As we say goodbye to Twitter and its famous blue bird today, how does the design industry feel about the rebrand? Is it the final nail in the coffin for the social network? A colossal branding disaster? Or the start of a much-needed new chapter? We asked the creative community for their thoughts.
At first, it looked like another of Elon Musk's famous trolling episodes, as he tweeted on Sunday evening: "And soon we shall bid adieu to the Twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds". He even added, "If a good enough X logo is posted tonight, we'll make go live worldwide tomorrow" – which, as you can imagine, didn't go down too well with some of the design community. But when the billionaire's update became a reality on Monday morning, we quickly realised he meant business.
Instead of seeing the usual blue bird, originally designed by Martin Grasser, Todd Waterbury, and Angy Che in 2012, we were confronted with a new white 'X' on a black background on the platform's desktop version. But this is only the beginning, as Musk plans to phase out the old branding in the coming days and weeks to help him establish his so-called "super app".
X's newly appointed CEO Linda Yaccarino, tweeted on Sunday that the rebrand was an exciting new opportunity. She said: "It's an exceptionally rare thing – in life or business – that you get a second chance to make another big impression. Twitter made one massive impression and changed the way we communicate. Now, X will go further, transforming the global town square."
Yet despite her enthusiasm, many people took to the platform to mourn the loss of the original logo, including one of its designers Martin Grasser: "Today we say goodbye to this great blue bird," he wrote. "The logo was designed to be simple, balanced, and legible at very small sizes." Twitter's co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey later shared Grasser's tweet.
Given Twitter has been a solid social network for artists and designers this past decade, how does the creative industry feel about Musk's new X?
Bye bye birdie
Guy Armitage, founder of Zealous, thinks the rebrand highlights the end of an era and signals the start of a completely new product. "Whether those who came for Twitter stay around is now entirely down to whether the communities they inhabit here survive this transition," he says.
But will people want to stay? "We have been clinging onto Twitter through the takeover because we've all built amazing communities here," says Chloe Green, festival director of Thought Bubble. "It's an excellent way to share creative work in a personal way. But the rebrand feels like a final nail in the coffin, a total disconnect to what we knew and loved."
"It feels like he has killed the bird and forced a new thing on us," remarks graphic designer Kylie-Ann. "It would be one of those brands that may face such a backlash – the bird would return, except we all know that won't happen because of who is in charge. There is no story, and the emotional connection has been lost."
Glasgow-based designer Chris Wilson agrees: "It feels rather soulless and unconsidered when compared to the memorable, playful bird. The language of 'tweets' now doesn't make sense as it references nothing. It feels like a change for change's sake and, to pardon the pun, ruffle a few feathers."
The importance of brand loyalty and meaning
For a long time, Twitter represented a happy place for creatives. Somewhere you could network, meet other freelancers and find work. It's why so many people stayed loyal to the brand, even despite Musk's takeover.
PR director Hannah Currey is baffled as to why anyone would change such a recognisable logo to something that resonates so little with people. "The bird had thought and strategy behind it, whereas X lacks in consideration. X gives off negative connotations, and the logo itself is far from creative," she says.
San Francisco graphic designer Rachel Gogel adds: "Your brand is so much more than your logo. Unfortunately, they're not spending time imbuing X with meaning based on the existing brand equity. It feels rushed, random, and disrespectful to the design community regarding how they went about sourcing it. Disappointing overall."
You can't rush these things
Speaking of rushed, perhaps it's that startup mentality Musk is only too familiar with, i.e. get it out there as soon as possible and tweak it later. But that doesn't add up for marketer Sarah Wood, saying it's a "missed opportunity to set out exactly what X stands for and how it will change all of our lives for the better, rather than just slipping out there apologetically".
At time of writing, the only change to X is its new logo in the top left of the platform's desktop version. The favicon, URLs, tweet button, and app remain closely affiliated with the original blue bird, Larry.
"I wouldn't have rebranded to this level as it's not an evolution; it's completely different and doesn't have any link to the previous one," says author Rhea Freeman. "That said, I've been on Twitter for a long time, so I have a connection to the old Twitter, the bird and the blue."
However, the quick transition makes sense for Zack Schwartz of Wayfind Studio. "Our modern paradigm is a rapidly shifting, distributed landscape of relationships. This platform is the embodiment of an approach that leverages that reality. Sure, it defies the conventional approach to constructing 'brand', but at least the action is consistent and transparent."
In which case was the rebrand necessary?
Ross Clugston, CCO of Design Bridge and Partners, seems to think so. "It's always been pretty obvious that Musk didn't acquire Twitter to keep it as is. If you look at any of his acquisitions or businesses, they always have a clear, single-minded purpose. Twitter never has.
"The step away from all the baggage, political and otherwise, also makes sense. One would assume that he has a clear plan for how this social media platform can connect his products in some way, Starlink, SpaceX, traffic management with the Boring Company and Tesla. His bets are usually highly calculated and contrary to the media's assumptions."
Claire Huxley, strategy director at Design Bridge and Partners, also believes it's the right way to go: "People are reacting to the X rebrand with scepticism, seeing it as yet another attention-seeking stunt from the controversial mogul. But is this fair? When viewed from a brand strategy lens, the move actually makes sense. Brand is a key tool for businesses to signal change, with the magnitude of the change required having a direct correlation to how much the brand transforms."
Will X last the distance?
"Elon Musk rebranding Twitter as X is absolute marketing suicide," says Richard Michie, CEO of UK-based digital marketing consultancy, The Marketing Optimist. "Since he took over Twitter in what must be the most misguided takeover of the business in history, Musk has been giving a masterclass in how to kill a brand with death by a thousand cuts.
"Twitter killer Threads launched just a few weeks ago and gained over 100 million users in a few days, exactly because Twitter was a total basket case you can't use and is adding zero value to advertisers."
Richard believes the best way to have battled this threat from Mark Zuckerberg's Meta would have been to double down on the brand, build on the legacy and the user base Twitter has as the go-to for news and breaking stories and obviously take to the task of fixing all the issues. But what is he doing instead? Rebranding as X – "the universal symbol for closing an application!"
He adds: "The Twitter brand has been neglected since before he took over and needed some TLC, but switching to ditching literally everything is a huge gamble. Twitter users were already leaving in droves, and now the ones who hung around are wondering what the heck is going on. The only thought I can come up with is that this is a huge PR game because the announcement of the rebranding is dominating the news at the moment, right across the globe.
"You do have to remember, though, that he has form with this, making big announcements on Twitter and then changing his mind. Who knows if X will last or if we'll be back to Twitter by the end of the week."
Whichever way you look at it, Twitter is going through a revolution on all fronts. "It means that a dramatic brand shift is to be expected," says Claire Huxley, strategy director at Design Bridge and Partners. "The question going forward is whether they are ready to walk the talk and ensure it is more than skin-deep."