Black + Decker (formerly Black & Decker) is best known for its power tools. Problem is, the brand carries a lot more: vacuums and coffee makers are two big sellers in the company’s canon of products, making the existing hexagonal logo—which symbolized the nut used with a bolt screw and can be seen here at the right—somewhat dated.
To remedy that, Black + Decker worked with New York-based design firm Lippincott to rethink its branding. For the new logo Lippincott ditched the hexagonal nut, swapped out the ampersand for a plus sign, and simplified the whole thing by making the typeface and color border the same width. The products will also get redesigned bodies, with the new logo and a pared-down color scheme in which power tools will be black with orange details, versus the previous all-orange color, and lifestyle and cleaning products will be in neutral white and silver tones.
Lippincott, who created the iconic Coca-Cola swirl and famously deleted Starbucks’s name from its cups, began the redesign with an audit. Throughout the United States, Europe, and South America, "there’s a lot of history there, and a lot of public consciousness. But at the same time people don’t have a connection for [the brand], or love for it," says Lippincott senior designer Marc Hohmann. To figure this out they asked survey subjects to hold different products and relay their impressions to the design team. Black + Decker used to be a cherished brand, but in the audit subjects said the items seemed plastic, and not reliable.
"We said, what’s the problem? What [should be] the current design philosophy?" Hohmann tells Co.Design. "Is it about decoration, or putting a lot of design cues on this? Or is it about taking things away from it and stripping it down."
This question isn’t a new one. Many a brand has had to grapple with how to stay relevant over time. Black + Decker was founded in 1910 as a factory-era company producing machines for making milk bottle caps. Today, the company is less industrial, and more lifestyle. "The best selling product is the Gyro drill, with the technology of an iPhone," Hohmann says, referring to the capacitive motion sensing.
So as the brand grows, a tried-and-true strategy is to simplify, and therefore control, what customers will see. Consider the evolving logos of 3M and Shell: once flowery, they've been snipped down to bare-bone elements for a contemporary marketplace. Ikea and Uniqlo (two examples that Lippincott referenced as companies with modern identities and a lot of consumer love) have across-the-board brand consistency; for example, you don’t need to see the Ikea logo to know when you’re looking at a pamphlet of their assembly instructions.
Likewise, the Black + Decker brand will keep doing more, with less logo. "The Black + Decker brand has to be about being around the house, and representative of all the main flagship products: the coffee maker, the hand vacuum, and the power drill," Hohmann says. "And it has to look like it, and not just be about power and muscle."
Expect to see updated Black + Decker products, and a website, roll out over the next several months.