Established in 1844 and originally a building contractor in Yorkshire in the North of England, Pearson has evolved into a company devoted to education, after decades of buying and selling various types of companies, including newspapers, television channels, and publishing houses (Penguin among them). Now, Pearson has positioned itself as the world’s largest and leading education company. With 40,000 employees in more than 70 countries, Pearson engages in a variety of activities that help people through education, whether “it’s through new digital learning products in the US, developing qualifications and assessments in the UK, training school leaders in the Middle East, teaching English in China, or educating professionals through content from the Financial Times”. This week, Pearson introduced a new icon designed by London-based Freemavens and a new identity designed by London-based Together Design.
Together Design is the lead creative partner in the rebrand of Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, supporting its transition from educational print publisher to a digital and services-led learning business. The ambition behind the new brand is to unify Pearson’s broad and diverse portfolio of products and services under one strong master brand; distinguish Pearson from its competition; drive global awareness and favourability, and serve as an important anchor for its employees around the world.
The new visual identity includes a new Pearson logo. Combining a question mark with an exclamation mark, and encapsulated in a thumbprint, the logo represents the combination of excitement, curiosity and individuality that’s at the heart of Pearson’s approach to learning.
The old logo was a decent wordmark with no high ambitions of being memorable or standing out more than needed. It could have gone on for the rest of eternity without any issues but since the company wants to signal “the most significant restructure in [their] 150 year history” the same old logo won’t do. The new logo features an interrobang — the hipster of punctuation marks — as the company’s new icon. It’s a bold move in that the interrobang is not that well known and that they are basically taking ownership of a punctuation mark. In this case, it also doubles as a “P” for Pearson, making it more relevant and reassuring for anyone who isn’t familiar with the interrobang. Wrapped in a wobbly oval that’s meant to represent a fingerprint, the execution is nice, simple, and has a subtle warmth to it. The bookish serif, introduced by Together Design, clashes slightly with the icon but it’s not too jarring. I’m not encouraging yet another custom geometric/humanist sans serif in its place but, hey, that may be what would have been the better complement.
The logo is just one element of a completely new brand identity encompassing everything from colour, typography and tone of voice, to the development of bespoke libraries for illustration, photography, patterns, infographics and iconography. For the launch and beyond, Together created and produced more than 80 assets, including brand literature, presentations, branded items and moving image.
The identity expands nicely beyond the logo to include a colorful, playful, and vibrant set of elements that help activate the printed and digital materials in a way that is engaging and conveys an aesthetic of educational graphics but without being childish. The patterns and illustrations in particular stand out.
The identity revolves heavily around the use of Playfair Display — a free web and desktop font, perfect for the licensing needs of a huge company! — and it does it convincingly, with applications that look appropriate for both adults and children. The green and blue color palette is common in education and it helps to maintain a traditional look and feel but avoids looking or feeling stodgy. Some of the illustration styles are better than others — e.g., the image of the poster, where the left one is cool and the right one is uncool — and the photography is mostly all over the place but for a company with giant amounts of communications needed, not everything is going to line up favorably. Overall, this is a smart, fun, and comprehensive redesign that will help bring Pearson to the forefront and be more visible beyond just a giant parent company — it may sound like I’m drinking their Kool-Aid but if it comes in those fun cups, I’m happy to indulge.
Thanks to Steve Bane for the tip.