Manual Creative avoids the “crutch” of nostalgia for Schwinn rebrand

Tasked with refreshing a 125-year old legacy, Manual Creative looked past the temptation of retro, “towards the future”.

3 February 2022

Design brand Manual Creative has just completed a total identity refresh for Schwinn, an American heritage cycling brand with a lifespan and legacy similar to Raleigh. To reinvent an “American icon”, Manual sidestepped the approach of leaning heavily on the brand’s history to reflect the brand’s current output, spanning e-bikes to helmet technology innovations.

“Schwinn is a brand with a lot of history and cultural equity. Most Americans my age (Gen X or above) have fond memories of the brand,” Tom Crabtree, Manual creative director, tells It’s Nice That. “Fast forward to 2020. The brand had stored 125 years of history, heritage, and personality ‘in the attic’ and was competing solely on price.” Entering the brand’s timeline at this key juncture, Manual Creative identified three goals for the project: tapping into the heritage of Schwinn while prioritising its future, paring back a century worth of asset accumulation, and connecting with an entirely new audience.

Another challenge for Manual Creative was Schwinn’s position as a “mass-market brand for people at all stages and levels”. To cater for this range, Manual Creative wanted Schwinn to feel approachable and inviting, but not “too dumbed-down and ‘vanilla’,” adds Tom – a tough balancing act.


Manual Creative: Schwinn rebrand (Copyright © Schwinn, 2022)

Manual wanted bold typography for the core wordmark; the main focus was on the S and C characters having a “sharp, swooping feeling” to convey “the right touch of sportiness, without it feeling too ‘high-performance’.” The Schwinn star, used with the logotype and as a stand-alone sign off, has been simplified and flattened for greater flexibility. The classic cursive logotype was an instance where Manual Creative retained a heritage mark, although the brand worked with typographer Simon Walker to rethink its structure with more “forward momentum”.

In a unique approach for a cycling identity, Manual introduced illustration as an addition that could adapt over time, initially launching with work from Christopher DeLorenzo and Xoana Herrera. Swapping out the “over-used” and “somewhat generic” Gotham, Manual introduced Bobby, by F37 Foundry, and Ginto, from Dinamo, for typefaces. Finally, a vibrant palette was built around Schwinn adverts from the 50s-70s, to subvert the “cold” feel of many cycling brands, says Tom.

“The plus point of working with this much history is that we get to edit and retain what’s special about the brand,” Tom states. “We’re not inventing an entire brand identity out of nowhere. We look back, get to the core of what makes a brand special and memorable, and carry the heritage forward in a way that resonates with today’s riders.”

GalleryManual Creative: Schwinn rebrand (Copyright © Schwinn, 2022)

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Manual Creative: Schwinn rebrand (Copyright © Schwinn, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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