Kanye West is as well known for controversy as he is for his music and various businesses, and design controversies come as part of the package. He may be a god, but he’s not been above criticism when it comes to alleged logo ripoffs and just plain strange design decisions.
While Ye, as West is now known, has been accused of stealing logos from other businesses, he doesn’t take kindly to small businesses borrowing his own branding. He’s even branched out into graphic design himself, with a little help from Naoto Fukasawa, in a bizarre collaboration that has yet to see the light of day.
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01. Kanye West vs Walmart
Brands are logically very protective of their logos and can be quick to react if they see a new design that bears even a passing resemblance to their own identity. Even so, Walmart’s reaction to a quite generic-looking logo trademark filed by Yeezy was quite surprising.
The retail giant took issue with the dotted sun logo devised for Ye’s fashion label, claiming the logo, was way too similar to its own sun-shaped logo, so much so that it would create “confusion” and the “false suggestion of a connection” to Walmart’s own clothing.
Set side by side, a resemblance can be seen, but then how many sun-shaped dotted logos exist in the world? You could even find your own with one of the best logo makers. Of course, for Walmart, the intended use was as much the problem as the design itself, since Yeezy’s patent filing lists retail space, clothing and retail services among the list of uses.
Walmart said the possibility for confusion was greater because it “frequently partners with celebrities to create special lines of products and services.” Yeezy responded that “Walmart certainly knows, as does the consuming public, that the last thing [Yeezy] wants to do is associate itself with [Walmart].” Ouch. Perhaps that’s why the brand’s not currently using the logo.
02. Another Kanye West logo controversy
Give Ye a break, right? Hot on the heels of Walmart’s allegations West was accused of copying another logo, this time that of an independent Black-owned clothing company Infinty G8ds. Last year, merchandise for live dates to support the launch of the album Donda featured a logo design with a religious feel. But the logo looked rather like that of Infinity G8ds, a clothing brand established in 2016 that espouses the values of unity, faith, love and a positive mindset.
The designs are quite similar but different enough that you could put it down as a coincidence were it not for the fact that West turned out to have had direct contact with the brand before he released his own merch. In a video on the Infinity G8ds Instagram(opens in new tab), West and the company’s creative director, Randy Dawkins had a phone conversation in which West complimented the design saying “‘Bro, I really love your design. It’s really dope. When can I meet you to talk about your process?” Infinity G8ds even sent the rapper examples of their work(opens in new tab) and drove to Atlanta to meet him in person. Come on, Ye; give respect where it’s due.
03. The lopsided Yeezy x Gap logo
Sticking with logos, this was one lookalike that had a major brand’s backing, but it was no less bizarre. While Walmart was a clothing brand Ye wasn’t keen to associate himself with, he was very happy to collaborate with high street favourite Gap. But when the Yeezy x Gap mashup finally emerged after much anticipation, the logo revealed on legal documents was very – erm – let’s say more Gap than Yeezy.
The square design looks like an overzealous intern has been given the brand assets without the style guide and did what they could to try to make the logo fit on a new application. It replaces the letters in the Gap logo with YZY, rounds the edges and appears to make liberal use of the Photoshop skew tool to make the design randomly lopsided (a token gesture of edginess to reflect a collaboration with one of the biggest stars in rap?). Going for an imperfect appearance is interesting, but it felt like the logo was very non-commital going too subtle on the distortion to really say anything.
04. Kanye West vs College Dropout Burger
Yes, we get major international brands wanting to protect their names and images, but all the same, but sometimes it can feel a little petty, especially when it involves a small local business with a sense of humour. Walmart’s claims about the Yeezy logo filing seemed a little far-fetched, and but it seems West doesn’t take it well when the shoe’s on the other foot.
A small Australian burger restaurant named College Dropout after West’s first album had Ye at its core for over a year. It used Ye’s college dropout bear mascot, had dishes based around Ye song titles and displayed Ye-inspired art on the walls. Eventually, Ye’s legal representatives decided enough was enough and ordered the restaurant to ditch everything but the name. Spoil sports. The Golddigger chicken sandwich and Cheezus burger were simply genius.
Business owner and Ye fan Mark Elkhouri took the news with good grace, immediately adding an ‘insert logo here’ graphic to the middle of the restaurant’s bear logo and inviting customers to come up with new names for items on the menu. We can’t help but feeling that maybe the restaurant should have avoided tagging West in their Instagram posts and stories. They posted excitedly at one point that they had noticed West was actually looking at their stories. It turns out that might have been his lawyers.
05. Kanye West’s bizarre McDonald’s packaging
And speaking of burgers, maybe this was the reason why West’s lawyers were particularly unhappy about a burger association. Could West be about to launch his own line? Well, there was a very bizarre post on Instagram earlier this year in which West seemingly added yet another string to his bow, announcing that he was getting into packaging design with a little help from Muji product designer Naoto Fukasawa.
He previewed on Instagram a design for a McDonald’s burger box accompanied by a line from his track Gold Digger, “Next week, it’s the fries.” Had McDonald’s actually asked West and Fukasawa to do this? Will it ever see the light of day? Two months on, we still have no answers, but the original Instagram post has been removed (as have all of Ye’s posts) and the fries never materialised. Perhaps McDonald’s decided the design was a little too – em – bleak. The box, which appears to show a picture of its contents with a semi-translucent look, muted colours and almost pixelated texture, looks almost sinister.
06. Ye’s stance on NFTs
Another mystery is Ye’s position on NFTs. On the one hand, NFTs strike us as something that West would surely be getting in on, and we almost surprised that he hasn’t yet. But West has sent out mixed messages on the question. Last February, West posted a now-deleted message on Instagram showing a handwritten note in which he appeared to have lost his patience with people asking him about NFTs but at the same time suggest he might be interested in the future.
“My focus is on building real projects in the real world…. Do not ask me to do a f***ing NFT,” he said, but then finished the note with the phrase, “Ask me later.” Then in June, the Chicago-born hip-hop artist filed around 17 applications for the Yeezus trademark, including, yes, NFTs. The applications cover blockchain-based and non-fungible tokens, currencies and collectables, as well as online retail services offering downloadable movies, videos, TV, music and digital art (Confused about what this all means? See our explainer, What are NFTs?) So will Ye be launching NFTs or maybe even his own entire metaverse? Watch this space.