Established in 1984 by Michael Dell in our hometown of Austin, TX, Dell is one of the largest technology companies in the world with 96,000 employees and it is currently number 38 of the Fortune 500. Well known for its hardware, shipping 110,000 “systems” (laptops, desktops, and netbooks) every day around the world, Dell also provides a number of IT solutions for businesses and other organizations. Around summertime of this year, Dell began implementing an evolution of its very well recognized logo. The brand group at Dell was kind and resilient enough to share with us a bit of the back story. This implementation is merely the visible result of a process that started in 2007 when Dell announced an initiative to consolidate its more than 800 creative agencies around the world — 800! — that worked with its brand resulting in a “highly fractured brand for Dell.” As an example, at one point, “Dell was using more than 15 different typefaces — and that was only for English.” In 2009 Dell decided it was time to revisit its brand positioning “while analyzing why the brand value had been declining (most notably) in the past five years.”
Many discoveries served as teaching tools in the process of repositioning the brand, including lack of a stated mission or purpose, changes in the business model, and parity in the parts and supply chain, and poor brand management. In addressing each issue and rediscovering its purpose, Dell dug deep into its heritage and got back to the basics: giving customers the power to do more with its technology solutions.
The rediscovery of this bedrock purpose allowed Dell’s Global Creative internal design team to develop a set of design principles to guide treatment of the brand going forward. These principles, created with support from Stone Yamashita Partners, helped the Dell Global Creative team to bridge strategy and execution.
In taking ownership of the Dell brand the team established a direction, and then partnered with Lippincott to customize its look and feel. The team worked with type designer Jos Buivenga to tailor a typeface (Museo) specifically for Dell and they introduced a brighter palette led by a custom Dell blue solid ink formula that cannot be found in any color systems book.
In this way, too, the Dell logo was finally refined. The iconic mark — redrawn to support smaller applications, and with its own blue ring surrounding and protecting the wordmark — has already been rolled out across the company’s millions of brand touch points. With support from Lippincott and Y&R, the Dell logo stands strong and is what you see today at Dell.com.
The brand redesign was not intended to be a radical revolution, but rather a practical evolution based on our established equities and alignment to the repositioning of our brand.
— Tommy Lynn, Dell Creative Director, Brand
I’m going to make an experienced guess and presume that most of the reactions to this evolution will be “Meh.” Or, “Three years for… that?”. Even “Why change at all?”. In a way I share some of these feelings, except that it’s important to understand the desired outcome: It’s not about a radical change and it’s about establishing who is the boss. The former is achieved by taking a look at the formal qualities of the logo and the second can only be achieved by introducing a revised logo that can then be enforced — had Dell stayed with the same exact logo and try to enforce consistent use, I think they would have had a really hard time doing it. This way, there is a right and wrong logo. A line in the sand from which they can move forward in a positive direction.
Once you consider this, the redesign is quite successful. It obviously retains the quirky, tilted “E” which, whether you like it or not, is as recognizable as IBM’s stripes or Apple’s apple, but it’s now better integrated and the “E” going slightly over the X-height and under the baseline makes a big impact on the balance of the wordmark. Putting the wordmark within a ring is a good way of adding a secondary visual element that will help cement the recognition of the logo. I’m not an advocate of the original logo, and there are probably a number of other ways to visually evolve it, but the result is fairly decent lemonade from this particular lemon.
The choice of a customized version of Museo, on the other hand, is disappointing. The original isn’t that interesting to begin with and because it is distributed as a free font it is widely used and is impossible to build any sense of ownership around it. If Dell went through the trouble of customizing and licensing a proprietary font, something more unique to Dell would have been more interesting.
The overall effect of the logo, the type, and the colors creates a softer and more unified look for Dell. We’ll see if it remains this way once other agencies inevitably get their hands on it.
The way we bring the Dell brand to life in the marketplace is essential to building and enhancing customer loyalty at every touch point. Whether that customer is a CIO who needs to reduce power consumption in the datacenter, a researcher using a supercomputer to develop life-changing vaccines, or a student using the Internet to communicate with classmates in other countries; people everywhere want to trust their technology provider to deliver solutions that empower them to do and achieve more. This is the essence of the Dell brand and it’s the foundation for our visual identity.
— Karen Quintos, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, Dell Inc.