Sunshine’s visual identity for Roald Dahl

Creative agency Sunshine has been working with the literary estate of Roald Dahl since 2014 to devise a new visual identity for his work and associated products. With the new branding set to roll out in 30 markets this year, we take a look at what’s been produced so far, from books to a website and stationery that doubles as paper planes

With Dahl’s work now being adapted for apps and digital products as well as for the stage and screen (a live action remake of The BFG, directed by Steven Spielberg, is out this year, Matilda was recently made into a West End show and Penguin has launched two apps based on The Twits), Sunshine says there was a need to create a more flexible identity for his estate.

The agency devised a new logo which features the author’s name alongside a yellow paper plane, which represents Dahl’s love of flying (he was an RAF pilot during World War One and many of his stories feature flight) as well as the yellow note paper he used to write on. The symbol also captures “the universal joy” of paper planes, says Sunshine.

Crooked letterforms create a warm and friendly feel and letters can appear in a range of colours – from black and white to shades from a custom palette inspired by Dahl’s books (colours include Enormous Crocodile Green, Willy Wonka Purple and Mr Twit Blue).

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Dutch editions of Roald Dahl’s Boy and Going Solo and The Twits, published by de Fontein Jeugd

The agency has also created 2D, 3D and animated versions of the logo and the plane can be used in a range of ways –  it often sits above the logo type but can also appear to the right as if flying past letters.

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Penguin app based on Roald Dahl’s The Twits

The logo first appeared in the TV adaptation of Esio Trot, which aired on BBC 1 last January. The identity has since been applied to stationery, books, the Roald Dahl website and promotional products from Happy Meal boxes to packs of Persil. It will be rolled out worldwide this year with brand partners in 30 markets and will appear in material promoting Disney’s BFG film.

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New editions of Dahl’s stories featuring Sunshine’s branding, published by Penguin throughout this year

“The Dahl estate has had a mix of identities over the years, which isn’t surprising really as for the most part, ‘Roald Dahl’ as a creative wordmark has predominantly been used within the world of literature,” says Simon Holmes, head of art at Sunshine. “Before Sunshine were involved in the project, the estate had been using Quentin Blake’s handwriting and a variety of serif typefaces as their identity and there hadn’t been much in regards to creating a solid brand cohesion.”

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Business cards and stationery for representatives of the Roald Dahl estate, which double as paper planes (dotted lines show users where to fold)
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The paper plane symbol, central to the new branding, represents both Dahl’s love of flying and the yellow note paper he used to write on

“I’ve been asked a few times, ‘Quentin Blake is so synonymous with Dahl’s children’s books, were you not tempted to keep the logo as QB’s hand writing?’ which is a fair question,” adds Holmes. “[But] as the Roald Dahl Literary Estate looks to the future with the expansion of the brand…it felt right for Roald Dahl to become its own piece of standalone identity.”

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The Roald Dahl website, which houses learning resources, games and an online store
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“We explored a variety of typographic lock-ups. As you can imagine, there’s a huge range of reference and direction for this in the world of printed literature – we wanted something that feels like it belongs in the world of storytelling and print and, at the same time, maintains a clear legibility for its audience,” he says. “A slab serif for us answered this really well and we worked with the typographer and illustrator Simon Dovar to created the lock-up from re-draws of various slab typefaces, so it’s somewhere between a compressed Clarendon and Carton. We offset this with Futura for wider brand use, which allows for consistent and clear messaging throughout multiple languages/channels.”

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Happy Meal boxes promoting a partnership between McDonald’s and the Roald Dahl Literary Estate, the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House Children’s UK (14 million books featuring extracts from Dahl’s stories were distributed with happy meals in September last year)
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The system is fairly simple: Quentin Blake’s much-loved and instantly recognisable illustrations remain the key focus but the new type and colour palette creates a more consistent look across books, digital products and promotional giveaways. Letterheads and business cards for representatives of the estate, which double as paper planes, also add a playful touch.

The logo received a mixed response when it was revealed last summer – Brand New’s Armin Vit told Fast Co that “going with a somewhat generic word mark that looks like jumbled children’s letters is a safe route, but it could apply to any number of children’s books authors” – however, he also praised its “bouncy playfulness” and said the new look was a “step in the right direction.”

The new identity does play it safe but the applications produced so far show a more cohesive system than the jumble of typefaces previously used by the estate. With such a wealth of imagery already surrounding Dahl’s work, Sunshine’s aim was not to create a new visual direction for the brand – but rather, to devise a flexible system that could be adapted to suit the ever-expanding library of Roald Dahl products and collaborations. The lettering works well alongside Blake’s artworks on new Penguin editions of Dahl’s books (pictured top) and the paper plane – while not immediately obvious to anyone unfamiliar with Dahl’s love of flying – will, over time, provide a recognisable connection with the much-loved author’s work.

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