HP’s Rebrand Efforts: An Inside Look

A New Look For HP

Rebranding is tough. Ask Tropicana, Pepsi or The Gap. It’s usually a no-win situation in which you alienate the fans who didn’t want a change, and you rarely please anyone with the new offering.  Yet, there are times and situations where a new brand identity is called for.

Hewlett-Packard finds itself in a position where they need a new brand positioning. As Amazon, Google, Apple and others lead the conversations on the future of technology, HP is seen as an old brand. Back in 2008 they enlisted Moving Brands to do the rebranding and recently the agency revealed the behind-the-scenes work, which TechCrunch points out is unlikely to be used. It’s laid out brilliantly here on the Moving Brands site. You can find additional commentary here, on the Brand New blog.

The post provides tons of images and videos showing Moving Brand’s ideas and process. There is clearly an incredible amount of thinking, legwork, artistry and strategic vision infused in the effort. Check out this video entitled HP Magnetic North [UPDATE: The video has been removed from video, sorry.]


Of course things like this are always subjective, and you can argue the merits of the final results if you like, but that’s not the point here.  The real issue here is the thinking and how this contrasts with what happens in those $500 ‘design my logo’ crowdsourcing efforts. From Moving Brands:

We wanted to ensure that HP maximized its opportunities to connect with people, to tell great stories and inspire great stories, to listen and respond, and to adapt to its environment. A multi-sensorial Identity and Design System was created to allow the brand to spring to life in print and in pixels, on screen and across all devices.

The Identity and Design System was structured to deliver familiarity and recognition through the use of a tight set of core brand assets — logo, colour and typeface. The contextual brand assets, such as identifiers and photography, add flexibility and relevance for specific target audiences. Expression Principles guide the creation of ownable HP signature experiences across spoken and written language, static layouts, information graphics, motion, sound, interaction, form factors and materials and physical spaces.

The defining signature of the system is the 13º angle. 13° represents HP’s spirit as a company, driven forward by ingenuity and optimism about the future and a belief in human progress. It also refers to the world of computing by recalling the forward slash used in programming. 13° exists within the brand identity, in the graphic language, product design and UI.

Yes, HP has plenty of money to spend on this sort of thing, most companies don’t. I understand that, and small businesses don’t have to take it to this level. But you can hire one designer and work with that person directly. Let them understand the culture of the company, the trends in the industry and the behaviors of your customers.

The Language of Objects

Last night I went to an event at MoMA called Modern Poets: The Language of Objects that was hosted by Rob Walker, one of my favorite people and true inspirations for my new role at Y&R. The event built upon a current show called Talk To Me (which ends on Nov. 7, so go see it this weekend). Rob brought together a really interesting and eclectic group of people to provide their take on the exhibit and the results were both unique and interesting.

But it was something that Rob said in his intro that really struck me. He spoke of the notion of “story-as-object, and object-as-story.” Now, those of you who know Rob are familiar with his exploration of this notion in such intriguing projects as Significant Objects, and I find this a truly fascinating notion.  Everyone who spoke last night created fantastically original stories that were built on objects – fashion, environmental elements, charts. All these objects became vessels for storytelling. In one case, multiple, distinct stories were created from a single object.

It was very powerful, and often the objects themselves were fascinating by the lack of clear story that they were naturally imbued with. It was the ability of these gifted storytellers to introduce new meanings to the objects that created a sort of tension. Storytelling is remarkably powerful and there’s a great opportunity to tell non-traditional stories through objects. Rob and company put on a virtuoso display of the possibilities.

Alex Metcalf, Design Products Department, Royal College of Art. Tree Listening at Fermynwoods, Northamptonshire, England. 2009. Installation with copper, plastic, stainless steel, aluminum, glass, headphones, amplifier, and wood, dimensions variable. Photo Credit: Alex Metcalf

Crowdsourcing & Disruption Event at Pratt: Realities & Denial

Tremendously interesting event yesterday at Pratt. The star-studded panel lived up to its billing and a spirited give and take with the audience of Pratt students, alumni and teachers could have gone on for another hour.  The event certainly left me with several key takeaways that will help to further shape my thoughts on crowdsourcing. Here are some selected (paraphrased) quotes from the panel, along with some of my own personal key learnings:

First, we need to start refining the term ‘crowdsourcing.’ It is currently being used to refer to a whole host of different activites, tactics and executions, some of which are wildly divergent. I heard terms such as co-creation and mass collaboration used and I thought those were interesting. I’ve toyed with the word ‘expertsourcing.’ Better definitions will lead to more clarity.

Chris Clarke, Chief Creative officer of LBi, cautioned the crowd that you can’t make money off of a mastery of technology. By that he meant, knowing how to use tools isn’t enough. This would be a recurring theme.

Ben Malbon of BBH Labs urged people to recognize that the horse had left the barn and rather than fight against crowdsourcing, you should be learning how to master this concept before your competitors do.

Adam Glickman of ideaLists pointed out the importance of filters when utilizing crowdsourcing. This was also a repeated theme from the panelists. In fact, that’s where Clarke saw the opportunity for more traditional agencies as it relates to crowdsourcing. John Winsor of Victors & Spoils agreed that curation was important, and also noted that managing the size of the crowd was an important element.

Mike Samson, co-founder of crowdSPRING, felt that crowdsourcing is a great opportunity for smaller, even local companies and brands to get high quality work at an affordable price.  My takeaway here is that if smaller, even mom & pop shops are starting to get great looking design, that raises the bar across the board. Now everybody is going to have to have great design and now more design jobs and all levels are being created.

Great stat from Ric Grefe, Executive Director of AIGA: About 1 million design students in China, compared to about 40,000 in the U.S. Implication: your competition for jobs is about to expand exponentially. Welcome to the flat world.

This led to the number one takeaway of the evening for me: The difference between design and commercial art. If you are entering a logo design contest, that’s commercial art. Nothing wrong with that, but you’re going to be in a race to the bottom. Design is about problem solving and working intimately with a client.

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Data Visualization: A Primer and Practical Application

Over the last several months I’ve been fascinated by the talk around Data Visualization. It’s one of those things that when you see it done properly, its brilliance immediately strikes you. Good Data Viz can illuminate and educate, inspire and entertain. I also understand that this is an area when I am a student and am happy to turn it over to the pros. So, with this post I want to share some of the smartest stuff I’ve seen, as well as provide you with some original commentary from Patricia McDonald, Planning Director at BBH Labs. I’ll also add some thoughts of my own on where I think DV can best touch the average person.

Here’s a quick run down of some must read material on Data Visualization:

Manuel Lima is a leading thinker in the area of Data Viz, and recently laid out his Information Visualization Manifesto. Make sure you read the comments as well.

Now, take a look at this video of a talk on the subject Manuel gave:

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 Those super-smart cats at Made by Many are all over this of course, so check out what they have to say as well.

I’ll wrap up this intro with a post by Jim Carroll, Chairman, of BBH London that was featured on the BBH Labs site, which also has a great follow-up on Lima’s Manifesto.

This is all pretty heady stuff, so I’ve turned to Michael Surtees of DesignNotes to put things in a bit of perspective. He also offers some handy resources on the subject.

And here’s where I found myself asking, “How can Data Visualization be most relevant to me?” Patricia McDonald was kind enough to offer the following:

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