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Operation Logo Refresh - How We Fixed the World's Worst Logo

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a more dubious design title than “The World’s Worst Logo.” It’s a grim indictment of skill and taste, but it’s also a subjective conclusion, one of preference and visual intuition. The truth is, there are a lot of mind-bendingly bad logos out there, and every logo designer has a past project they’d prefer to omit from memory.

So then, how did we determine which logo, of all the logos ever logoed, was deserving of such dishonor?

We asked Toptal designers to help us narrow the field and nominate logos that fit the following criteria:

  • Really terrible
  • Currently in use by a brand or institution that is both recognizable and reputable
  • Not obscene or vulgar

Once all the submissions were in, judging and deliberation were underway. For this step, the editorial staff of the Toptal design blog took a long hard look at every available option before crowning an unfortunate winner.

Drumroll…

So, what was our decision?

Which logo earned the notoriety of “World’s Worst?”

Without further ado, we present…

Logo refresh of the World's Worst Logo

The Zumba logo!

A controversial selection, the Zumba logo met all of our criteria for badness while simultaneously seeming like a fun problem to fix. But before we get to that, let’s take a moment to introduce Zumba to any of our lead-footed readers who might be unfamiliar with this global dancercise brand.

Zumba Company Profile

Even though the logo needs work, there’s a lot to like about Zumba and the company’s dance-based fitness experience. Let’s take a look:

  • Zumba classes are led by certified instructors and held in over 200,000 locations across 180 countries.
  • With a range of Latin and World dance styles to choose from, Zumba routines can be tailored to people of all skill levels and abilities.
  • The company has been around since 2001 and now boasts over 15 million students attending Zumba classes.
  • A regular schedule of concerts, cruises, dance parties, and charitable causes has helped Zumba transcend the “fitness routine” label and cultivate a loyal community of brand advocates across the world.
  • With their “Everybody and Every Body” promise, Zumba unabashedly targets a wide demographic, and they back it up with classes that are open to everyone from infants (Zumbini) to senior citizens (Zumba Gold).

What makes a bad logo: Zumba

From concerts to cruises, Zumba engages its global community through a wide offering of high-energy dance events.

So what about that logo? With all the swagger in Zumba’s step, why does it look so darn clumsy?

Staff Critiques

Zumba’s website, social accounts, merchandise, and marketing materials mirror the music and movements of its classes. There’s a dynamic vibrancy that pulses through the brand, and the logo attempts to embody this with its loosely constructed letterforms and gestural “dance man” icon. Unfortunately, it falls flat on several fronts.

Here’s a sampling of the design critiques that the Toptal Design Blog staff offered up:

Bree Chapin

“The Zumba logo is clearly trying to convey a sense of kinetic playfulness but ends up feeling more unbalanced visually than was probably intended. The scribbly letterforms in ‘Zumba’ are fun, but…the circular element on the right doesn’t read clearly and is floating too far from the “Zumba” letters, which are tightly spaced by contrast.”

Micah Bowers

“My wife goes to Zumba weekly, so I’d better be careful! The problem with this logo is that it fails to be what it truly wants to be—a wildly organic expression of visual rhythm. Instead, we have a collection of awkwardly spaced letters with weird kinks and curves adjacent to a perfect circle encapsulating a stick-figure who appears to be playing a phantom upright bass.”

Cameron Chapman

“My biggest complaint about the Zumba logo is that it looks dated. Logos should be timeless, and I don’t think this one ever fit that criteria. The typography…is particularly awful.”

Break Down the Brief

Seasoned logo designers know that a well written creative brief is a crucial part of the design process. The brief is true north, the guiding point of reference for all design decisions. Ignore it, and chaos ensues.

That said, this is a self-initiated project, and we received no formal client brief. So, we constructed our own and outlined all the problems that needed to be addressed in order to make Zumba’s logo better reflect the gusto of the brand:

Logotype

  • Resolve the awkward shapes and negative spaces.
  • Improve the spacing relationships between the letterforms.

What makes a bad logo?

These "close-but-not-quite-touching" letters are a source of visual tension.

Lockup Relationship

  • Refine the space and scale relationship between the Zumba icon and logotype.

