Nivea has built its success on continuity--here, an ad from the 1940s shows its largely unchanged logo.

Though it’s gone through many iterations, seen here, the company’s Bauhuas-designed logo has been the same for almost a century.

Yves Béhar built his recent brand overhaul on the basis of the original logo’s strength.

The fuseproject design team pared down the logomark to its most basic parts, seen here on Nivea’s iconic blue tin.

"Our early thinking was to reduce the complexity of the current form languages," he explains.

Béhar’s team designed a bottle that is lighter and stronger than its predecessors. It uses 15% less plastic.

The redesigned bottles include an angled cap, which tilts towards the customer on the shelf. The cap is also slightly domed, lending it strength so that it can have a slimmer profile and use less materials.

The redesigned bottles include an angled cap, which tilts towards the customer on the shelf. The cap is also slightly domed, lending it strength so that it can have a slimmer profile and use less materials.

The redesigned bottles include an angled cap, which tilts towards the customer on the shelf. The cap is also slightly domed, lending it strength so that it can have a slimmer profile and use less materials.

The redesigned packages will also take up less space on shipping pallets, saving about 12,600 pallets per year.

Over the next three years, the company will slowly transform its consumer presence to a single unified visual identity.

A vintage ad shows the company’s Bauhaus-designed logo.

The market for cosmetics was rapidly changing at the turn of the century.

For the first time, middle- and lower-class women were regularly buying cosmetics.

For the first time, middle- and lower-class women were regularly buying cosmetics.

Watch: Yves Béhar Overhauls Nivea's Brand

Yves Béhar bucks the trend of more is more in the skincare market, designing a simplified visual identity and pared down, eco-friendly packaging for Nivea.

You’re in the grocery store after work. You look for the same “curly hair” shampoo you’ve bought for months, but when you go for the familiar bottle, you find three new, infuriatingly similar curly hair shampoos to choose from. It’s a familiar scenario, driven by companies who hope that you’ll buy more products if they’re tailored to your “type.” It’s exactly what Nivea, the German skincare brand, wants to avoid.

Nivea began with just one product, their iconic white cream, back in 1882. Personal care was in the midst of a revolution. The market for cosmetics--once the realm of the aristocracy who could afford such perishable luxuries--was broadening to include the average girl, and Nivea’s inexpensive cream led the way, with its Bauhaus-designed font and smart blue tin. Over the years, though, Nivea eventually fell prey to the pressures of a competitive market. By 2010, they had 1,600 products on shelves in 170 countries, with hundreds of different logos and packaging designs in play. “Unfortunately, the design wasn’t developed in a uniform way,” explains Nivea’s Ralph Gusko. “We lost consistency.”

By 2012, the company’s board was set on a major brand overhaul. They tapped Swiss designer Yves Béhar and his product design studio fuseproject to tackle the sweeping job. Béhar immediately honed in on the company’s strongest visual asset: its Bauhaus-era logomark, which hasn’t changed for a century. “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” he explains. He cut away any erroneous iterations of the blue dot and focused in on a single, simplified mark. In printed form, it’s a flat blue circle outlined with a thin white band. On buttons and caps, it’s slight embossed and appears at an angle on every redesigned bottle so that it tilts toward the customer from the shelf. And it works: The new packaging, with it’s simplified label and bolder, high-contrast look, takes three less seconds to find on a shelf--a crucial metric, given how fickle customers are in the drugstore.

Over the next three years, Nivea’s hundreds of logotypes will be replaced by a single, simplified mark. Little by little--so as not to risk consumer confusion--the old iterations will fall away. “The graphics are evolving over a period of three years,” explained Béhar in a recent interview with Co.Design. “When you have thousands of women using that product every day, you need that kind of recognition. One month they’ll go to the supermarket and see a slight change, the next month they’ll see another slight change.” A bit like a graphic exfoliation.

But cleaning up Nivea’s graphic identity was only half the battle. The other half concerned packaging--and the sheer scale of Nivea’s global market proved to be both a challenge and opportunity. Béhar’s team designed a bottle that, by nature of its shape, is both lighter and stronger than its predecessors. Thinner walls and a stronger structural shape means that the new bottles use 15% less plastic without losing durability. Another major factor was the size of the pallets that carry Nivea products to the store: The bottles were designed to pack tighter on the wooden pallets. Every eighth bottle is one that wouldn’t have fit before, and Béhar says the changes will save at least 12,600 pallets per year and 585 tons of carbon emissions.

“It doesn’t happen very often that we, as designers, get to work on things that are on supermarket shelves in 170 countries and affect 500 million women,” Béhar says. “So if we change the amount of plastic used in each bottle by 15%, if we simplify the logistics, if we can put more of these bottles on a pallet, then we’re in a much better place.”

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12 Comments

  • DannaDart

    I whole heartedly agree with Jessen.  The tilted cap inhibits the "last drop" process . . . a BIG deal for me!

  • HildeOma

    I had been diapered with Nivea on my bottom 74 years ago in Germany and now live in the States.  I love any product including †he lip balm

  • Samuel

    Perhaps this is not a sound change, but the logic of not trying to build products around fads has kept me using their shaving products (as well as Mitchum's deoderant). So long as Nivea maintains the quality of their aftershave, shaving cream, and face cleansers I am not going to fuss over appearance. If it affects functionality I'll whine, but I like their simplistic approach to packaging and marketing as it shows they are more interested in the quality of their product.

  • BongBong

    The angled cap doesn't work as a device to increase exposure of the Nivea mark, what happens when the customer or employee loads the product slightly rotated? The design rationale is pretty weak.

  • Anja Jessen

    Ok, so they are adding the circle to the wordmark, which previously as able to stand alone? And they are calling it "paring down"? I suspect I prefer the old simplicity. Much more in line with the actual cream, which is simplicity itself.

    And then there is the tilted cap, which makes the bottles immensely annoying from the user's perspective. Because I do cherish those last few drops of shampoo/lotion/whatever that you can only get to when standing the bottle on its head for a day.Meh, I'm not looking forward to this ...

  • Phillip Barlow

    Are they going to "overhaul" the letter spacing in that logo? It has always bothered me (and I'm a N  ivea user).

  • David

    The Reason the "N" is positioned that way is to balance the "A" on the other end. If you brought it in closer to the "I" , the whole name would off balance.

  • Grafikos2

    I'm a bit confused by your use of the term "average girl" in paragraph 2. Did Nivea begin with a marketing focus on children? That seems a little odd and it doesn't match the marketing materials shown here. Was the company anticipating Honey Boo-Boo a hundred-plus years ago?

  • Mats Werner

    Great that AT LAST brand extension has revealed it's ugly face!
    I usually tell about the time when my wife told me to get her a bottle of Oil of Olay (Olaz in some countries) when in Amsterdam. I knew what it looked like. It had been the same always, but when I come into the shop in Holland and find a whole whelf full of semisimilar look-alikes, all with the OofO-logo, I simply turned around and went out and the shop lost my business.
    Since then, the same thing has happened several times.
    Procter & Gamble (for as long as I was active in the POS-trade) conducted business in a much more wise manner. When they saw a possibility, the built a new brand rather than extending an old one.
    The so called "corporate image" is always more worth to the organizations itself but totally of no interest to a customer.