Olive Garden's New Logo Is The Pits

Olive Garden's new logo finally knows what an olive looks like. But does it really sum up the restaurant chain's subpar culinary experience?

In a presentation given on Monday to shareholders and investors, Olive Garden announced a so-called brand renaissance, which replaces its old, cheerfully incompetent logo with one that looks as if it were stolen from the header of a vegetarian's Wordpress blog.

Along with "new plateware that lets the food be the star" coming in 2015 (read: smaller plates), the new logo is meant to be "clean, fresh and appealing." Designed "based on work assisted by Lippincott," the new logo hasn't been received well, and shares of Olive Garden parent company Darden went down 5% the day of the logo's unveiling.

No wonder. Why mess with a good thing? The old logo--originally unveiled in 1998--perfectly encapsulated what it was like to eat at Olive Garden: namely, terrible. From that perspective, the new logo doesn't push the needle even a little.

Consider, for example, the 16-year-old logo's fake cursive font, so perfectly reminiscent of the label of some off-brand supermarket spaghetti sauce, and thusly, Olive Garden's alleged Italian flavor. Or how about the texture of the logo's background, which looked like papier-mâché stucco that had literally just crumbled off of an Olive Garden's dilapidated walls? Even the logo's choice of fruit--a vine of purple grapes, instead of the olive trees called for by the name of the chain--a visual cue reminding you that the Olive Garden would, without a doubt, get even the simplest order wrong.

You can say that this logo was a bad design hat trick--and you're not wrong--but at least you knew what it meant: bad food served in a depressing mass-produced setting. The perfect description of the Olive Garden eating experience! Compare that to the new logo. As the Consumerist notes, it looks like it was just ripped from a generic package of veggie burgers. At least it knows what an olive tree looks like.

Old Olive Garden logo.

But I still find it lacking. Yes, there's a certain dystopian quality to the new logo's color scheme, as if 1984's Ministry of Plenty had opted to open an Italian restaurant. The gray evokes the ashen complexion of someone who has just discovered that he will be having dinner at an Olive Garden, while the green resembles the complexion of that same patron as he nauseously walks out of the restaurant, his meal completed. Other than that, though, this new logo references barely any of the gastronomic horrors or culinary disappointments that await you.

Is that really good design? Give me the old logo any day. It told anyone who saw it, at a glance, that whatever cuisine this Olive Garden served, it would be artificial, inedible, and served to you by corporate cretins. Now that's truth in branding.

You can read more about the Olive Garden "brand renaissance" here.

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78 Comments

  • I believe so many people are upset, because the new logo has broken their perception they have developed of what they believe Olive Garden to be. It like when a friend does something out of character. It breaks trust. Expectations help us feel safe and when they are broken, we don’t. It’s an automatic subconscious emotional response. Brand strategists and designers need to be aware they are speaking to that part of the mind, that part of a person, that part of a customer.

  • So basically you hate the Olive Garden's new logo because you hate eating at the Olive Garden and the new logo represents what the Olive Garden aspires to be. I'm sorry, is there supposed to be a pic of the "Troll face meme" at the end of this post because it's not showing up on my browser.

  • Felix Sockwell

    Mr Brownlee is obviously not qualified to write a readable, critical piece on design. I found the new wordmark incredibly refreshing and well crafted.

  • I used to be a host at OG. Their branding and interiors needed a redesign five years ago. The forced Italian stucco architecture, columns, and cheesy Cost Plus style fixtures always left a unappealing aftertaste. It's possible the blacklash for the new logo is because the old legacy was disregarded at an attempt for an aggressive rebrand. They forgot that it's a family restaurant, not a chic upscale eatery.

    Being an former employee of OG, I remember the kitchen always being crazy with servers running around, chefs quickly firing up plates, managers checking for dust, and hosts constantly rushing in customers. That pace hasn't changed much in 10 years. If you've ever dined there on a weekend, you've probably had the same experience. From a design aesthetic, the new wordmark isn't terrible but compared to the original, lost some of this movement found inside the restaurant. It's refreshing to see the lobby interior accommodates twice the amount of customers. No one likes to wait.

  • Andre Lefebvre

    At least you can read what it says from the road while driving. And yes, it's clean and fresh. It IS an improvement from a logo better seen from a few feet away. I like it. Does criticizing art makes the art good or bad? Rules? They are great, but some of them become the forgotten landmarks of yesterday's conventions keeping things at a standstill and regimented by an elite. People like what they like not because it obeys certain rules, but because it impacts them. Those "rules" were born of conventions which may still hold true centuries from now, but to make them the filter of all things doesn't make any sense. Now they should hire a new chef to develop a "clean and fresh" new menu... :)

  • I completely agree - anyway you look at it, it's an improvement. Is it great? No, but better is better. I think someone has had some bad chicken parmesan and is still holding a grudge.

  • I agree, the new logo is awful for many reasons. Reading the comments, I haven't heard a valid argument made for the deserved criticism of the new design. The dining experience is adequate, but could be much better.

  • Christopher Betz

    This has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever read. Absolutely discredits the author's ability to critique ANYTHING. Wow, what garbage. Fast Company actually let their label be attached to this drivel?

  • No wonder your parakeets are irate, John. You sound like a pretty unpleasant person. I get it; you don't like Olive Garden. SO WHAT? Your opinion of the food has absolutely NOTHING to do with an article about the restaurant's logo. That also makes me suspect no matter WHAT logo they came up with, you wouldn't like it. I not only prefer the old logo (I'm a fan of purple and green), I actually enjoy eating at the restaurant! gasp Perhaps going in with realistic expectations is the secret. By the way, I have never encountered a corporate cretin while dining in one. Maybe you get what you give.

  • I worked on the design of the "old" logo while very early in my career. It's fascinating to read the responses, and to hear, for the first time from a national perspective, how much the 15 year old logo is loved, and reviled. It matters not to me either way, as I know what we were up against in the design process, and I believe the logo served its objectives well - and we were small potatoes beating the big guys - Lippincott included. I don't fall in love with anything I do, but I do take pride in the process. It didn't win any design awards, as it shouldn't have, but I know the target audience liked it and connected to it, contributing to the company's growth from where it was at the time. Let's see what becomes of the new. Consumers will be the judge.

  • Timm Santana

    You hit on a major point that everyone else is forgetting whilst trashing the new logo. .. " I know what we were up against in the design process, and I believe the logo served its objectives well". I think that some forget that this process does not include just one designers opinion. The logo that you worked on, served Olive Garden well for a long time. It was memorable regardless of whether people liked it or not. It related to the company that it served as the identity of. For that I say, great work! The new logo is not that bad, people just hate when things change. Facebook is a great example of that. Let them change their newsfeed. All of a sudden everyone is a UX expert and understands ALL of the challenges that are involved with designing a UI for billions of users.

  • Scott Rackham

    So.... John, let's meet for lunch at Olive Garden, and you can tell me how you REALLY feel about the new logo.