The return of Serotta, but not their lovely logo

Thoughts on bicycles and branding and broken hearts

A classic racing bicycle brand, Serotta, is returning! Known for their innovations in the use of titanium and their unique approach to bike fit, Serottas were a common sight at the front of major races around the world. One of my favorite things about them, however, was their beautiful logotype:

The original Serotta logo

Those angular letters look absolutely amazing on a down tube.

Sadly, it looks like they’ve thrown this away. Their new logo is a bold, oblique, square sans-serif. Just like... every other sports company that exists today.

I’m sad about this not only because the original was such a lovely treatment but also because the modern bike industry is full of truly awful typography. Mass-market and small-batch companies sin in equal measure. This mystifies me a little because a bicycle is such an inherently graceful, elegant machine. The armchair-designer side of me thinks branding one might be easy: it’s already a handsome product. Just put some graceful, elegant lettering on there to match. But so many companies go instead for shouty billboard logos sprayed all over the frame.

I know, of course, that A) making a bike is a huge engineering challenge and there are so many factors that go into making one that rides well and B) I no doubt sound like an old person grousing about something so superficial. But the designer in me gets a little heartbroken every time I see an otherwise fantastic bicycle with terrible frame decals. The poor thing deserves better.

A few notable exceptions I’d like to shout out are Mason, Ritchey, Allied, and All-City(Note: I especially like that All-City give their bikes fantastic names like “Cosmic Stallion” and “Gorilla Monsoon”.), which all have thoughtful, classic logos and frame graphics — a perfect finishing touch for the thoughtful, classic bikes they sell.

Tip of the hat to Trek and Cérvelo, who both do the bold oblique thing but their lettering, at least, is nicely cut and applied. In Cérvelo’s case, their brand was recently face-lifted by Canadian design agency Concrete. There’s a nice case study here.