Skin cells inspire Elmwood’s rebrand of historic skincare brand E45

Looking to create a more inclusive, forward-facing brand, the designers have drawn inspiration from our skin’s building blocks.

23 May 2024

Karo Healthcare has partnered with global brand and design consultancy Elmwood London to create a new identity for its leading skincare brand E45. Released in 1952, the iconic cream was the result of a request made by a customer to a Boots chemist for a product that would soothe and protect the skin. Over the following 30 years, E45 grew from a cream that was only marketed to hospital sales departments, to a sought-after product found in shops and pharmacies all around the world. In 2024, the brand is as recognisable as ever, but with a rapidly changing consumer landscape, parent company Karo Healthcare felt it was time to update the E45 identity.

As such, they turned to Elmwood London to help with a rebrand that would position E45 towards the future, while respecting its distinctive heritage. The brand needed a visual system that was forward-thinking and flexible, and able to accommodate a wide range of storytelling possibilities across multiple digital and physical touchpoints. The answer, surprisingly but fittingly, came in the form of a skin cell, the shape of which could already be found in the original three-character E45 word mark.


Elmwood London: E45 rebrand (Copyright © Elmwood, 2024)

“Early on in the process, our studio research revealed that E45’s distinctive, cell-shaped logo is something that consumers instantly recognise and connect with,” says Rob Dyer, associate creative director at Elmwood London. “This finding sparked the cornerstone concept of our new design identity. The healthy skin cell is a visual device that can expand and flex in different ways. Cells can be used interactively with one another in motion, or they can provide a window for conversational extracts or lifestyle photography.”

Focusing on the wordmark, the Elmwood London team not only found inspiration for the rest of the identity here, but also decided to subtly rework the ‘E45’ letterforms to create something more considered and contemporary. For this, they partnered with typographer Dan Forster, who “brought a nod to the new building block language” in his design. Rob continues: “It was about typographic refinement to celebrate the distinctiveness of the E45 letterforms whilst being respectful of its rich history.”


Elmwood London: E45 rebrand (Copyright © Elmwood, 2024)

To complement the typographic work, Elmwood London also introduced a fresh new colour palette composed of a cobalt, electric-style blue, and a more “lifestyle” coral tone. Alongside referencing the iconic E45 identity, this palette seeks to make the brand pop across a range of digital and physical settings. As with the typography, these changes are subtle yet effective, allowing E45 to stand out on screens and shelves without departing too much from the original branding that has served it well for so long.

Importantly, at the heart of this rebrand is a commitment to normalising the wide range of skin types and skin conditions that belong to E45 customers. This approach was informed by key principles of representation and inclusivity that have been laid out by Karo Healthcare as a crucial part of the brand’s pathway into the future. From lighter to darker skin tones, and from itchy flare-ups to eczema, Karo Healthcare wants E45 to stand for the everyday differences in our skin.

“E45 is a household name that caters for a diverse range of customers and their complex skincare demands,” says Kyle Whybrow, executive creative director at Elmwood London. “That meant our design strategy for revitalising its brand had to strike a balance between capturing scientific expertise – summed up by pharmacists and people seeking help with specific skin conditions – and those who use E45 products on a more everyday basis. It’s about marrying up that brand knowledge with delivery that feels friendly, personable and inclusive.”

GalleryElmwood London: E45 rebrand (Copyright © Elmwood, 2024)

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Elmwood London: E45 rebrand (Copyright © Elmwood, 2024)

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About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.

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