Established in 1844, Co-operative Group (simply Co-op to friends) is a British consumer co-operative and one of the oldest and largest in the world with eight million members and operating in a range of businesses that include food, bank, insurance, electrical, legal services, funeral care, travel, estates, and energy. Its food retail operation is the most visible, with 2,800 convenience and medium-sized stores, making it the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer. Seven of those food stores will now look new (yet familiar) to members as the first in a roll-out that will take between three and five years of a new identity designed by London-based North.
Following investigations into creating a completely new identity and extensive research into the Co-op’s rich history, North decided to propose a move back to the Co-op’s own past. Based around their symbolic cloverleaf logo from 1968, the identity serves as a visual reminder of the company’s roots, and at the same time engages with customers in a modern context.
North provided text
“We’ve been astonished by the positive reactions this logo has received in research groups. In older generations it evokes nostalgic memories of local shops and divi stamps whilst to younger generations it suggests a modern brand of the future, ready to live and breathe in the digital world.”
Louis Mikolay from North
The new logo is a direct re-implementation of a logo used by the Co-op starting in the late 1960s — you can see a couple of pictures of it in use in this Creative Review post — so in terms of originality this is the least but in terms of embracing the growing fondness for old logos, vintage identity manuals, 1970s funky typography, and minimalism, this is the mostest. It’s hard to argue against the re-issue of this logo when it looks so damn fine. I bet the temptation was high to do another geometric logo as these shapes are begging for it but these clunkier shapes and hard cuts in the “c” and “p” take it from forgettable to memorable and, based on North’s and the Co-op’s writing about the change, it seems a lot of people remember this logo fondly.
This also marks a change from being called The Co-operative to just Co-op and that’s almost like a no-brainer decision… Although if you do a Google search for “co-op” you get a dozen other results before you get this specific Co-op.
The applications are almost annoyingly simple: logo on the top with the same visual margin around it, then blue. Done. It’s on the strength and presence of the logo alone that this formula works. (So I guess if you don’t like the logo you are out of luck in liking this project.)
The brochures for other businesses show how well the logo adapts to whatever theme is thrown around it.
The Co-op has its own private label or, I guess, its own member-owned label, that carries around 600 products that will all adopt the new look as well. At first glance and with the photos arranged so charmingly — giant broccoli and all — the labels look convincing but on closer inspection they are one design round short of being better. These are probably designed with ease-of-use in mind for the Co-op’s in-house team so everything is very simple but it might be bordering on the boring edge of simplicity and somehow the multitude of background colors doesn’t work as well as I would have assumed. I really want to like the packaging because I like the logo so much. Overall, though, this has the right balance of retro-ness and modern-ness while at the same time having a strong retail feel that can be more fun in the food retail operation and remain more serious for its other businesses.