Made Thought’s identity for furniture brand Hem bypasses precision in favour of personality

The new identity communicates everything the brand stands for, built on three key words: “Expert”, “Upbeat” and “Irreverent”.

16 September 2020
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3 minute read

Hem is a Stockholm-based independent furniture design brand, founded by Petrus Palmér in 2014. Off the back of a huge year for the brand which saw it moving to a large HQ in Stockholm and opening a studio in New York, Made Thought has given the brand a visual refresh in order to reflect Hem’s commitment to collaboration, innovation and experimentation.

When Hem came to Made Thought, the team knew it was a project they would enjoy, Garrett Duncan, strategy director tells us. “We get excited about working with brands that are looking for bold thinking and progressive, provocative visual expression,” he says. And the challenge from Hem was a particularly good one: “their products are exceptional and their people progressive leaders in the design world, but they felt their current brand wasn’t a true reflection of their ethos or offer.” Made Thought’s mission, he adds, was to “use the brand to communicate everything Hem is and stands for, collaborating every step of the way.”

The first thing they did was head to Stockholm to immerse themselves in the brand, where they spent several days learning everything they could about Hem. What became clear was that Hem has a very clear understanding of what the brand is, what it stands for and that it has an exciting vision for the future. But its identity wasn’t communicating that. “We worked to build a robust brand framework that captured where Hem is today as well as where they are heading,” Garrett explains, going on to outline how this framework was centred around a distinct tone of voice. “The three tone of voice principles of ‘Expert’, ‘Upbeat’ and ‘Irreverent’ really took on a life of their own and helped us develop the visual tone of the brand, as well as the verbal.”


Made Thought: Hem (Copyright © Hem, 2020)

In turn, the visuals are playful yet reflect the design prowess of Hem’s products. There’s an expressive colour palette holding everything together, and a library of core shapes extracted from Hem’s library of products. These shapes have been taken from 3D models of actual products, including the Alphabeta Pendant Light and the Last Stool, which have been digitally manipulated to create flat, graphic shapes that will be used to represent key product categories across packaging and promotional materials.

A key part of the rebrand is the creation of a new custom typeface, Hem Sans, which was developed by Göran Söderström of type foundry Letters from Sweden. The need for something custom was clear, Göran explains, as “Text is still the single most important part of any digital interface, and in order for Hem to own every detail of that experience we decided to create something new, and bespoke.”

The brief was to create a geometric sans serif typeface that acts an homage to the geometry that exists within architecture and interior design but that is still novel, unique and human. Getting the numbers right was also paramount, as they play a significant role in Hem’s communication. Whether it’s the dimensions or a product to the price, “we wanted to make sure they were designed to be legible and clear, but still have character,” Göran adds.

Hem Sans, the final result, is based on a typeface Letters from Sweden has been working on for several years, but with unique tweaks specifically for Hem. “It has some personal attributes and unexpected shapes such as sharp corners on certain letters and square punctuation,” the type designer outlines. “The long, curved tails on the lowercase ‘y’ and ‘t’ is also making it stand out.”

Finding the balance between character and finesse is clearly key to Hem’s new identity. Reflecting on Hem as a brand, Garrett explains that whilst many contemporary design brands position themselves as experts in design quality and reliability, Hem offers imagination and creativity in abundance alongside their obsession with quality and detail.” It’s for this reason that Made Thought’s intentions were to “create an identity that stood apart from the more expected visual codes of control and precision and instead focus on expressing Hem’s personality and character, to create a visual language that was engaging, personable and unexpected.”

GalleryMade Thought: Hem (Copyright © Hem, 2020)

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Made Thought: Hem (Copyright © Hem, 2020)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

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