Iconography

  • Address the Zumba “dance man” icon. Can it be improved? Should it be reimagined? Would something else work better?
  • Experiment with the circle that surrounds the icon. Would a more organic shape (still circular in nature) work better?

Logo design elements

Pairing these knife-like interior points with rounded corners feels unintentional.

Color

  • Investigate alternatives to the current Zumba chartreuse, but don’t lose the impression of visual “electricity” it evokes.

Logo Refresh vs. Redesign

If we had decided to undertake a complete logo redesign, we could have done anything we wanted, but that would have left us in a classic “apples to oranges” scenario, making it difficult to measure improvement (or lack thereof).

So, we settled on a design refresh and used the current logo as a framework to reference and refine. It was important that the updated logo be immediately recognizable to loyal Zumba instructors and students—that it be true to the original but elevated in a way that improves the brand’s visual impact.

The Logo Refresh Process

Unsurprisingly, the logo refresh process looks a lot like the design process.

  • Define the Problem: What’s wrong with this logo?
  • Collect Information: Could these formal design elements be the cause of the logo’s problems?
  • Develop Solutions: Here are a number of ways we might fix the logo.
  • Gather Feedback: Would you mind critiquing our work?
  • Improve the Design: Based on everything we’ve learned so far, here’s how we can make the logo better.

In the section below, we discuss the design paces we put the Zumba logo through. The actual course of the investigation was a bit more detailed, but the logo refresh process isn’t complicated. Simplicity and clarity of action are key objectives.

Bonus: Additional Highlights from the Zumba Logo Refresh

  1. Overlay Sketching

    The first step in our logo refresh process was a series of overlay sketches. Essentially, we examined a ghosted version of the original Zumba logo in an effort to uncover what elements of the design might be useful or problematic as we moved forward.

    Logo refresh

    Approach logo refresh projects with a willingness to uncover positive attributes in the original design. In this overlay sketch, we noticed a certain bounciness and rhythm that we might build on.
  2. Concept Sketching

    Using the observations made from the overlay sketches, we conducted a round of concept sketches exploring various improvements. Letter spacing, style, and thickness were of special concern.

  3. Group Review

    Once the concept sketches were completed, they were submitted to the editorial staff for a design critique.

    Logo brief

    It's important to have several sets of eyes for critiques because a logo refresh can quickly become a logo redesign, resulting in a brand mark that may confuse loyal customers.
  4. Refinement Sketching

    After getting feedback from the editorial staff, we began cleaning up details and further honing the concepts.

    Case study of logo redesign

    We considered multiple lettering and icon styles, including a concept that ties into Zumba's prolific use of pattern on its website and apparel.
  5. Community Feedback & Group Review

    With our refined sketches in hand, we returned to the Toptal community members who originally answered our call to submit bad logos and asked for their thoughts. Then, we circled back for review with the editorial staff and chose one concept to move forward.

  6. Vector Refinements & Color

    For this step, we transitioned from analog to digital and created a precise vector version of the logo in Adobe Illustrator. We also looked at updating the logo’s color.

    Logo case study

    Here we see the underlying vector construction of the updated 'B'.

So, where did the logo refresh lead us?

Did we meet the objectives outlined in our brief?

Does the updated logo have ties to the original, or have we created an unrelated mark that will alienate loyal Zumba customers?

There’s

only

one

way

to

find

out.

Ladies and gentlemen, the refreshed Zumba logo.

Good logos vs bad logos

Introducing the Zumba logo refresh.

Logo design tips

The refreshed logotype and "dance man" icon were designed with the flexibility to be paired or to exist independently.

Admittedly, there’s a lot to unpack here. Letters, shapes, colors, symbols, and proportions have all been revitalized. No detail was left unexplored, and no design decision was deemed inconsequential.

To highlight our improvements, we’ll compare the new with the old and revisit the areas of emphasis in the creative brief:

  • Lockup Relationship
  • Logotype
  • “Dance Man” Icon
  • Color

Let’s dig in.

