PwC: New name, new image

PricewaterhouseCooper, one of the ‘Big Four’ professional service networks, has undertaken a radical rebrand of its identity, with the intention of modernising its business image

PricewaterhouseCoopers has rebranded. The new identity is designed by Wolff Olins’s offices in London and New York, and includes a simplified logo presenting the brand’s change of name: a switch from its previous, rather lengthy moniker to the use of its initials, PwC. The logo shows the initials in a lower case, serif font topped by a colourful pixelated ‘flower’. It was developed after consultation with PwC’s clients, partners and employ­ees and is designed to be more flexible and better suited to digital and online use.

“A lot of the work that PwC does is really forensic, and they think about their brand in the same way, so they’re constantly analysing how they’re perceived by their clients,” says Neil Cummings, creative lead on the project alongside Chris Moody. “They realised there was the need for change, and they discovered they were well respected for their technical capabilities but wanted to be well known for the quality of the relationships they build with their clients.”

“PwC realised that they needed to start looking at what the clients themselves wanted,” continues Moody. “That led to many of the design developments. The way we chose the fonts and the colours, and all the elements that make up the whole visual and verbal identity system was driven by that.”

Wolff Olins began working with PwC on the rebrand approximately three years ago, but their relationship stretches back much further than that, with the two companies working together for over eight years. This close partnership allowed for a very colla-borative working atmosphere, both with PwC and the other creative partners that Wolff Olins brought into the project, which included Hudson Powell, who worked on the early digital development of the identity, Universal Everything, who also worked on the digital side, and Miles Newlyn, who collaborated on the typography for the project.

The key aim of the logotype is flexibility, essential in a company that employs over 163,000 people in offices across 151 countries. “We needed to create something that would work in these different areas,” says Moody. “Before, with the old logo there were a lot of issues with inconsistency, but this is giving something where each office can still have a personal voice and be relevant to the territory, but also get across this idea of one complete network, which I think is very much part of the new brand.”

“It was all drawn on the need for them to be seen as more human, more focused on relationships and individuals,” continues Cummings. “For example, the serif font represents a move away from the use of Helvetica as their main font for something that still feels very modern but has a much more human and crafted feel to it. You’ll notice that the ‘w’ in the wordmark is italicised, just to give a little more movement through it. The logo itself is based on their headline font, which is ITC Charter Black Italic. We worked with Miles Newlyn to craft that, to take some of the finer details out of it and simplify it a bit.”

The decision to use lower case letterforms is also intended to make the brand more approachable. “We obviously did a lot of testing with how to treat this,” says Cummings, “but as soon as you write PwC all in upper case, you immediately start to move back to it taking a really authoritative stance. This really softened the approach. Also, moving towards a digital world, a lot of the language feels lower case as well.”

The colours too reflect warmth, but also set the logotype apart from other professional service brands, which usually opt for blues, greens and greys in their identities. “There’s a very specific visual language with professional services,” says Moody, “and financial services for that matter, and although being different wasn’t the driving force of the identity – we’re not looking to stand out for the sake of it – it was something that really helped sell this idea through. It’s a real signification of change, and one that’s much more human and energetic.”

Agency: Wolff Olins, London and New York
Creative leads: Chris Moody, Neil Cummings
Senior strategist: Melanie McShane
External partners:
Typography: Miles Newlyn
Digital (early development): Hudson Powell
Digital: Universal Everything
Signage: FW Design


Simon Manchipp, Creative director and co-founder, SomeOne, London
Ian Powell, the UK chairman of PwC, says: “Our goal is to build the iconic professional services firm, always front of mind, because we aim to be the best. We set the standard and we drive the agenda for our profession.” It almost sounds like a brief. Let’s check it off. ‘Iconic’: Yep, not blue. Well done. ‘Front of mind’: Sure, as Deloitte, KPMG & Ernst & Young have deeply forgettable branding, PwC zings out with a mark that Lee, a designer at SomeOne, described as ‘digital fire’. Good work. ‘Set the standard and drive the agenda’: Yes again. The new branding animates digitally and elegantly (linger on that – an animated smart website, from a city firm, that would put almost every London creative agency to shame). It even works on an iPhone.

