The letter has its apparent appeals. X is a flexible form — one of many few capital letters to stay symmetrical whether or not bisected vertically or horizontally (the others: H, O and I). It’s legible irrespective of the way you flip it. It indicators a cease. A mark on a map. A film too outrageous to provide a score. It’s the stuff of revolutionaries (Malcolm X) and punks (X, the band). It stands in for a kiss, and represents an unknown amount in arithmetic. XXX is porn — the primary true foreign money of the web. X could be the hidden conspiracy of “The X-Recordsdata,” or the shorthand for the drug Ecstasy, well-liked with ravers within the ’90s.
On Monday, Twitter unveiled its new identify, and with it, a brand new brand. The unfurling of the new branding had the identical chaotic power Elon Musk has introduced to each step of the journey since he purchased Twitter final October. As customers on X (previously referred to by some, semi-affectionately, as “the chook app”) adjusted to their new environment, there have been many inquiries to ponder. Like for instance: If it wasn’t referred to as Twitter any extra, have been the posts nonetheless tweets? What’s the sound of an X flying by way of silicon? A zing? And why did Mr. Musk select it?
His age may need one thing to do with it. Within the Nineties, X reigned supreme, after Douglas Coupland’s 1991 novel “Era X: Tales for an Accelerated Tradition” permeated the lexicon.
“We have been in our 20s once we have been named Gen X,” Anthony Sperduti, 50, founding father of the branding studio Mythology, mentioned. “So perhaps X sounds good to us, as a result of it seeped into our mind.” At 52, Mr. Musk falls proper into that demographic.
For advertising functions within the Nineties, X had a sure cool. It conferred a rejection of authority — you would think about Bart Simpson with a marker writing X’s on the partitions of his bed room — whereas additionally being co-opted by mass consumerism. X was the image for generic merchandise, so X may very well be each rebellious and mass-produced.
Huge enterprise acquired in on the letter, too, because it tried to bottle the choice power of the last decade. The X Video games began in 1995, a shorthand for “excessive,” a time period used to explain sports activities like snowboarding, which was allowed into the Olympics solely in 1998. The Xbox online game console got here in 2001.
Musicians and hipsters utilized the letter liberally as they created firms. Eli Bonerz and Adam Silverman opened the clothes retailer XLARGE (a favourite of the Beastie Boys) in Los Angeles in 1991. Kim Gordon and Daisy von Furth began their clothes model X-Woman in 1994.
However X has its limitations.
“It’s not significant as an identification,” Michael Rock, 64, a companion at 2×4, a branding consultancy based mostly in New York and Beijing, mentioned of the brand new brand. “It’s significant as a negation or a cancellation. A crossing out.”
Nonetheless, Gen X was the primary era to have a letter as a reputation, and even when they didn’t love the moniker, they took delight in being undefinable. In any case, the identify caught. And it appears to have actually caught longest and strongest in Mr. Musk’s psyche. (Mr. Musk didn’t reply to a request for remark.)
Certainly, Mr. Musk appears to have one thing of a fixation with the letter X. He named his rocket firm SpaceX, a Tesla the Mannequin X, and one in all his personal youngsters X Æ A-12, or X for brief. Mr. Musk’s second firm, X.com, emerged within the X-still-having-a-moment yr of 1999 earlier than merging with one other firm and changing into PayPal in 2001.
As a single letter, X had little competitors for branding untill 1998 when Apple unleashed the lowercase i within the naming of the iMac. In contrast with the violent slash of X, the i used to be optimistic, self-referential and cheerfully anthropomorphic — the little dot like a head perched above a pert, standing physique able to take over the world. A millennial letter, you may say, there to exchange the self-defeating X and its latchkey power.
By branding every little thing he touches with X it’s as if Mr. Musk is begging the world to recollect his prime years when he was beginning to construct his empire. (Not a really stereotypically Gen X intuition.)
In a method, Mr. Rock mentioned, “it’s a non-choice, the suspension of narrative to be equipped later.” He felt the precise brand the corporate placed on the positioning as a spot holder was inappropriate. “Perversity appears to be on the coronary heart of it.”
Mr. Rock likened it to “a leather-based bike jacket at a Tesla launch,” extra akin to the Xbox or X Video games branding than any of the extra authentically counterculture makes use of from the Nineties.
“I can think about it appeals to Elon Musk’s persona as different, edgy, mysterious or punk, nevertheless it comes throughout as tech-bro cringe,” he mentioned.
Ultimately, if Mr. Musk succeeds in making X into “the every little thing firm” he needs it to be, the brand received’t matter. And that’s maybe essentially the most Gen X consequence of all.