Dropbox’s Design Disaster

October 13th, 2017

Last week, Dropbox announced the biggest change to their visual brand that the company has seen in 10 years…and designers all over the internet immediately started freaking out (me included). Now, I know that when a big tech company releases a rebrand, there will always be backlash (ex. Google and Instagram)—but this particular rebrand takes it to another level. The file storage system that grew a strong following over the last decade for its simplicity, ease of use, and healthy amount of white space has traded in its look for a hodge-podge of images, colors, and font styles. To be honest, it’s a bit of a headache.

To announce the rebrand, the file storage company tweeted a link to a webpage entitled “Evolving the Dropbox Brand” that breaks down the stylistic elements of the new look, including the reasoning behind the change, the updated logo, the color palette, illustrations and photography, as well as typography. Upon clicking the link, I was struck with confusion when I found myself faced with contrasting colors and bold imagery. As I scrolled, I witnessed colors changing, GIFs playing, and type changing size and weight. By the time I hit the bottom of the page, I felt as if I had seen every color known to man, in combinations that only my nightmares can dream up.

What They Did Right

Nearly everything about the rebrand felt so dramatically different that I felt as if I was looking at an entirely new brand. Yet, amongst all of chaos, the one element that kept me intrigued was the logo. The differences in the mark are perhaps the most subtle thing about this entire rebrand, but unlike the other changes to the identity, this one is aesthetically pleasing. The icon still represents a box, but instead an abstracted version that is made up of “a collection of surfaces” to make up the image. As a whole, the mark feels both fresh and familiar, which are great signs of a rebrand. But then there’s everything else….


Trying Too Hard

With the logo updates aside, everything else about this rebrand is not great. The color choices are unappealing and don’t seem to make any sense. When used properly, colors are meant to support the overall identity and evoke feelings that are aligned with the brand. But after seeing this new look, the only feelings I felt were nausea and confusion. The combination of nearly 20 different colors throughout the page felt very forced—like a granny-square afghan blanket or a child with a new 24-pack of crayons that is just dying to use every single one. And by using such an extensive font family, each weight feels like it is suggesting a completely different mood.  Instead of evoking feelings of creativity like they had hoped, I struggled to connect with the brand at all. Had they lost sight of what Dropbox actually is? Did they trade in their subtle illustrations and white space for blocks of color to make them seem like a cool, trendy design agency trying to push the boundaries?


Dropbox’s icon in various color combinations


Sharp Grotesk font family in various weights and styles

Dropbox Missed the Mark

At the end of the day, Drobox is a file storage system– a place for you to keep your things organized and accessible. Users want a functional, easy-to-use product that fits seamlessly into their workflow. They want a place that fades into the background while highlighting the work that is put in it. Instead, users are faced with a flashy, over-the-top brand identity that hopes to inspire creative energy by displaying it first-hand. While there have not been any dramatic changes to the actual user interface, I am weary that the new visual elements will hinder the user experience and overstep the functionality.

If Dropbox was the box that held my most prized possessions and memories, the exterior would make little-to-no difference at all. As long as it stored my belongings in a simple and secure place that allowed for easy access, it would serve its purpose. I don’t want a box that is bright and colorful and energetic, or one that tries to make me feel more creative when I look at it. What I want is a box that puts functionality before aesthetics, even if it’s just a plain cardboard box.

Stefanie Osmond

Stefanie is Springboard's graphic designer and creative problem solver. Beyond her desk, she spends her time crafting, trying out new dinner recipes, watching competitive baking competitions, and sipping on tea.

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