The branding is flexible and – whisper it – actually useful. It visually unites disparate parts and holds things together. With this, Wolff Olins has achieved what we at SomeOne consider to be the silver bullet in branding – they have created what we call a ‘brand world’, not another useless logo.

This cost anything from £4m – £6m depending on who you believe, so my big question is why did they do it? Is it really just a facelift? I had to dig deep to discover a news release on the PwC website: “[The] new brand simplifies name, emphasises value creation and relationships.” If that’s the reason, I don’t get ‘value’ or ‘relationships’ from it yet.

If it’s ‘Building Relationships. Creating Value’ (which is all over their website) – it doesn’t come over clearly yet. That said, it’s so easy to sneer from the sidelines with no real understanding of what went into the project (as the CR blog commentators often demonstrate so eloquently), so let’s give it a chance. It’s clearly a job of immense size requiring considerable skill to pull off without it ending up as Blanding, not Branding — and for that Wolff Olins should be congratulated.

Michael Wolff, designer and creative advisor, London
Would you change the famous law firm name Slaughter and May to S&M? For a variety of reasons – no. Has GSK worked for Glaxo Smith Kline? Not really. I think it would be easier for the world if they changed their name to Glaxo.

That’s what many people call them anyway. Sometimes cumbersome names become ill-suited. So names like International Business Machines (now IBM) or Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company (now P&O) or polyvinyl chloride (now PVC) become acronyms naturally and have all worked brilliantly as initials. But initials sometimes aren’t the way to go. Has drifting to HP diminished Hewlett Packard? I think it could. Losing Hewlett Packard, the name of two great men, would be a sad mistake. Initials may be practical, they’re logical, but sometimes cold and often a lazy solution. HSBC doesn’t have the sonic rhythm or character of Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. It’s a boring name. Many great advertising agencies now espouse the anonymity of initial clusters, so towering and inspiring names have now become – DDB, JWT, BBH, TBWA, BBDO.

I regret that history and heritage are disposed of in favour of the dull clichés of initials – fine for pyjama jacket embroidery, but empty as company names.

The higgledy-piggledy PricewaterhouseCoopers logo that the new design replaces was exhausted. But I think that PwC is a boring and unremarkable name and that Price Waterhouse, a name people often use, would have been more effective, if internally difficult. Who remembers what the dull initials KPMG, one of PwC’s competitors, stood for anymore? Why join the ranks of unremarkable names?

What else do I think? Having gone the simple way, then keep it simple. I can’t see the point of complicating it with whatever that funny thing is on top of it.

Sagi Haviv, partner and designer, Chermayeff & Geismar, New York
I can’t say enough good things about the visual language expressed in the applications around the new Pricewaterhouse­Coopers mark: it’s conceptually appropriate, distinctive, and beautifully executed. The rectangles increasing in size imply growth and the warm colour scheme is friendly and inviting. The colour palette is rich and yet distinguishable enough to unmistakably brand the various communications as coming from PwC. And the old logotype indeed needed to be changed because it looked messy and arbitrary, which is the absolute opposite of what you want to think about your accountant.

Regarding the new trademark, emphasising the initials and thus making the mark shorter is an improvement. But the distinctiveness of the new mark rides solely on what looks like a ‘summary’ of the elaborate visual language into a single, static graphic above the ‘c’. On its own this colourful accent looks arbitrary because it gains its relevance exclusively from the visual language.

A successful trademark builds equity over time. Therefore, a logo design should be based on a long-term view by being simple, focused, appropriate, memorable and workable in a wide range of sizes and media. These criteria will give it the potential to become iconic, while leaving the visual language open to periodic change. While the visual language is stunning, having it determine the trademark is a case of the tail wagging the dog, so in a few years when PwC looks to refresh its visual language, they will have no choice but to consider changing their trademark again.

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