Lockup Relationship Improvements

  • By ditching the pseudo-hand-drawn elements of the original logo for clean lines and curves in the update, we made for a more natural pairing between the logotype and circle surrounding the “dance man” icon.
  • In the portrait version of the update, the “dance man’s” v-shaped torso rests comfortably above the crotch of the ‘M’.
  • We also flipped the direction of the “dance man’s” posture so that it feels like he is partnering with the logotype in landscape orientation.

Good logos vs bad logos

In the original portrait version, the icon feels disjointed from the logotype because the bottom of the circle hovers directly above the highest point of the 'M'. In the update, the top edge of the 'M' and 'B' form a natural bowl for the circle to rest in.

Logo design tips

The precise curves and edges of the updated logotype make for a more natural pairing with the icon circle.

Logotype Improvements

  • We said farewell to the kinks, flattened curves, and undulating stroke thickness of the original logotype for dynamic letters built with precision.
  • In the original logotype, there’s an attempt to convey spontaneity and rhythm. We’ve taken it a step further by alternating letter scale, angle, and skew to visually illustrate a pulsing dance beat.

How to redesign a logo.

The proportions and structure of the refreshed logotype are similar to the original, but the updated letters work together to create a sense of rhythm.

Logo case study

The letters in the original logotype suffer from a number of awkward inconsistencies.

Zumba logo refresh

“Dance Man” Icon Improvements

  • Updating the “dance man” was by far the most challenging aspect of this process. We explored a number of concepts and contemplated dropping him altogether, but ultimately, there was something uniquely “dancy” about his posture that made him difficult to ditch.
  • So, we deconstructed the original icon and focused on refining its four basic parts: Outer Circle, Head, U-Arm, and Z-Arm.
  • We also flipped the direction of the “dance man’s” posture and made his U-Arm overlap his torso.

Brand icon–how to redesign a logo

Originally, the "dance man" was facing left, which meant he was often turned away from surrounding visual elements.

How to redesign–logo design elements

The Z-Arm and U-Arm exist in the original logo, but a lack of visual refinement made them seem unintentional.

Zumba dance man logo icon as part of our logo redesign

The Z-Arm creates an implied shadow over the torso, adding to the "dance man's" depth and appearance of fluid movement.

Color Improvements

  • Since Zumba uses an extensive color palette across multiple brand channels, we opted for minor adjustments to the logo’s color.
  • For the Zumba green, we added blue and upped the saturation to make it less “pea soup” and more “vibrant vegetation.”
  • We also added blue to the Zumba black and increased its brightness for a more relaxed relationship with the green.

Logo design elements–color improvements

A small shift in color hue, saturation, and brightness can have a profound impact on a brand's overall look and feel.

Final Review/Conclusion

When dealing with the design update of a globally recognized logo, there’s going to be controversy. Zumba is a company that helps transform lives with improved fitness, tight-knit community, and meaningful causes. Its followers are loyal and passionate, and it was our goal to refresh the logo in a way that would excite them.

With that in mind, we offer an honest assessment of our work.

Where We Failed

Research. There’s no way around it, due to limited resources (time and financial), our research was shallow. We didn’t interview Zumba students or instructors at any point in the process, and our understanding of the brand and its target market was culled from the online investigation.

Where We Succeeded

We addressed the key elements outlined in the brief and delivered a logo that is formally superior yet visually related to the original.

What We Learned

It’s easy to identify subpar design but much harder to fix it. As designers, we don’t have to exert much effort to find work we don’t like, but if all we ever do is dismiss, we miss learning opportunities.

It’s more productive to ask, “Why isn’t that working, and how could I fix it?” In this way, we tie our observational skills to our problem-solving abilities and open more doors to better design.

• • •

Further reading on the Toptal Design Blog:

Understanding the Basics

What is a brand refresh?

A brand is a promise that a business makes to its customers. A brand refresh is the process of refining that promise. Depending on how in-depth the brand refresh is, every area of a company can be impacted—from its internal values to its visual design standards (i.e: logo, typography scheme, color palette, etc).

