Established in 1668 by Friedrich Jacob Merck, an apothecary, in Darmstadt, Germany, where he established a family-run business that led to scientific discoveries in their own pharmacy lab, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany — that is its official full name with city and country — is a science and technology company specializing in healthcare, life science, and performance materials. Over 40,000 employees work to develop everything from prescription medicines for serious diseases to chemicals and materials for use in consumer electronics and printing technology. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is different from this Merck, which was a former subsidiary but is now an independent company and to further confuse things Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is known as EMD Serono in the U.S. and Canada as they do not have the rights to go by Merck. Citing significant growth in the last ten years evolving “from a classic supplier of pharmaceuticals and chemicals into a global technology company”, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, introduced a new identity yesterday designed by Futurebrand.
Seeking a form of expression that’s true to Merck’s vibrant view of life, FutureBrand together with the group communications team at Merck, found the answer at the heart of the Merck business - in the infinitely fascinating world under the microscope. This is where scientists look for their answers and where Merck look closer than anyone else.
Inspired by this vivid universe, FutureBrand created an ecosystem of elements: striking colours, expressive cells, energetic strings and experiential macrobes that can be combined to celebrate Merck’s imagination.
A clear wordmark lives alongside a constantly changeable ‘Vibrant M’, used to unite all of Merck’s businesses and signal the presence of vibrant science and technology.
All of this is held together with a simultaneously technical and organic typeface that allows Merck to tell its most colourful stories ever.
A brave new expression for a company at the cutting edges of scientific discovery.
The previous logo was so pharmaceutical it basically wrote its own prescriptions. A lot of it, yes, has to do with the associations of the name but the logo captured a clear essence of a corporation and something to do with bringing particles and other science-y stuff together. (It could also be a logo for a railway company.) The new logo… well, the new logo is doing something. I want to state that I am being as open-minded as I possibly can but I can’t find anything positive to say about this logo.
It’s quite possibly the most visually awkward logo for a large corporation I have ever seen. My review will get more positive as you scroll down but, as a logo, this is unjustifiable. I get that it’s supposed to be SCIENCE but no one should look at those letterforms and think “Killed it!”. The hard-edged corners on the top-left of the “e” and “C” are baffling, not to mention the tilting of the latter, and the curves on the “R” are very unflattering. I don’t want to be too negatively critical because this is the one Review in my nine years of reviewing logos that I am questioning whether I have my priorities and understanding of identity wired right because I really can’t visualize a world in which not just a brand consultancy offers this but a client accepts it.
Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll be on the comments today like a lab coat on a German scientist to see if I’ve lost my marbles this time around.
The custom typeface used throughout the project multiplies all my misgivings times 26. This is like the mid 1990s when we were all taking Fontographer for a joyride and had no idea what we were doing.
Things start to get slightly more interesting when the “M” — known officially as the “Vibrant M” — gets pulled out and dressed in different biochemical textures. It’s still more WTF than OMG and most of the textures look like bad Adobe Illustrator path strokes but the droopier dressings like the large “M” first shown and the purple and magenta one above are actually interesting.
The color combinations sure are catchy and when the custom typeface is left out (as in the banners) it’s almost cool and edgy but when it’s all over the place (as in the image directly above) it starts to look like rave flyers.
These covers are the one moment where I genuinely think this is cool and if they got rid of that custom typeface this system could be very strong. The covers here definitely look like hardcore science made exciting. Imagine these printed in glossy paper doing triple-hits of every spot color. That would be hot. And the animated covers are really cool.
But then there is all this stuff and that type… Sigh.
And there is also the above animations that are random but the Joy star-radiation-thing is actually a visual treat if you got rid of the type inside it.
Again: cool design element, nearly unwatchable typography. Also, “Human is M” makes no sense — not even if it were Engrish.
As if the logo wasn’t weird enough they built out inflatable versions. It’s the equivalent of a killer clown: friendly on the outside, scary on the inside. The full logo sculpture is so hard to believe it exists and it’s so disconcerting in trying to associate it to a German science company but there it is and so is the other inflatable with the uniformed employees toting cute little bags. I may not be a fan of the core elements of this identity but the goal was to change the assumptions of what a German/global science company looks like and they succeeded without question. There is nothing like this out there — perhaps that’s a good thing, perhaps not. It’s kind of amazing that such a large client adopted this and it makes you wonder (and maybe even shiver) if this is the start of a new wave of the Cult of the Ugly. I’m sure that, if that’s the case, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, will develop a pill for it in due time.