Established in 1977, Auto Trader is the UK and Ireland’s largest digital automotive marketplace. Listing more than 450,000 cars each day, Auto Trader began as a group of magazines with a large circulation that peaked in 2000 but ceased in 2013 as the business moved completely to be a digital marketplace where it now attracts approximately 55 million cross-platform visits each month (70% of those coming through mobile devices). Recently Auto Trader introduced a new identity designed by London-based Studio Output.
We evolved the Auto Trader logo to work harder across digital platforms. A wider colour palette appeals to a broader audience base while building on the core blue & red of the brand’s heritage. And a robust new type family brings a more welcoming tone to headlines, messaging and data visualisation.
This logo change is the equivalent of buying the new model of the same car: it’s familiar, it’s mostly the same, but it has improved aesthetics and performance. The old logo had a 1970s magazine aesthetic with its Avant Garde-esque wordmark and it did show a certain age. The new logo keeps the same proportions (and single-storey “a”) but updates with a contemporary sans serif that looks infinitely better (and is not a straight-up geometric sans). The looser spacing is very welcome as is the flat approach to the icon, which who knows what it is but it looks car-ish.
Auto Trader is the UK’s leading digital automotive marketplace. It makes exclusively digital products, with an average 55 million monthly visits - 70% of those on mobile. Despite all this, some people still think it’s a print magazine for middle-aged men.
The system builds on the brand’s heritage, embodying a personality that reflects the business as it is, not as it was - and evolving into something purpose-built for digital platforms.
Auto Trader used a lot of product-led photography, creating the sense of a transactional brand. We introduced a more emotive approach, helping the audience to picture themselves using the vehicles. Copy was vital to this, and we worked with Reed Words to establish a more conversational Auto Trader voice, with guidelines for the internal teams using it.
Beyond the car itself, Auto Trader often struggled to visualise abstract topics like part exchange or insurance, without resorting to clichéd photography. Ownership of manufacturer imagery had always been a challenge too. We introduced an illustration system to solve these problems, while communicating a more friendly personality.
The photography and illustration approaches aren’t fully novel or super exciting but they are consistent in look and warm in feelings. The combination of manufacturer-provided photos with the illustration backgrounds is the more adventuresome application and it does look nice.
In digital products, the experience of a brand is informed by the quality and responsiveness of interaction. We explored and defined a set of motion principles that will guide the Auto Trader teams, building the sense of a united brand across all platforms.
The motion approach is also familiar — not in a they-copied-it-from-someone way but in that we now expect all UI elements to animate smoothly and engagingly and most apps and websites have a similar approach. Overall, this does feel like it rejuvenates the brand and makes it look less like a car connoisseur-only brand to a general consumer looking to buy or sell a car with the least friction possible.