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A cleaner, simpler N IVEA

Graphic Design

Posted by Patrick Burgoyne, 17 January 2013, 11:08    Permalink    Comments (27)

Fuseproject's simpler, cleaner design language for Nivea is a vast improvement on many levels, but the kerning on that logo is going to annoy a lot of you...

Previous Nivea logo, developed by Interbrand in 2009

 

 

 

The Nivea brand, now owned by Beiersdorf, has a great heritage, so it was natural for Yves Béhar's fuseproject team to look to it when given the task of creating "a new, unique and innovative design language that embodies the Nivea brand values". According to fuseproject, Nivea's problems included "disjointed packaging forms [see above], various different brand expressions and a series of disconnected graphic languages [see Nivea logo variations above]. They had no cohesive design language to guide their various engagements, which led to a diluted overall brand and a confusing experience for their customers." The brand was looking for consistency but also to simplify the number of different packaging forms it uses.

For the graphics, fuseproject looked to the classic blue Nivea face cream tin, which had been on the market since 1925 (see above). "Our early thinking was to reduce the complexity of the current form languages, edit the numerous packaging types to a minimum set and eliminate the proliferation of logo variations and typographic expressions," fuseproject say. "We believe simplifying the Nivea visual language offers a stronger and clearer expression of the brand values. We based the design and graphic language on solid ground: the heritage tin and its classic white Bauhaus-era lettering. By harkening back to a pervasive brand icon such as the blue tin, the new designs, while offering a fresh, forward facing look for the brand, is also anchored in the company’s rich history. With this new brand expression, Nivea has a new face without losing any of its essential Nivea-ness."

 

But this was not just a graphics exercise. Fuseproject also addressed the packaging forms themselves, looking not just to improve their branding but also to make them more efficient and address sutainablity issues. On the former point, fuseproject explains tht "The overall design language is also anchored in the circular logo. Caps and closures are rethought in the blue Nivea color, with the redesigned logo embossed on the material ...To increase shelf presence and recognition, the bottles’ symmetrical 3D forms have wide bases for stability, with a pure geometry that joins the closures as perfect circles. Top areas [are] angled to face the customer, a gentle slope reminiscent of a hand offering a service. This both embeds the new Nivea logo to the bottle in a prominent, physical way, while engaging the consumer from the very beginning."

 



 

These new shapes, fuseproject claim, "creates new efficiencies within the company ... the geometry of the new design allows for improved functionality and less material used overall, by up to 15%. The weight reduction of the packaging is combined with a label reduction of 23% (by switching to a different material and liner). The bottles are optimized for shipping, packing tighter and saving 12,600 pallets and 585 tons of CO2 per year. These are contributing to the overall 2020 goals of Beiersdorf to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% per product. In addition, all materials used are fully recyclable and all formulas have an average of over 80% non-fossil ingredients."

According to Beirsdorf's Ralph Gusko "Around two-thirds of all purchase decisions are made at the shelf. The new Nivea design’s high recognition value will make it easier for consumers around the world to find the Nivea products they are looking for. The consistent design language across all channels - from product packaging, through point of sale to advertising - also increases consumer identification with the brand and encourages them to additionally use products in other categories.”

 

Here, Behar talks to Design Boom about the project

 

All of which sounds like a job well done. Fuseproject have delivered an elegant, visually strong and relevant solution that also creates real benefits for the company both in terms of cost savings and sustainability by the sounds of it. In stripping away the clutter and allowing the brand's strongest visual 'asset' to shine through, it reminds me somewhat of the highly successful Coca-Cola work done by Turner Duckworth. Perhaps we are going to see more such visual simplification from big brands.

But we have to address that big old typographic elephant in the room: the kerning.

Usually when we report on big, complex projects and all commenters can do is ignore everything else and moan about kerning it drives me mad, but even I have to admit that the space between the N and I looks distinctly odd. In fact the whole thing, when blown up big, is decidedly idiosyncratic. The elongated points of the N, V and A aren't helping - the N and the V actually extend below the other characters. But here's the conundrum. If this is the original mark, do you mess with it? This is supposed to be about heritage after all. Yes it's odd, and no doubt maddening to designers, but it also has character. Clean it up and you risk losing that. Within a scheme that has elsewhere stripped everything back to a minimum, perhaps the mark needs that quirkiness?

