Established in 1862 in Baltimore, Maryland by Frederick August Otto Schwarz, FAO Schwarz is today the mecca of toy stores with a flagship store in New York as famous as the Statue of Liberty, except with more foot traffic, more profitable, and the dream for kids and adults to play “Chopsticks” on the giant piano made famous by Tom Hanks in Big, released in 1988, two years after FAO moved to its famed location. In 2009, Toys “R” Us acquired FAO with the intent of keeping the same magical formula that has made it so attractive over the years. If you ever went to FAO as a kid you know that feeling. It is quite incomparable. As an adult it simply holds nostalgia, which dissipates as soon as you enter the overcrowded, visually and aurally saturated store. In any event, FAO has redesigned its identity and packaging of house products to welcome the 2010 holiday shopping season, and has introduced a new character, Wit.
Displaying a herald-like color palette of deep red and two shades of silver, the FAO Schwarz logo has been redesigned, while continuing to underscore the brand’s time-honored reputation for the quality craftsmanship of its toys. The logo emphasizes “F.A.O.” — the first three initials of the founder of the world-famous retailer, Frederick August Otto Schwarz — and notes the establishment of the business in 1862. Integral to the new design is the enchanted character, “Wit,” who makes his debut, adding a fairytale element of fun and surprise — a spirit that is embodied in the experience enjoyed by millions of children each year in the New York City flagship store on Fifth Avenue.
— Press Release
What is interesting about FAO is that it has changed its logo a few times over the years — sometimes featuring a rocking horse, others a toy soldier, or a teddy bear, and has used similar, hard-angled serifs — without really losing much equity. This last redesign turns up the stylistic volume a little more with a serif that has a lot more personality and quirks than the previous one. The “FAO” feels a little tight, especially in contrast with the descriptive text underneath which is generously spaced. Not that it’s wrong, but it just feels like those red dots are about to be squished like cherry tomatoes.
The main attraction, though, is Wit, the harlequin. I like the interpretation with the curly neck piece, but I wonder if the the hat is a little too solid in contrast. Perhaps maintaining the filigree approach throughout would have been interesting. Perhaps not. The face is a little creepy, looks a tad soulless or at least stoned. Overall, as a representation of the fantasy land that FAO is, Wit is a good symbol. The limited applications available, on store graphics and packaging, are timid at best and seem to miss an opportunity to create something more engaging and attractive.