AOL, which began life 20 years ago as America Online, next month will become Aol. when it spins off from Time Warner. And no, the period after "Aol" is not a typo. On the contrary, it's an opportunity for C-level executives to exhibit their A-plus storytelling abilities.
Here's what (Ms.) Sam Wilson, managing director of the New York office of Wolff Olins, the agency that effected the transformation, told the New York Times:
The period in the logo was added to suggest “confidence, completeness,” Ms. Wilson said, by declaring that “AOL is the place to go for the best content online, period.”
Tim Armstrong, AOL's chairman and chief executive officer, likes the period so much that he's given it a nickname:
Mr. Armstrong said he liked to describe the period as “the AOL dot” because “the dot is the pivot point for what comes after AOL,” whether it is e-mail, Web sites or coming offerings that will “surprise people.”
Gee, they get all that out of a period? I'd love to hear them spin the interrobang.
I think that Aol. will still be pronounced ay-oh-ell, at least officially. I, however, propose to call it aoili. Very tasty with asparagus.
Seriously, though, if anyone there is listening: Nobody outside your company cares about your cute punctuation. No newspaper is going to comply with your internal style guide. Normal people write Macy's, not Macy*s, E-Trade, not E*TRADE, and Guess, not Guess?* Bill Walsh, a copy chief at the Washington Post who blogs at The Slot, devotes a chapter to this subject in his invaluable book The Elephants of Style. He writes:
I find a certain satisfaction ... in observing that the Web's conventions permit no decorative punctuation in addresses--it's www.yahoo.com and www.etrade.com. Those who lowercase the names of all Web companies should think about this.
Back to today's headlines:
Read what some British designers have to say about the redesigned AOL logo.
Read what Om Malik of GigaOm has to say.
Our copy desk has a suggestion of where you can stick that period ... uhm, right next to Yahoo's exclamation point.
UPDATE: Brand New, a design blog that specializes in before-and-after critiques, has published a long post about Aol. that includes many proof-of-concept images.
* I love the story, possibly apocryphal, about the woman who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the "Guess?" logo. A stranger approached her on the street, appraised her chest, and said, "Um ... 34DD?"