We asked Yves Béhar about the decision. "What we found out in our research, is that the typography, and its idiosyncratic kerning, were signature design elements added by the designer who did the original word mark," he says. "The team at Nivea and fuseproject agreed that it is a heritage element, a fingerprint of sorts we should keep rather than smooth out. As many did before us, we ultimately let it rest..."

Which leads to an interesting question for any designer involved in such a project - do 'character' and 'personality', both very valuable assets for a brand, lie in imperfection? And when is it best to just "let it rest"?

 

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27 Comments

For me brands like this don't need 'character' they need to present professional quality and consistency throughout their range. Knocking the N over in my opinion would'nt have been too much of an issue.

Saying that I'm almost positive this issue would've been discussed during the design process, so, that fact that it remains suggests a conscious decision and rationale to keep it as is, one that we're not privy to but appropriately rests on the shoulders of the people who know their brand the best, Nivea.
Richard Baird
2013-01-17 12:18:40


"confusing experience for their customers"

I was never confused by it.
rob
2013-01-17 13:05:13


Looks like a bottle of UHT milk...
Rich
2013-01-17 13:26:41


"Yes it's odd, and no doubt maddening to designers, but it also has character. Clean it up and you risk losing that."

I use nivea products daily and every time I look at the logo I wonder why no one has ever closed that gap. It isn't one of those 'kerning to the nth degree' that only designers would notice, it's a gap so wide you could drive a truck through it.

Surely it would be fine surely to just fix the kerning without needing to change any other aspect of the logo, thus keeping all it's character?

Other than that, it's a nice update and I'll continue to use their products...
Matt
2013-01-17 13:54:25


Perfection is boring, the Nivea logo re-balanced would be dull and bland. Probably would look like it's been typed out on HFJ's Verlag font, interesting as a font but as a logo indistinct and lacking personality.
Tim
2013-01-17 13:57:45


In terms of a mark that works and has characteristics this is good. It's very distint on the eye and especially when you are far enough only to see a shape... on the shelf this works.
Sam Mearns
2013-01-17 15:05:53


nice video but there's a gap on the right hand side at 2:10
perhaps that's where the rest of the N's kerning went..?
TS
2013-01-17 15:06:45


There is a lot of stripping back and simplifying identities at the moment. Some work and some don't but the proof is reflected in the sales figures. As for the kerning, it obviously stands out but no agency would make such a simple mistake so there is obviously a reason behind it, so long as the client is happy?
Spookymoo
2013-01-17 15:40:27


If the N and I were pushed closer together then the negative space the angle the A creates with the E would perhaps stand out too much. I think the large space between the N and I are in order to balance out this negative space.
Chris
2013-01-17 15:55:00


In their video promo above, at 2:24 - they are using the logo with the space between the N & I significantly reduced...it looks much better IMO
mostlycaroline
2013-01-17 16:10:25


I think there's only one person who could sort this one out:

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-OfuilqT-smo/UPgrTtuj-8I/AAAAAAAABUU/ZDEIcp0pPD8/s400/nivea_kernit.gif
Elliott
2013-01-17 16:50:16


'Nivea-ness'
Ah - I knew there was something about Nivea stuff, just couldn't put my finger on it.
pixelfibre
2013-01-17 16:59:06


It's probably me, but is the 'N' a little isolated, looks like it could be a little bit closer kerning wise...?
Richard
2013-01-17 17:01:23


I dont care for the justification of not moving the N closer, dress it up all you like but it looks messy and unfinished. Yes it annoys the hell out of me and the agency obviously got paid a fortune for doing very little... it is a clumsy mistake in my opinion.
Lynda
2013-01-17 17:24:27


I agree with Chris. The type in the NIVEA logo is correctly and evenly spaced. The optical problems are caused by the sharp, angular shapes of the 'V' and 'A' being so pronouced that the space between the 'N' and 'I' needs to be sufficiently wide to counteract this.

