Established in Chicago, IL, in 1928 by co-founders Trafton Cole and Eddie Haan originally focusing only on men’s footwear, Cole Haan is now a well-known design and retail brand offering premium men’s and women’s footwear as well as apparel and accessories. With headquarters in Scarborough, ME, and design center in New York, Cole Haan sells its products through department stores and its own 108 domestic stores and 68 international stores across Canada, China, and Japan. Purchased by Nike in 1988 and sold to Apax Partners in 2012, Cole Haan is now independent of a larger brand and over the course of this year — with a soft launch in the New York market in April – May and globally in July — has introduced a new identity designed through and interdependent team created exclusively for the rebranding process led by Cole Haan’s CMO Dave Maddocks and creative director Andy Gray with outside consultants Rob Trostle and Kapono Chung.
In 2013, independent again after 25 years of Nike ownership, Cole Haan chose to look back to move forward—embracing the elegant collision of tradition and modernity.
We sought to create an identity that would express this paradox and appear timeless in the truest sense of the word—something that would seem familiar even as it was a radical departure from the previous identity. In accordance with the demands of the business, we rolled this out gradually over the course of six months.
From a functional standpoint, the logotype and accompanying monogram needed to be legible at incredibly small sizes—whether debossed in leather, embroidered on a label or as cast metal—and very large sizes like signage. And like any good identity in the fashion/lifestyle sector, it complements and elevates the product both now and in the future.
Provided text by Rob Trostle
If you Google-Image “Cole Haan Logo” you will notice there is about three or five different logos that could be the official Cole Haan logo. If you had asked me before doing this post what was the Cole Haan logo I would have had no idea — my guess would have been this upright script version. (It doesn’t help that my footwear brand preferences stop at Converse/Merrell for “work” wear and Newton for running, but I digress). The previous logo with the thread and needle clearly signaled a hand-crafted approach to its products and its serif typography indicated a traditional brand. Yet from my perception of Cole Haan, its products feel much more contemporary and less like they belong in the pages of Vogue and more in GQ or Rolling Stone. So this new wordmark and monogram, to me, make more sense and feel more in tune with a global, male and female brand.
The wordmark is a custom-made blend of Sofia Pro Medium and Raisonné, which follows the trend of slightly off-kilter sans serifs that look familiar yet are almost undetectable as to what font exactly they are. It’s not a completely original approach but a simple, nicely executed wordmark never hurt anyone. In this case, too, the est. type might steal the thunder of the main wordmark, with a rather nice set of numerals.
The new monogram goes for a similar approach in simplicity by making a cufflink-like device out of a CHC combination that falls into the same realm of other fashion monograms like Gucci or Chanel. On its own it’s okay and as a pattern it looks quite lovely.
In application, the approach is pretty straightforward with the logo centered wherever it lives and plenty of white space to accompany it. The main deep blue color gives it a premium feel that works equally well on a shoe box as it does on the facade of the store. If you also Google-Image “Cole Haan store” you will see there is about a dozen different retail approaches so a new, unified design would certainly help Cole Haan establish this new identity. Overall, this isn’t groundbreaking design stuff but it provides a clear (and clean) path to an upscale, contemporary fashion brand that doesn’t feel stuffy or old.