About the author

Micah Bowers, United States
member since January 3, 2016
Micah is a brand designer and illustrator who aspires to elevate design to the level of a story. To reach people and forge lasting engagement, Micah believes that design must identify a need, stir a desire for change, and shed light on a path that is uniquely helpful, hopeful, and human. [click to continue...]
Hiring? Meet the Top 10 Freelance Logo Designers for Hire in January 2019

Comments

Design Studio
Wow! What a transformation! Thanks for sharing, Micah.
AmyinMaine
Hmmm... it looks cleaner but lost all of its curviness and fluidity. Given that (I am guessing here) a majority of Zumba clientele are female -- in some ways, it comes across as though you gave the logo a masculine transformation. Choosing to change from all curves to all sharp/straight points. I miss the looseness in the first mark. And while you pointed out awkward spacing in the first logo between letters --- it's odd because the second is also awkwardly spaced ? (particularly between the Z and U) --- probably contributing to that is that the letters are now sharp/straight and so spaces between them become more pronounced and not kerning them evenly stands out. I do enjoy the up and down rhythm brought into the lettering and losing that black line around the circle was key. Overall -- in Zumba there is a lot of flailing and energy -- less preciseness -- so while the second logo may be visually cleaner -- it doesn't feel like it represents the organic energy of the Zumba dance classes.
Chad Morgan
Valiant effort, but think this a move sideways at best. Haven’t really improved on its simplicity, not any more memorable, certainly not timeless, and really a downgrade for appropriateness. Also, not very flexible—mark would fall apart at small sizes.
Jeffrey Perlman
I was so hoping that youd create something amazing, but frankly im not impressed. I think Zumba could use a logo refresh. I was the cmo of Zumba from the time it was the joke of the fitness industry to till the day it became the largest branded fitness program in the world. That logo was designed by my friends and redesigned by my late CD, Hector Batista. Im still close to my Zumba fam (literally, my brother is the CEO). If anybody wants to give this logo a real shot, i would love to work on a redesign.
Ginger Avenger
Wow... that logo can't dance. It's completely jarring in every way, and looks more like a zanny logo for a Saturday morning cartoon. In your exploration, you completely lost focus on the origins of Zumba. What part of a fitness program, modeled after Latin dance moves, makes you think that extremely harsh angles and slashing letter forms is right for the brand? It's like you didn't even google what it was. You may have perfected the size and spacing of "shapes" in relation to each other, but in doing so, you created a logo that looks zanny, wacky, zippy, and downright harsh. The icon looks like a Karate Kid Cartoon on Nickelodeon, and I can almost see and hear the karate chop. Where is the fluidity and organic movement associated with Latin dance? What represents the beat of the drums, and the smooth sway of the hips? Where is the passion and sex? Latin music is the heart and lifeline of Zumba, and it is the antithesis of this new logo. You admit to failing in the research department, but you do a brand a disservice by not representing the origins, which is Latin dance and movement. A simple Google search would have given you that insight, but you chose to focus on adding perfection to a very organic and imperfect fitness practice. If Zumba was a form of MMA fitness set to very fast German Death metal, you nailed it.
Ivan Dimitrov
Definitely the result is not according to my expectations. I'm keeping an eye the toptal designers from a long time and my opinion is that they're very good in UX design but the logo design isn't a fit that they're experienced in.
InLikeFlint
You seem to have spent an awfully long time worrying about spacing relationships that might have been better spent coming up with an idea.
Nicolás Farfaglia
This. My initial thought was 'Hannah-Barbera'. The original logo's fluidity was removed completely, which I think is key to the product's essence. Also, far from being 'the world's worst logo'.
Emeraldo
That is definitely NOT the World's worst logo.
zeesolt
Meh
Edac2
World's worst? I just did a Google search and found a page full of logos that are magnitudes worse than Zumba, which I'd say is meh, but certainly not awful.
Ty Lagalo
Would love to take on this opportunity.
uranbold
I don't like the New Logo :)
Jeffrey Perlman
Ty, send your portafolio to my FB direct message
Riad Kanane
the old version was definitely better :)
Riad Kanane
So you've turned a rounded circle to square and you call it improvement? I definitely feel the older version looks more creative. And this is nowhere near the world worst logo in anyway.
Maria Kennedy
