Did the Olympic rings always hide words like “steroids” and “cocaine”? Did Ikea’s name always piece together like a cheap Snap Tite model? I didn’t think so, but it doesn’t exactly look wrong, either.
This is Universal Unbranding, a cruel makeover of some of the world’s most recognized logos with a liberal dose of harsh, truthful reality. By the satirical artistic collective Maentis, who tell me they were inspired by “a bubble bath, hard drugs, and some champagne–in no particular order,” Universal Unbranding goes everywhere from lopping off the tongue of The Rolling Stones (for their North Korean tour, naturally) to replacing the Facebook “F” with a disintegrating “€.”
“It is tempting for us to hijack the positive messages that companies are trying so hard to deliver,” Maentis tells Co.Design. “[Plus] logos are generally very simple so they’re perfect for lazy artists like us.”
Like any truly satisfying joke, the best ones will take you a minute. My personal favorite was Gillllllllllllette (get it?), but who am I to question the simple joy of the McDonald’s logo outgrowing its skinny jeans? (Consider us even in that regard, McDonald’s!)
“There were persistent rumors that McDonald’s loved our parody and even planned to make us their new creative team,” Maentis insists. “But it turned out to be completely false.”
Yet as funny as these jabs may be, and as much as corporate comm teams might disagree, there really is no greater compliment to a logo than the masses laughing at a parody of it. Because something could never be parodied unless it were iconic in the first place.