The Crane Paper Company rebrand by Collins looks to Art Nouveau for its elegant graphics

The historic brand has received a beautiful visual revamp by the studio, honouring its heritage while firming up its place in this century.

Date
7 December 2020

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There aren’t many companies who can boast links to one of the USA’s founding fathers, but Crane Paper is one of them. Aaron Burr wrote his fateful challenge to Alexander Hamilton on a piece of paper made by the Crane Mill. One of the company’s first customers was Paul Revere, who looked to Crane to print the first paper money for the American colonies, and eventually it was the primary producer of all US banknotes. Elizabeth II would send recipes to John F. Kennedy on Crane Stationery. Steeped in important history, the task of rebranding Crane was no doubt a daunting one, taken on with grace by design studio Collins.

At the root of this new identity is a message we can all relate to after this year, one that harks to the importance of paper in allowing us to disconnect from modern day technology and reconnect with our humanity. “When the world is burning, we look to nature to restore and repair our damages. When we’re searching for intimacy, we put our phones away and look at each other face to face. When we want to be heard and remembered, we write a letter,” explains Brian Collins. The studio therefore aimed to draw from Crane’s history and celebrate the inherent tangible and emotive benefits of its products, while modernising its voice for the modern era.

In the 1840s, Crane invented a way to prevent counterfeit money using engraving and in the late 1870s won their first government contract. Around the same time, culture was pushing against the mechanisation of society, birthing the Art Nouveau movement. So, Collins has found particular inspiration in this movement to bring into Crane’s rebrand. “In fact, we drew inspiration from the elegant design styles across Crane history, especially ones that blended incredible craftsmanship with paper manufacturing,” Nick Ace, a creative director at Collins, tells It’s Nice That. “We looked for counterpoints that valued human imagination, artistry and intimacy over mechanised, engineered standardisation.”

Art Nouveau and similar, naturalistic movements in the United States, such as Arts & Crafts, helped Collins define a set of principles for the Crane brand. These included statements such as ‘Create time and place for people to create’ and ‘No object is too utilitarian to be ‘beautified’’. This ethos filtered through to the whole project, from its ironically much-needed digital presence, to expanding the company’s horizons to enable new products, artist collaborations and customisation capabilities.

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Collins: Crane Paper Company identity (Copyright © Crane Stationery LLC, 2020)

The rebrand uses Jacob Wise’s WT Monarch – “We were intrigued by its humanist characters and its ability to signal both familiarity and originality when displaying the name Crane,” explains Ace. Wise worked with Collins’ lead designer Jump Jirakaweekul on creating dozens of custom variations to develop the final wordmark, designed to work on everything from small digital environments to large scale shifts to printing on 100% cotton products, plus print trapping, engraving and registration. The primary typeface is Whyte by Dinamo – chosen “as a counter to the more ornate forms found within the wordmark,” says Ace.

The typography is complemented by a set of graphic patterns inspired by Art Nouveau, “informed by the elegance and fluidity of the artwork of the era,” Ace explains. These are used in blind embossing or debossing effects to enhance the quality of the paper. For the colour scheme, Collins used the company’s staple deep blue with a slight update making it more vibrant, together with a primary and secondary palette. The primary tones, Ace says, are vivid and “unexpected”, while the secondary palette include pastels and darker neutral tones.

“The idea was to create objects of desire,” Ace explains of the studio’s work on Crane’s products, and in essence its approach to the whole identity. “The Crane box should never be hidden in a drawer or tossed in a closet. It should be proudly displayed on your desk, your shelf or on your coffee table. Its tactile qualities should make you want to touch it – intrigue you to open it up to see what’s inside.”

GalleryCollins: Crane Paper Company identity (Copyright © Crane Stationery LLC, 2020)

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Collins: Crane Paper Company identity (Copyright © Crane Stationery LLC, 2020)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, now overseeing the website’s daily editorial output. Contact her with stories, pitches and tips relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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