By Thomas Wagner.
Refreshing the brand with a new corporate design: the new PLEXIGLAS® word/image mark focuses on linearity and on staying connected with tradition. Fisher-Price’s new look is like a magical bag bursting with playful ideas.
Everyone in Germany has heard of Plexiglas. Just like the name Uhu is used to mean glue, or Tempo for tissues, Plexiglas is not a reference to a material, but to a brand name. It was the chemist Dr. Otto Röhm, together with his colleagues in Darmstadt, who invented the material known as acrylic glass (or polymethyl methacrylate, to use the correct chemical term). Initially, Röhm was researching new plastics to try and create a synthetic rubber. He did not succeed in this line of research, but by 1928, he was able to produce multi-layered safety glass.
When Röhm started working with methacrylates in the late 1920s, he had a stroke of luck: some natural light shone on a sample of materials stored in a bottle by the window and triggered a polymerization reaction. The bottle shattered, revealing a block of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). In further trials he was able to control the process and produce thin panes of acrylic glass. The new material was named “Plexiglas” and was registered as a trademark in 1933.
Homage to the inventor: the new PLEXIGLAS® word/image mark
The company has changed hands several times over the years. Evonik Röhm GmbH, a subsidiary of Evonik Industries AG, was the owner of the brand until 2019. Evonik sold its methacrylate unit, which also included the Plexiglas division, in March 2019, to the financial investor Advent International. Now the newly founded company trading under the name Röhm GmbH, with sites in Germany, China, the USA, Russia and South Africa, has designed a new word/image mark for Plexiglas. It is intended to convey the “modernity and changeability” of the acrylic glass brand, while fitting in seamlessly with the company’s corporate design.
The Röhm brand was modified by design firm finalart design using powerful typography and the visual impact of a square bracket. Splitting the letter R does not just create an echo of the bracket used in chemical formulas, it is also meant to symbolise the strong bond and close partnerships the company has with its customers, employees, suppliers and Advent International. This “opening up” of the logo through the bracket is symbolic of Röhm’s innovation and foresight, its ability to think outside the box. The message is further emphasised by the tagline: “Traditionally Innovative”.
A pattern that unites
Since methacrylate is the base material for all of the company’s products, the designers extracted a pattern from it to serve as a visual bracket and independent branding element for all communications. This pattern is echoed as a graphic grid structure in two corners of the new PLEXIGLAS® word/image mark. Breaks in the X and A of the white lettering also reflect the material’s transparency, lightness, brilliance and plasticity. The signal red tagline “The Original by Röhm” is a reference to both the brand, and a respectful tribute to the inventor.
The black-and-white look of the image is not only linked to the design of the company brand, but also to the successful communication campaign “Black & Bright”, which won prizes in both the German Brand Awards and the German Design Awards. The logo is used throughout the entire product portfolio marketed under the PLEXIGLAS® brand. This includes moulding compounds as well as semi-finished products such as plates, rods, tubes, blocks and sheets of different specifications.
Let’s be kids: a new brand identity for Fisher-Price
Fisher-Price, one of the leading U.S. manufacturers of toys for babies and children up to preschool age, has revamped its branding. Founded in 1930 and based in East Aurora, New York, the company has inspired generations of children and parents with toys such as the coloured ring pyramid, “Power Wheels”, “Little People” and the chatter telephone.
This visual update coincides with Fisher-Price’s new brand strategy, developed by Wieden+Kennedy, intended to take the company back to its roots and highlight the role of toys for children today. Less emphasis is placed on the child’s educational development, while the playful aspects are more clearly accentuated, uniting fun and function as per the new mission statement: “Put the fun back into functional” and the “play back into playtime”. This modified ethos is beautifully summed up in the new slogan: “Let’s be kids”.
The new image conveys the spirit of play
It corresponds to the brand’s new direction, developed in close cooperation with the design studio Pentagram, which is based entirely on a playful understanding of fun and joy. The arrangement of the new look cleverly draws on the history of the brand, using it to develop a complete visual language that encompasses a new font, as well as the company’s communication, management style and sales policy.
The team at Pentagram looked at early advertisements and packaging stored in the company’s archives. They discovered that the original font used for Fisher-Price, based on the Windsor serif font, was not only used consistently, but it also contributed significantly to the elegant and cheerful expression of the brand’s identity through its typography.
Pentagram worked from this premise to design a completely separate font called “Let’s Be Glyphs”, creating a new word mark that is reminiscent of the original font used by Fisher-Price. This is complemented with a playful alternative, the “Let’s Be Glyphs Bouncy” font, consisting of skewed letters running along a wobbly baseline. Both were created by typeface designer Jeremy Mickel.
Fresh and contemporary
The new appearance gives the brand a look which is immediately fresher and more contemporary. The whole concept is like a magic bag bursting with playful ideas. Familiar elements have been refined and expanded to create a customised modular system that opens up a whole world of possibilities for Fisher-Price to use in different areas, while still generating a consistent image. The colour scheme is very buoyant, almost exuberant. The unconventional typography, with its numerous coloured graphic elements and patterns, perfectly captures the brand’s attributes of fun, action, games, celebration, silliness and joy.
At the heart of the refreshed identity is the bright red “awning” with rounded ends on which the company’s name is written in lower case letters. The new version of the awning logo only has three semicircles instead of four. Its simple geometry is also the platform for an enhanced visual language. Even the hyphen between the names is a semicircle that mirrors the rounded edges of the awning. The logo is supported by two monograms, a round bubble and a smaller version of the awning: a “flag tag”. Both are emblazoned with the newly designed lower case letters “fp”.
The graphic elements can be combined in numerous ways to create various patterns, or “play-moji”, which are similar to emojis but inspired by the faces of the Little People toys. With this treasure trove of rich graphic elements, Pentagram has succeeded in giving the new branding a bright, cheerful feel which also appeals to adults, reminding them just how much fun they had playing when they were little.