As you might remember, jcpenney landed in the top three of my 2011 Worst list for its bake-off approach to designing the last iteration of their logo, so it was with both high and low expectations that I approached a highly public company reimagining announced yesterday. If you don’t mind, I’ll repeat the same introduction from last year: First opened as a dry-goods store named the “Golden Rule” in Kemmerer, Wyoming by James Cash Penney in 1902, JCPenney today is a publicly-traded company with 1,100 department stores across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, mostly in shopping malls. Providing fairly decent middle-of-the-road merchandise, JCPenney is an extremely popular destination for finding affordable items without the top brand names attached — they develop many of their own brands. / End recycled intro. / “Every initiative we pursue,” starting February 1, reads the press release, “will be guided by our core value to treat customers as we would like to be treated — fair and square.” New store designs, new brand names, new spokesperson partner in Ellen DeGeneres, and — yay — new logo and identity will be rolled out. No design firm is credited (leads anyone?).
The new jcpenney logo, which combines the elements that have made jcpenney an enduring American brand, by evoking the nation’s flag and jcpenney’s commitment to treating customers Fair and Square. The square frame imagery will be evident throughout all of jcpenney’s marketing, to remind customers to frame the things they love.
— Press Release
The old logo, designed by a graphic design student at the University of Cincinnati and selected from about 200 options jcpenney requested from others, was not formally or structurally bad but it looked like, well, a student-level design exercise. There was no there there in that new logo or in the one that preceded it. The new logo, I have to say, is damn impressive. It is amazingly simple, clear, and bold. It express the All-American feeling jcpenney is going for and it alludes to the American flag in a subtle and sophisticated way that makes every American Presidential candidate look like a doofus for not designing a logo like this before. This logo has the potential to transform the jcpenney brand from a mediocre mall brand into an American retail fashion icon like Tommy Hilfiger — perhaps not in quality but at least in appearance.
The rest of the identity plays up the logo nicely, using it big and allowing the photography — playful and colorful — to show inside the red square. There is a lot of Gotham involved, which I guess has become as American as apple pie. I think it looks better in the logo than in the applications, as it starts to look a little more like an electronics store. Overall, this logo and identity are full of potential and is one of the most on-target identities for a large, very common-denominator consumer company that I have seen in a while.
For additional images and video check out this surprisingly helpful and thorough press room.