Brody Associates unpacks its visual identity overhaul for Japanese beauty brand Shiseido
Neville Brody and Philip Rodgers tell us how they translated the brand’s 150-year, avant-garde creative history into a unified global identity for a modern audience.
- Jenny Brewer
- 17 December 2020
Brody Associates just spent an intense three years overhauling the brand identity for Japanese beauty brand Shiseido. Though, considering it’s the first full rebrand in 150 years and it's among the top five largest cosmetics companies in the world, perhaps the long process is quite fitting.
It began with Shiseido inviting the London-based studio to work on a single campaign, but while developing it, “a lot of questions came out about both deeper brand strategy and brand image,” explains agency founder Neville Brody, “as well as more practical challenges around identity, imagery, typography, etc.” So the project expanded, with the studio eventually completely restructuring the company’s “brand code” and delivering a new set of brand guidelines to refresh, unify and modernise its visual identity globally.
This new “tool box” encompasses everything from art direction and photography – including casting, hair, make-up, attitude and crop – to a clarified colour palette, the introduction of a new typeface called Shiseido Ginza (referencing the Tokyo district where the brand was founded in 1872), tone of voice, and how to use its vast new suite of assets, individually or collectively. The branding will span every touchpoint, from product packaging to advertising and retail display (seen best in Shiseido’s newly renovated Tokyo flagship), and in all categories including skincare, make-up and fragrance.
The team spent its years of research attempting to understand how Shiseido sits within Japanese culture, and discovered some welcome gems in its history. “In Japan, Shiseido is known to be avant-garde and creative,” Brody tells It’s Nice That. “They’ve always had a forward-thinking culture towards women, particularly in the ways they have helped break down many barriers in supporting feminism – for example by featuring mixed race models like Bibari Maeda as far back as the 1960s.” The brand also currently works with trans model and activist Hunter Schafer. “It was important to maintain its sense of heritage, and convey an international interpretation of Japan in an authentic and non-clichéd way. Namely, that they are a very modern and global brand now,” he says, therefore encouraging Brody’s work to build on its legacy in an “authentic and respectful way”.
This meant bringing back aspects of that avant-garde image, which “deeply resonates with today’s culture,” says Brody Associates studio director and founding associate Philip Rodgers. “We also wanted to maintain Shiseido’s historical dualistic aspect, which was a common theme we found in our research. Their culture, as can be understood in the sense of Japanese being, is to be found in the combination of seeming opposites: for example, East and West, art and science, perfection in imperfection. It was important to think in an esoteric way, looking at the links from product through to brand image.”
Overall this huge project streamlines and unites the entire Shiseido image worldwide by handing the company’s in-house team an all-encompassing “joined-up” dynamic brand bible to stick by, one that is authentically Japanese and true to its history, but also considers international contemporary audiences. For this broadly reaching brand, that could be anyone from a Gen Z New Yorker to a chic Octogenarian Tokyoite.
“Instead of dusting off brand identity elements like a logo or simply running through a re-styling exercise, [this project] seeks to capture the brand’s vision and values through extensive research,” Rodgers adds. “Historical elements can inform a successful strategy moving forwards; more than a heritage or nostalgia piece, handled sensitively they enable the brand to reimagine itself in a very modern way without losing its sense of authenticity. The key was to embrace Shiseido’s rich history but make it relevant to use today.”
GalleryBrody Associates: Shiseido brand code (Copyright © Shiseido, 2020). Photography: Nick Rochowski
Brody Associates: Shiseido brand code (Copyright © Shiseido, 2020). Photography: Nick Rochowski