HBO Max Rebrands as “Max”— But Why?

Posted inBranding & Identity Design

It was recently revealed that the once beloved streaming platform HBO Max rebranded into a simpler, one might argue ergonomic, “Max.” Naturally, the unexpected drop arrived with considerable animosity.

Longtime HBO fans, who have already expressed a sense of betrayal after the service’s sudden removal of many titles over the past year, mocked the change. On Reddit, responses like “Just plain Max is idiotic” and “Max just sounds like a streaming service for Cinemax” prove consumers’ confusion about the change. While we already know that rebrands can be difficult for people to handle, some are definitely harder to understand than others.

I recently chatted with Forsman & Bodenfors Creative Director Sarah Ratinetz about HBO’s recent rebrand. We touched on emotional attachments, if content is more important than design, and her sweet personal connection to HBO.

Before we jump into the questions, I’d love to know your take on this redesign.

This feels more like a business decision than a visual identity initiative; more rebrand than redesign. Treating HBO as its own entity within the Max platform is an interesting strategy to maintain its equity. We’ll see if it holds up.

Why do you think people are upset at the removal of “HBO” in the name? Does it have to do with the brand’s premiumness?

HBO has been the apex of prestige television for the last 50 years. When I was growing up, it was a status symbol. It also changed the perception of what TV programming could be. I think many of us can mark periods of our lives based on an HBO show that was airing. I can understand the emotional attachment that a generation has to the network, its history, and what it stands for. And rebrands are a natural time to really appreciate those connections. Fun fact: my in-laws actually met working at HBO in the ’80s!

What do you think of the brand taking the “O” from HBO and reusing it for the “A” in Max?

All of the elements within the new “Max” logo play well together. The new iteration of “Max” feels more contemporary than the earlier version, with more rounded letter forms. The lowercase “a” leaves room for a variety of creative decisions. I’m excited to see what the team does with this.

Do you think there’s power in a name as simple as “Max?” Why or why not?

The name Max delivers on the business and content goals of the company in its expansion of the platform’s offerings. However, it lacks the stickiness of its competitors. “Max” is a suffix and a qualifier that we’ve seen used in the industry for many years. For all of the questions around the rebrand, I think one thing is certain: it has the content. It’s the content that we’ll go out of our way for, and it’s the competitive edge that the brand needs to thrive and gain new subscribers.

If you were to have been in charge of this rebrand, what would you have done for the design and why? 

I think there was and still is the potential to build out the Max identity system. I’m curious whether there is more to come. There’s an opportunity to use design to communicate the strategic and content vision of the brand in a way that drives unity and cohesion between the Discovery+ and HBO platforms.