Established in 1976, Access (previously Access BDD) is a leading provider of stairlifts, home lifts, and platform lift solutions in Europe. A division since 1999 of thyssenkrupp, a German multinational conglomerate with a focus on industrial engineering and steel production, Access sells its products only to distributors, which then sell it to commercial and residential clients in more than 40 countries. Recently, Access introduced a new identity designed by Middlesbrough, UK-based Better.
The challenge here was not only to refresh and evolve the brand but to also clearly distinguish it away from the parent brand of thyssenkrupp. With an award winning product line that reaches from mid-tier to luxury, there was also clear opportunity to elevate the brand from a potentially clinical feeling mobility look, into to a more aspirational lifestyle space.
Access previously carried the suffix BDD (business development division). As they are now establishing themselves as a separate personality to thyssenkrupp this was the first thing to jettison. The simplification continued with a neutral black and white palette, two cuts of a custom designed Access typeface and an elegant integration of the previous arrow logo inside an all new vertical wordmark.
With a more interesting typeface choice the old logo could have been rather nice, given that all the characters in the name are round when set in lowercase and yield a pleasant rhythm. The old logo was fine but definitely had a sub-sub-brand feel. The new logo avoids going with the easy solution of a geometric sans serif in lowercase that I alluded to and instead opts for a relatively more challenging approach of setting the logo vertically. If you don’t think this is challenging, you probably have never pitched it as a solution, because clients fear nothing more than a vertical-running logo, and with good reason as they are not easy to apply but with this being a business to business identity it’s slightly easier to control. The new logo’s stencil aesthetic pays off as it goes up the length of the name and culminates in a negative space arrow. It’s kind of clever and visually interesting. I wonder how much the designers stressed about the spacing between the “A” and the “C”, since it’s mathematically spaced with the other letters but visually there is a bigger gap because of the legs of the “A” — I know I would have spent days fretting about it. I imagine I would have gone with a visual fix. The “A” monogram gets the job done as the social media avatar and helps anyone that hadn’t noticed the arrow at smaller sizes see it.
With a more recessive palette, interest and personality would be drawn predominantly from imagery and the letterforms themselves. To achieve the right luxury tech feel, the typefaces needed to be as highly engineered as the products themselves, so we custom built them in-house. In the first cut, structured monospace letterforms are separated to form crisp industrial stencil-like silhouettes. The second uses outlines reminiscent of overhead architectural plans, letters echoing the shapes of rooms, with the end of their stems opened up to allow access.
I like monospace fonts, I like stencil fonts, and I like inline-ish fonts so to have all three things blended together into a type family is an instant win, at least at first glance. There are some odd characters in there — like the “Y” and “X” — and the stenciling is inconsistent in that some letters that don’t need stenciling — like the “S” and “E” — have been stenciled but others haven’t. Still, as an overall effect, it works and it looks good in the applications.
The applications are good, with a kind of high-end furniture and interior design aesthetic that elevates — ha! unintentional pun — the products in a way that I never thought was feasible for a product like home elevators. I have always pictured them as clunky, clinical contraptions that have very little design consideration, but these are slick.
Overall, this is an unexpectedly good identity in the sense that it’s not an industry we regularly think of in general or an industry we think of as being a patron of good design, especially on a business to business level where this could easily look like… well, like it looked before.