Exploring the subtle details in Pentagram’s Thames & Hudson rebrand
Harry Pearce and his team have built history, modernity and adaptive qualities into the publisher’s simple but dynamic new identity.
- Jenny Brewer
- 10 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Designers often quip that simplicity isn’t as easy as it looks. Tasked with summing up a whole brand’s legacy, maintaining recognisability, unifying the business and evolving the brand to work in a contemporary context – all familiar elements of a rebrand brief – Harry Pearce and his team at Pentagram London have squeezed it all into publisher Thames & Hudson’s new identity, though you have to look carefully.
The new, bespoke, modernist logotype is an elegant evolution from its predecessor, inspired “by a number of typographic references,” Pearce tells It’s Nice That, “sitting somewhere between a sans and a true serif. If looked at to scale, you can see it’s made of very gentle curves.” He adds in the official press release that the wordmark has “a suggestion of the artisanal nature of bookmaking through the subtle detailing of its letterforms.” This is complemented by supporting typefaces Plantain, “a beautiful traditional reading font” and Neue Haas Unica, “the more modern foil to that… it gave the brand a breadth of typographic expression.”
The initials of the logotype and the brand’s existing dolphin “yin-yang” symbol have been locked up in a new cartouche, an oval frame containing the monogram and symbol, used as a brand stamp across everything from book spines, covers and title pages to social media and mastheads. This can be used in place of the logotype and symbol as a visual shorthand for the brand, a much more adaptable device than the brand previously had at its disposal. Pearce says one of the reasons for the rebrand was “the requirement for a mark that could sum up the whole brand story” and the plan for the new mark was to “be neutral enough to cope with any other design style surrounding it.”
“The beauty of the new cartouche is that it adapts to its surroundings, inhabiting colours that complement or contrast with it,” he explains. “The sheer variety of cover designs that the identity has to work with is a challenge. We decided to keep things as simple as possible. Sometimes the mark stands out, sometimes it blends in.”
The cartouche itself was inspired by an original mosaic in the publisher’s London office, and takes its colour palette from the cool and warm greys found in the piece. It also maintains the brand’s history, named after two rivers: London’s Thames and New York’s Hudson, and its dolphins, originally conceived to symbolise “friendship and intelligence, one facing east, one west, suggesting a connection between the Old World and the New.”
As part of the project, Pentagram has also redesigned the publisher’s biannual catalogue, and provided three sizes of the dolphin symbol to use across its broad range of book spine sizes. In tandem with the rebrand, Thames & Hudson has relaunched its World of Art book series, redesigned by Dutch studio Kummer & Herrman.
In related news, Pentagram’s Angus Hyland and his team recently rebranded fellow publisher Dorling Kindersley, who also opted for a simplified version of its recognisable icon, which takes the form of an open book.