Much (Some?) Ado About the New iTunes Icon

8 Sep

I just updated to Apple’s iTunes 10, and now have the brand spankin’ new icon in my Dock. It seems that some people don’t like it, but the word out of Cupertino is that the update works for them. Both sides have merit, but I’m thinking that there could have been a solution that found a middle ground.

A story posted on Wired.com says that Apple CEO Steve Jobs disagrees with an e-mail that the, “new iTunes logo really sucks.” (Read the full story at http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/09/steve-jobs-itunes/). Apple revamped it by ditching the CD that the previous version had, because, as Jobs said, “CDs are SO 1987!” Actually, he didn’t say that at all, but that’s more or less his reason: it’s projected that sales of digital music will surpass those of CDs within months.

Putting aside the need for a visual update because of evolving technology—or from another perspective, devolving technology—the author of the e-mail, an advertising design professional, makes a valid point: “[y]ou’re taking 10+ years of instant product recognition and replacing it with an unknown.” This is always a very real risk when changing any brand’s identity. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t instantly recognizable to me: I sometimes accidentally launched iChat instead, because the icons were similar in a quick glance to my Dock.

My take is that, while it successfully solves the problem of ditching the CD, the new iTunes icon looks more downscale and has a somewhat childlike feel to it, compared to the old one. (Baby iTunes, anyone?) Contributing to this are the use of darker colors, including black, and a musical note that’s got a lot of visual heft, because it’s black and has been thickened. Rather than a full-fledged overhaul, I wonder if it would have worked to get rid of the CD by simply taking the hole away, and simplifying the gradient based on the existing color palette. That could have left the icon recognizable, but still updated it.

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