I think you've lost the point of what the original logo was trying to communicate. You've made it angular and harsh. Zumba is not harsh, it's fluid and lively and fun. Now the icon looks like a "C" and an "N", not like two arms swinging to the rhythm of music in a fluid motion. The logotype previously paired very well with the icon but now it's disjointed and if you look at the word "Zumba" on its own, without the icon, it doesn't evoke the previous feeling of smooth, fluid motion.
Fábio Barbosa
Sorry, but it's a No from me.
Danielle
While I do like how the new word mark appears to be dancing with the angle and skew on the letters, I agree with others that the new harsh lines and sharp points don't feel right for the brand at all. I wish you had kept the more fluid and curvy letterforms, but applied the same angles and skew to them. Also not impressed with the icon in the least, unfortunately. Looks like CN, and not very much like a person dancing. I thought the direction you were taking with using a pattern inside the circle was really great, feels really current and yet timeless. Wish that had been explored a bit more.
Jan
absolutely agree and wanted to say the same thing. The second ones screams more "corporate" — the more playful, less precise original logo feels more "authentic" to me because that's what the classes (and the company) feels — really fun, wild not overly serious, and open to mistakes and imprecision
Jeremie Doiron
All that research, justifying and reworking and it's still impossibe to enjoy this logo. All you did was bring it from the 90's to the 00's. So much design is approached academically, its a bit sickening. I don't see the improvement. This whole article reads like look at the evidence I found to support my own, which is narrowly better than the original.
darktranquility
You've moved an unremarkably average logo backwards slightly.
Arnold_Porras
Hey Jeffrey, this is a logo project I would love to work on. I am from Cali, Colombia, like the Zumba brand itself, it would be awesome for me to re design it. Please take a look at my portfolio www.arnoldp.com
Ulrica Griffiths
Luckily, Zumba Fitness uses a proper branding company. Even if I might forgive you for not understanding the brand, nor dance nor women enough and still playing with the logo, the redesign is terrible to look at.
Karen Cusimano
Wow. Sorry, but once again, as is the case 99% of the time, "new and improved", well, isn't. All the fun and exuberance that is Zumba that is reflected in the original logo and font is gone, and replaced with something that looks like something more suited for a corporate website, or - that logo in particular - a hood ornament for some new model of car (for some reason I was reminded of ZZ Top). Which doesn't mean it's bad, on its own merits, it's a rather nifty logo. But imho, is miles away from being an accurate representation of anything resembling what Zumba is all about. But then you did say that your research was lacking. Maybe go with your wife and actually take her Zumba class with her once or twice, and then see which logo you think is a better representation of Zumba, the old or the new. :)
Catman
Not really a fan of redesign. While typography got cleaner, the icon became messy and unreadable. Old icon was more airy, dynamic, fluid, human. I think fixing original font's misbalance would be well enough.
Dennis Rutherford
Feels like Elaine's dancing on Seinfeld
claudia
Oh no! I do not care for the original Zumba logo however the redesigned one lost its "dance". Sure the original one had some space issues and inconsistent angles but it had movement, which is what Zumba is. The redesign looks like more like a food/drink or kid related brand. The icon looks like CN and lost the vibe of the business. I prefer the original even with its imperfections.
Pablo Sespedes
From round to square... it´s the same logo... I don´t like the "new" logo.
humboldtrick
Not much of an improvement—both are ugly logos!
AURAL ALCHEMIST
Great job! You made it even worse. This is a joke, right?
DavidAFrench
Oof. The new logo sucks. You should have leaned into the quirkiness of the original and really owned it. You talk about the problems with the original being a perfect circle which poorly contrasts to the type and brandmark and then you just created a cleaned up version that sitll has a perfect circle! Should have gone full bore on that fluid look. Get something with a messy splashy brush stroke type. Almost 80s level brush font and give it a big messy splashy multi colored festive Chiquita banana lady fruit piled on top of head, overflowing gushy logo.
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DavidAFrench 3+
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About the author
Micah Bowers
Designer
Micah is a brand designer and illustrator who aspires to elevate design to the level of a story. To reach people and forge lasting engagement, Micah believes that design must identify a need, stir a desire for change, and shed light on a path that is uniquely helpful, hopeful, and human.