Established in 1931, Mohawk, a fourth-generation family-owned business, is the largest privately owned manufacturer of fine papers and envelopes for commercial and digital printing in North America. Mohawk employs over 580 people and operates three paper machines in two mills in upstate New York and two converting facilities in New York and Ohio, with warehouses around the U.S.. Popular paper brands under Mohawk’s portfolio include Superfine, Navajo, Via, Beckett, and Strathmore. Last week Mohawk announced a major reinvention of their business to “thrive in today’s digital world” and today marks the launch of a snazzy new website designed by Hydrant and developed by Avatar, as well as the introduction of a new identity designed by Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and associate partner Joe Marianek.
Disclaimers: I worked for Michael Bierut at Pentagram. When I worked there I worked on Mohawk projects. Joe Marianek sometimes contributes to Brand New. Mohawk is an advertiser on UnderConsideration (starting in May). I know many of the people involved in the brand/marketing side of Mohawk. In other words, I have so much conflict of interest writing this review that you would think my pockets are lined with cash. But after six years of writing reviews I believe I have established I am fair. Lastly, all the visual assets arrived last night and there is no contributing writer up at 5:00 am, like me, to cover this identity on the same day it launches. Anyone who finds a problem with all this: deal with it.
The launch of MohawkConnects.com is the customer’s first introduction to Mohawk’s vibrant new brand designed by Pentagram, Mohawk’s primary branding agency for more than two decades. Michael Bierut, who leads the Mohawk brand team at Pentagram said, “The logo is a monogram for the name Mohawk. It’s based on the letter M, but it’s also constructed to evoke the papermaking process and the printing process, both of which involve paper going around cylinders,” he said.
The logo also speaks to the basic idea of connection, which is what Mohawk paper is designed for, “Whether it’s for a small book of photos featuring your niece and nephew or for a giant global corporation — it’s about communication,” said Bierut.
— Press Release
The old logo, also designed by Pentagram in 2002, was an attractive wordmark based (or perhaps purely, I can’t remember) on W.A. Dwiggins’ Metro. Nothing fancy but nothing earth-shattering either. The new “M” icon seems to take its cue from the open-legged “M” in Metro to create a lively visual element that manages to capture many of the press release talking points, from connectivity to paper-making. To me, it looks a tad more like a commercial printing company logo than a paper company because of the cylinder approach and the color overlays — it’s not an altogether bad thing, since a big bulk of Mohawk’s paper goes through big ass printers. The icon is attractive and punchy, for lack of a better word and, in contrast to the previous logo, takes prominence over the company name, now subtly typeset in House Industries’ Chalet. I’m not convinced if it needed to be set in all lowercase — the icon already conveys friendliness and the uppercase “M” would have balanced out nicely with the “k” in the end. The icon looks best when it’s in multiple colors as opposed to a single hue and definitely better than the single-color, stroke version which starts to look more like something out of a kids toy box. Nonetheless, the logo is a charming new asset to deploy anywhere from paper reams to the web.
As a bonus, the logo animates well and it even has a sound mnemonic. See it (and hear it) here.
In application the logo proves to be a playful element that can be blown up big really nice and it makes those color overlays stand out. The use of the medium weight of Chalet doesn’t feel like it works very well with the big bold patterning. It tries to take on a spare European feel but, to me, it starts to look cheap and generic and, instead of creating a pleasant contrast, it goes against the all lowercase use of Chalet in the logo. Overall, there is good potential in the identity and there are dozens if not hundreds of applications to experiment and take the elements in different directions (perhaps even elevating Sentinel to more of a display use).