-not-very-imaginative Helvetica typeface and the gradient square, being likened to clip art) and GAP customers alike (who rather liked the old one, left).

Gap rebrand before and after imageGAP’s reaction to the backlash made it even worse, where they tried to pretend it was a ‘test’ logo and invited the public to send in their own suggestions, bringing yet more ridicule plus contempt as they were asking for free work.

Within a matter of days, GAP had gone back to its old logo and the marketing director had left the building.

2. The dodgy and highly-inappropriate imagery

Lisa Simpson aside, other brands should have just taken a step back to squint at the image they’d just commissioned.

WHO signed these off?!

For the Catholic Church Archdiocesan Youth Commission…

Catholic Church Archdiocesan Youth Commission Logo

and the Arlington Pediatric Centre…

Arlington Pediatric Center logo

We do have to wonder, is the proliferation of phallic symbolism something to do with the dominance of men in the design industry…?

Market Place and Cafe Logo

I’m kind of glad I have a trackpad instead…

Computer Doctors logo

And who would want their kids to take these dance classes?!

Junior Jazz Dance Classes logo

A pagoda in front of a setting sun for the Brazilian Institute for Oriental Studies. It was hastily…ummm…withdrawn after launch.

Brazilian Institute for Oriental Studies logo

3. The dodgy and highly-inappropriate lettering

Sometimes putting letters together makes unfortunate combinations of shapes. Be sure to look at your logo from all angles (even upside down) and from far away when you have something designed.

More phallic imagery with typography…we can’t help but wonder why no one said anything?!

Dick Busch LogoDoughboys Logo

Anthony Byrne Logo

An interesting interpretation of health promotion…

Bureau of Health Promotion Logo

and another one for a chemist chain in Japan…

Kudawara Logo

This cost the Office of Government Commerce £14,000 in 2008 yet no-one noticed what happened when the logo was rotated until its, er, unveiling.

OGC logo

4. Bad type giving your brand a whole new meaning

These first three need no explaining…oh, except maybe to the designer and the client.

You’d be scared of asking for any extra treatments or upgrades here…

Simply Swanky sign InnerVisions-ID-Branding-Consultancy

Space and punctuation can keep you out of trouble…

Kidsexchange shop front logo

And choose a legible typeface…

Megaflicks Store Front

We found this one in Dubai…Decisions, decisions…would you like lice or mice in your ice-cream?

The Lice or Mice Factory logo

5. getting lost (or found!) in translation

Yes, there are many crazy overseas food brands out there (Pocari Sweat and Soup for Sluts are our faves) but we tried to find some slightly more ‘corporate’ examples for you.

This logo (sadly, now redesigned) is for Locum, a Swedish real estate company. They seem to get really excited by their work…

LOCUM Swedish paper company logo

Do you think this satellite company only screen scary movies?

SatAn satellite company

We were, however, sad to find out that the classic branding cautionary tale about the Vauxhall NOVA failing to sell in Spanish-speaking countries (“No Va” means “It’s not working”) is unfortunately untrue.

Vauxhall NOVA car

But the point remains: if you have any intention of taking your brand overseas (and with the internet, why not?), you’d do well to check out its meaning in other languages.

6. An inappropriate website address…


For all your pen needs!

Penisland logo

Say “Cheese”…

nobrace logo

We’ll leave you to click this one if you dare

There was also a nursery in Australia which really didn’t think things through. Sadly the site, no longer exists although some wag has preserved it, for hilarity’s sake.

If you enjoyed those, here’s a list which includes more unfortunately-named business websites, many of which are now, of course dead.


7. The accidental insult…

Screw the Community

Another one we found. With a thoughtless bit of ‘crossing out’, the intended message actually reads very differently. Are they really wanting to do that to all their loyal followers?!

Hopefully, we’ve given you a few laughs, but do take heed – if you want to avoid your own branding nightmares, get in touch.

Happy Hallowe’en!