Few people make the trip to New York without at least one stop at the iconic toy store FAO Schwarz. Featured in several major motion pictures, this upscale toy shop holds a sense of magic for children and the young at heart. However, the brand has been flagging over the last decade and was recently bought by mainstream toy corporation Toys’R’Us. In order to save the store, FAO Schwarz was recently rebranded to return to its nostalgic, upper class roots.
There was nothing inherently wrong with the old logo design. The red color was attention getting and deep enough to suggest class and tradition. The writing was classic and traditional as well. The logo was sometimes seen with a images of classic toys, for which the store is best known, such as a toy soldier or a rocking horse. This logo design was solid and well recognized, but it lacked detail and failed to distinguish the brand from other toy stores.
FAO Schwarz is hoping to retain the effective parts of the brand while adding new elements that set it apart from your average neighborhood toy store. The same red is used, although now it is set against a white background and balanced by a cool, adult gray. A new character is being used as the face of the brand, a jester named Wit. The intention is to maintain an upscale feeling while returning to the store’s roots as a magical, fairy tale quality location.
However, the result feels a little unfinished and unbalanced. The FAO is crowded, a feeling enhanced by the high crossbar on the ‘A’. The serifs on the F and the A are sharp and shaped like knives, hardly a positive image. The word ‘Schwarz’, which is as important as the acronym, is placed in almost indecipherable text below. The small wording appears to be crushed by the huge letters above. The font is a good choice for this brand, but the spacing and placement is messy and needs to be adjusted.
The jester may also be a problem. While Wit is a throwback to classic toys, the store has failed to consider that he looks suspiciously like a clown, a figure that downright terrifies many children and adults. His expression is confusing and scary as well. Is that a round, clown-like nose or a mouth opened in shock? Either way, it is not a positive or childlike image. Few people will be engaged by Wit and many will be completely repelled by him.
However, there are benefits to this logo as well. The heritage feeling of the logo design relates to the company’s roots in 1862. It avoids the rounded, friendly feeling that many toy stores try to portray and uses an old fashioned color palette that continues the feeling of tradition. While the introduction of a character is a great idea for any child related brand, this character is simply not right. We can only hope that the company sees these problems and adjusts the logo design to address them. This logo is not perfect, but it is a good starting point for the iconic toy store.