The overall problem is a direct result of making the lettering so bold that it is difficult to kern evenly, without leaving such obvious gaps or making the word appear uneven. When one examines earlier uses of the logotype on the blue tin one finds that it was originally lighter in weight, only to have been redrawn later in the heavier type style. The lighter version of the lettering is far easier to work with, but does not have as much impact.

The only way to retain the weight of the lettering and eliminate the optical issues would be to redraw it, using more regular character shapes. But the logotype wouldn't be so distinctive without such minor flaws in its execution, and it has obviously been retained 'as is' for the purposes of high-recognition and to retain a strong link with the brand's history. I think that, considering how they've simplified the branding so much, this is a very wise decision. The mark could have ended up looking incredibly bland if it had been redrawn to more contemporary standards, and this is something which is happening more and more (see 'ebay' etc.).

Besides, most people aren't trained in the finer details of graphic design, and especially typography, so probably wouldn't notice such things, even if it was pointed out to them. They will only realise that the pack design has changed somewhat, but that it's still a NIVEA product, which is what matters most of all. The brand name and the distinctive look of the mark carry all of the authority and equity, so why try to 'fix' it.

I think, when taken overall, it's a really nice piece of branding.


PS. "CreativeR eview" :P
gnp
2013-01-17 17:27:10


With kerning like that, I shan't be rubbing it on my phallus. I will resort to Dove in the future.
Mark
2013-01-17 17:42:33


Emotional connection? Are they assuming that the purchasers have an intimate knowledge of Bauhaus lettering, whilst they are applying Nivea to their skin? Or do they assume that only designers with dry skin will buy this product? Doubt it. Otherwise, o.k., but only o.k.
Tony McSweeney
2013-01-17 17:48:53


Bring back the 1925 tin packaging! It's glorious.
Boz
2013-01-17 18:18:14


Now you've said it... it will drive me mad.

As for the previous confusion... Really?! If you couldn't understand what the products were before then you probably shouldn't have been be allowed to go to the shops on your own in the first place.
Gavin Martin
2013-01-17 18:35:39


Another vote for what Chris said above. With the 'imagine the spaces between the letters as being filled with water' method, the space between the N and the I would contain the same amount of liquid as the space between I and V or between E and A, so in theory it's correct. With the other method of just looking at 3 letters at a time (NIV, IVE then VEA) and covering up the rest and seeing if the spaces look equal/balanced around the middle letter each time it doesn't seem to work, though. It could be the letterforms dipping below the baseline that make it look wrong.
Simon Hep
2013-01-17 19:10:18


Chris and gnp have it exactly right.
jason
2013-01-17 19:51:32


It's a nice clean redesign, but some of the things these people write: "Top areas [are] angled to face the customer, a gentle slope reminiscent of a hand offering a service". Really?
Mark
2013-01-18 08:19:55


It's a bold and brave choice to have the kerning as it is. Look what happens if the N moves closer, as you can actually notice here in the second logo in the grouping beneath the 'irresistibly smooth' bottle. Also, the word has become an abstract sign, it's much more than just a word. Of course one notices the kerning now and then, probably more people than we might think. That's one other reason not to touch the logo, since it will be noticed and that might cause uncontrollable reactions.
Boudewijn
2013-01-18 09:00:24


I think they were probably right to leave the quirk in, its not pure typography, its a logotype, it moves beyond a combination of letters to become a singular form in its own right.
Adam
2013-01-18 10:18:19


increased overall spacing and maybe a moving the n a bit closer together would just work wonders. not a single customer would notice and say: hey, jeez, i’m not buying this stuff, it ain’t right!
jacob
2013-01-21 09:41:48


The kerning was definitely the first thing that drew my eye and maybe that is the intention. If someone is browsing through countless bottles on the shelf they might need to do a double take with Nivea's and scan the product to find its what they are looking for. As for me, my eyes could do without the confusion.
Inspiring Print
2013-01-22 16:58:37


Chris is right I think! Nice to see you commenting Gavin, takes me back to you teaching me
at the RCA days about a million yrs ago
Julie Oakley (nee Hodson)
2013-01-24 21:58:46


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