Pentagram’s Natasha Jen rebrands Esprit, turning its logo into a stencil typeface
The designer and her team have redesigned the fashion brand’s visual identity to reinvigorate the vibrancy of its 60s beginnings.
- Jenny Brewer
- 30 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 2 minute read
Founded in 1968 in San Francisco, fashion brand Esprit has always been synonymous with vibrant colour Memphis-style colour, Californian joie de vivre and environmental awareness. Yet over time, its “iconic design language had evaporated,” says Natasha Jen, partner at Pentagram New York, so the brand’s new CEO and leadership team has worked with Jen and her team to revitalise the widely celebrated design. The rebrand entailed turning the renowned stencil word mark into a full custom typeface, and a “radically simple” approach to colour based on a colour wheel, using no less than 72 colours in its palette.
The vision, Jen says, was to “restore the brand without taking on a retro, revivalist approach”. The starting point was John Casado’s early 80s design for the original stencil-inspired logotype and typeface – which originally only featured uppercase. Pentagram has therefore developed a full typeface including lower and uppercase, numbers and glyphs, and redrew the wordmark for consistency, while also creating a new monogram that merges the E and S letterforms for certain product collections.
This fed into a new set of graphic devices designed to allow the identity to be flexible, “expressive but not formulaic,” Jen says. This includes a series of patterns and shapes reminiscent of the Sottsass era of Esprit, that can be collaged together with type banners, and used on a creative spectrum that ranges from “simple to joyful”. Jen says this allows the brand’s language to be based on a “simple clean foundation, but to be able to dial up at the right place”.
Most importantly, for a brand known for its use of colour, the new palette needed to be kaleidoscopic but not too complicated to use effectively, as previous versions of the identity had been. Pentagram therefore developed a colour wheel for designers to use as part of their process. From its palette of 72 colours (existing on three levels: shade, pure and tint) designers can choose two to three key colours appropriate for the situation, then the remaining colours should be the ones sitting directly opposite on the wheel. The idea is to refrain from messy colour matches that could otherwise happen by accident, and a coherent approach with lots of room for Esprit’s signature vivid tones. “This simple formula is easy to understand, and can create infinite, yet controlled possibilities,” concludes Jen.