Nearly two years ago, when the lustration of “Mormon”-ism was well underway, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir proudly announced it was renaming itself to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, or “TabCATS,” for the true believers (and kudos to whoever runs the choir’s Twitter account for regularly being a good sport about friendly ribbing). The world took notice. Surely not MoTab?! Surely it would be spared President Nelson’s scythe of righteousness! Not so.
Described as a “momentous change” during “an unprecedented moment when Church announcements and adjustments seem to be happening on an almost daily basis,” the Church News announced that the choir has updated its logo “to reflect the iconic organization’s forward-thinking direction while simultaneously remaining linked to its rich past.” The result is a logo—or, uh, “visual identity,” in unnecessary corporate branding speak—that is the very essence of design by committee.
Remove the text and this could be the logo of a dental office, or a pen company, or an insurance company, or a building company, or maybe the world’s finest purveyor of recorders and/or cigarette holders.
Arguably aware that the new logo is bad and merits an explanation, the Church also released an unnecessarily hilarious breakdown of the new logo and its many meanings!
“The pipes’ strong vertical thrust points us to God.” Did I really just read that? That’s a real sentence in 2020. Someone in the Church Office Building wrote that and multiple layers of Church bureaucracy cleared it? Has no one noticed that this could also look more like space missiles being pointed toward earth? That’s the opposite of what I wanted!
I would never look at the “curve” and think of the namesake Tabernacle. Like, ever. It literally just looks like flat design excess for what are already staggered air holes in organ pipes.
If the pipes rested on a “clear and firm foundation,” why are they floating above it, and at varying distances from the base, no less?!
And the rising and falling of the “pipes” alludes to the rhythm of music? You know what else alludes to the rhythm of music? An image that is clearly an organ.
Arguably the most impressive part of the explanation is in the text, showing, you see, that the bold text “highlights the short name” that people know best, overlooking that “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” is the shorter—and at time, full—name that people know best. But wait! Adding “…at Temple Square” shows us the new location! So… an identifier!
However, credit where credit is due: the typeface is nice. Down with serifs!
To put this in perspective, let’s look at how the TabChoir music app has changed its logo:
On the left, a logo that tells me pretty clearly this is something involving an organ, perhaps even related to that famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir I once heard of. On the right, some colored pencils waiting to attack an inverted plate.
Simply put, if you were to see without any context the abandoned organ logo, you’d have some idea that this involves music, and as the Tabernacle’s organ is a known national quantity, you might even link it to the choir. If you were to see the new logo without any context in a random setting without any background, would you have even the remotest clue that this was meant to represent the Tabernacle Choir?
“I think it is important to note that the simplified logo is designed to allow people to add their own meaning to it,” said music director Mack Wilberg. “We want those who listen to our music to feel hope, comfort, joy and peace.” Mack, I love you and revere you as a composer and artist, but the meaning I place upon this is that it is meaningless.
But wait, there’s more! The article then attempts to explain how the new logo with an entire section about “Strengthening the choir brand by following the prophet.” Let’s read it in full:
Thursday’s announcement comes about 18 months after the world-renowned choir changed its name from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
The logo unveiled Thursday is another element of the choir’s ongoing strategic plan that began following its Oct. 5, 2018, name change to “better align” with its sponsoring organization — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Earlier that year, President Russell M. Nelson issued a statement emphasizing the importance of being “in harmony” with the Lord’s will to use the correct name of His Church.
“We are at the forefront of the Church as far as brand recognition, so I knew that we would have the opportunity to change our name,” said Jarrett on the day of the choir name change. “It is an opportunity to follow the prophet. It is an opportunity to move the choir forward. It is an opportunity to be where we should be.”
The new logo will be included on the choir’s upcoming CD, which will be released in May.
Located prominently on Temple Square, the Salt Lake Tabernacle has been home to the choir since 1867. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square name offers a historical nod to the symbiotic connection between the musical organization and the iconic structure.
“It’s a natural fit,” said Jarrett. “’Tabernacle,’ because this is our home. ‘Temple Square,’ because that is where we perform. It’s where we are based and where we serve the Church.”
The name change also offered consistency between the choir and its sister organizations, The Orchestra at Temple Square and The Bells at Temple Square.
This says absolutely nothing about how a new logo supports President Nelson’s counsel to use the correct name of the Church. It reminds us that the Choir itself changed its name to reflect President Nelson’s drive, but the logo? This is a paragraph that does not support itself. However, props for the lengthy explanation on location identifiers.
Moreover, if we’re updating the logo to get with the times, I see no reference to the Savior a la the Church’s new “symbol.” We don’t worship the Tabernacle or Temple Square. Likewise, if we are trying to get with the times, why is the Church’s new symbol so traditional and decided not forward thinking? Why didn’t we at least use a Jorge Cocco image instead of the overplayed Thorvaldsen image? Is our Church also one of “forward-thinking direction” or is that only reserved for the Choir? What is our larger brand?
So many questions, so few answers. The Tabernacle Choir will continue to create phenomenal music, which is thankfully not tied to logo decisions, but if your goal is to create a lasting image that encapsulates the entirety of your brand, perhaps think of something at least a bit more on the nose than what appears to be a line of paintbrushes.