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This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.


A Merger that Doesn’t Add Up

Reviewed Mar. 2, 2010 by Brand New

Industry / Finance Tags /

Caixa Sabadell has handled all my banking for the past five years or so. Although I’ve been quite satisfied with their service overall, I have become increasingly irritated by the lack of cashpoints available. So, when informed that the bank was merging with three other Catalan banks, I was hoping this would result in an improved service and especially more free-of-charge ATMs. However, earlier this year, my local office was suddenly closed down and now it seems resources have instead been spent on rolling out a new umbrella brand for the four banks involved in the new merger. Even if the merger would result in more cashpoints, having seen the first examples of the new brand image, I’m not too sure I would like to be seen using one.

The new brand, called Unnim, is the result of the fusion of four relatively small Catalan banks: Caixa Girona, Caixa Manlleu, Caixa Sabadell, and Caixa Terrassa. For Spanish readers, a press statement is available here. Each of these banks have taken their name from their Catalan city of origin and largely operate within their respective geographical area. Indeed, as we shall see, the territorial aspects are of major importance in this new merger in many ways. First being that the name itself has a definite Catalan ring to it.

The name Unnim stems from a conjugation of the word “unir,” which translates as “unite.” However, most probably for naming copyright and trademark issues, an additional twin “n” has been added to the word to make it more unique. In a statement by Morillas, the Barcelona-based agency in charge of designing the new brand, we find a (retro-fitted?) motivation for the added “n” claiming the four repeated arches of the two lowercase “n” and the “m” represent the territorial and historical “bridges” that link the four merging banks.

An interesting aspect of the new brand is that it will be known as UnnimCaixa in 75% of the commercial network while in the historical geographic area within which each bank operates the new brand is grafted onto the old name, leaving us with the less-than-legible UnnimCaixaGirona, UnnimCaixaManlleu, UnnimCaixaSabadell and UnnimCaixaTerrassa.

The old logotypes of the four banks were all quite forgettable and so the design of the new moniker has understandably been motivated by ideas of a completely new design paradigm to make Unnim more contemporary, more visible and — as is now standard in any new bank identity — friendlier. Unfortunately, the design solution feels both derivative and poorly executed.

The wordmarks are set in FF Max. Though I may have some reservations to the typeface choice, I guess it works in the sense that its letterforms with their lack of stems on “u” and “n” help emphasize the idea of four arches. Indeed, the arches are reminiscent of the low arch made of plain bricks that is also known as “timbrel vault” or “Catalan vault” and which is a prominent feature in Catalan architecture. While the typeface might feel a bit at odds with the organic shape(s) of the logotype, what bothers me more is that both the word Unnim and the individual bank names suffer from bad kerning. One would expect a much better execution in such a high-profile job.

The logo itself is as a poorly imagined and badly executed version of the recent crop of soft and colorful organic shapes. The shape is obviously a “U” for Unnim while also doubling as a “C” for Catalonia. Not surprisingly, the dominant colors are red and yellow — the colors of both the Spanish and Catalan flags. Examining the logotype further, we soon find some difficult-to-explain incongruities. At first, the logotype seems a composite of three overlapping shapes of the colors yellow, red and cyan that when combined create a spectrum of colors. However, in the bowl of the shape, there’s a cyan-colored area that being overlapped by yellow really should be green. Now, since there are four banks merging, it would seem logical that there should be four colors and four shapes. Looking at a still, below, taken from an animated version of the logotype (see video above), we do find that’s the case.

There are indeed four shapes, each an amorphous “u” painted in cyan, red, yellow and green respectively. But superimposed they just makes no sense whatsoever as the overprinting of colors is sometimes applied and sometimes not. Ignoring these logical lapses, the real problem with the logotype is that nothing is revealed nor happening in the resulting composite. Individually, the shapes just look randomly drawn with no particular structure. And when they are so unimaginatively superimposed, well, if ever there was a case of “less than the sum of its parts,” this is it. One would hope that the further meaning of this logo will be conveyed or articulated when applied in context, but for now, it doesn’t add to much.

On Unnim’s temporary website we can see a first sample of the logotype combined with the tagline — set in FF Olsen:

For whatever reason, the tagline is set all in lowercase and really doesn’t line up to anything. Apparently, white has been designated the corporate color, but this is bordering on the ridiculous and the tagline simply seems to be floating in empty space. It is not enough using obvious historical and geographical references when ignoring to point towards a clearly articulated vision to take Unnim to a new place on what I believe is a crowded market suffering from an all-time low in confidence. Compared to the recent re-branding of Bankinter, to use another Spanish bank as an example, this effort tries to address too many targets, misses most of them, and suffers from poor execution.The tagline reads ‘la caja que suma’ which can be translated as ‘the bank that adds up’. Unfortunately, so far Unnim doesn’t.

Thanks to Stephanie Wurm for the tip.

Fredrik Jönsson is a Swedish designer living and working in Barcelona, Spain.He is the founder of Ummocrono, a design studio working primarily with visual identities and interactive design.



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