Aardman’s thumbprint-covered rebrand reflects the people behind the clay
In-house creative Gavin Strange talks to It’s Nice That about creating a simple, honest and fun brand that wouldn’t get in the way of Aardman’s “really great stuff”.
- Liz Gorny
- 17 January 2022
For the first time in decades, animation studio Aardman has undergone a major visual identity overhaul, including a new website that launches today (17 January). Fittingly, after transitioning to an employee-owned studio in 2018, the work on the identity for the Bristol-based studio was all done in-house, aspects of which designer Gavin Strange dubs as “slightly terrifying”, “updating something that’s represented our company for so long”. A thumbprint pattern unites the design work, nodding to the studio’s plasticine origins but also typifying Aardman’s aim to shift focus from “the styles of work we make” to the “more important picture of who makes that wonderful stuff”.
While some elements of Aardman’s identity stayed the same – the colour red, the star, the appearance of characters and “the wonk”, a term Aardman uses to refer to its slightly off-kilter boxes and borders – others changed. “The big thing that we wanted to change was the logo,” Gavin Strange tells It’s Nice That. “We had used the old version for decades but the company has changed so much since then.” Elsewhere, a refreshed set of typefaces was introduced, offering greater flexibility for the large number of people working on different projects at Aardman; Rubik Black was chosen for headers and Source Serif Pro for body copy.
On the inspirations behind the identity, Gavin explains: “You know what, it was one of those big projects where you don’t want to be subconsciously influenced by any other design or branding projects so, as corny as it sounds, I looked inwards! I looked at Aardman the company and the people and used all of that as inspiration. I feel really strongly about communicating the charm, craft and warmth of this place, so that’s why it was important to look inwards at the work we make to try and find a graphical solution.”
From this process of internal exploration, the studio arrived at representing tactility, but not relying on it for the identity, and crucially not looking twee, “like a cottage industry”, says Gavin. “So much of Aardman’s legacy is entwined with modelling clay – historically we always loved to see thumbprints on the clay to get across the handmade-ness – it’s a really special part of our history but not our only part. Now, the thumbprints represent all the people who make up the team.”
Other areas were refined and expanded to provide partners with more flexible and robust tools, such as the colour palettes. A previous “Aardman Red” was consolidated into a unified pinky-red so logo and branding matched. Gavin also expanded secondary and tertiary palettes to give partners greater options on complicated diagrams or busy documents.
Finally, Gavin had to face the considerable challenge of uniting the variety of work coming out of Aardman – for fans focusing on Wallace and Gromit, the studio also makes immersive 4D experiences and 3D video games. “The solution to this ended up being pretty simple too – show don’t tell,” says Gavin. “The branding should always be second to the actual work itself.”
On his own goals for the work, Gavin states: “For me, personally, I wanted to update the identity to be confident and strong when sitting next to Disney, Dreamworks, Sony and the like but to still retain what makes us, us!” Within the identity, Gavin hoped to express “the duality of this relatively small group of people in the South West of England creating things that compete on the global stage of entertainment… I’m incredibly proud of this place and I want our brand to be synonymous with what we make and where we make it.”
GalleryGavin Strange: Aardman rebrand (Copyright © Aardman, 2022)
Gavin Strange: Aardman rebrand (Copyright © Aardman, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.