Established in 1850 in Heidelberg, Germany, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg Printing Machines AG) is a manufacturer of offset printing presses and a major provider of other products and services for the global printing industry — 60% of their sales come from presses and 40% from services, consumables, and spare parts. Heidelberg employs over 12,000 people and had sales of $2.5 billion in 2014. For print designers, Heidelberg is the shit. (Sorry, it is). Earlier this month, Heidelberg introduced a new identity designed by German firm Peter Schmidt Group.
The new logo has not only been updated typographically, but also through an introduction of colour to represent the three business units of Equipment, Consumables and Services. Each of these areas is now represented by a different colour that merges seamlessly into the well known corporate dark blue of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen. The logo now illustrates the change of direction in which Heidelberger Druckmaschinen is currently moving: While its predecessor gave a subtle reference to the process of printing and had been technically devised, the new logo conveys a more open and connected image from which a new brand icon has been derived from the initial “H”.
Despite these significant changes, the design team of the Peter Schmidt Group consciously decided in favour of preserving many elements of the company’s previous corporate identity. Therefore, not only has the primary dark blue colour been maintained, but also the historically used typefaces of Heidelberg Gothic and Heidelberg Antiqua.
The old logo is a relative classic and because there is little to no competition in the world of sheet-fed presses, it’s quite ubiquitous. The “H” with its extended crossbar is the most recognizable element and until today I hadn’t noticed how nasty the “G” was even if it helped balance the wordmark. The new logo doubles down on the equity of the “H” and makes it the most noticeable element by applying an overlay to it. The letters have been softened by rounding the corners, which is kind of a shame, really; if there is one company that can get away with hard-edged, precision-engineered corners and shapes it’s Heidelberg, but I guess even their presses have soft edges and rounded corners. I liked how the “E”s looked more like reams of paper stacked in the old logo but now with the rounded corners it has lost that effect. The “R” is an improvement and the “LB” pair have been tweaked for a better relationship. It’s a 50-50 win-loss change with the logo. Some aspects are good, some are not.
A striking feature of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen’s future communication is that it will also have its own icon world. This has been designed to describe and highlight the services of the three business units by further extending the graphic style of the new logo. The pictograms are concise, variable and expandable. In large-scale applications their function is far more than just decoration, but serve rather as self-confident statements that make the company’s competitiveness unmistakable: Innovative new developments within the field of digital printing, hybrid printing processes, unique web-offers as well as a worldwide service network can now be easily seen at a first glance. A pivotal question as to whether such a distinctive colour combination of pictograms could also be clearly printed in small applications was central to the success of the project’s design, to which Kristin [Janoschka, whose corporate design team in Frankfurt is responsible for this client] has succinctly answered, “Yes they can. Especially on a Heidelberg press!”
There is perhaps too much fanfare on the icons in the press release. They are okay to look at at first glance but all the overlays and connecting joints can get a little confusing and tiring. As a starting point to develop a visual language, however, they are fine. I would actually like to see more of that Heidelberg Gothic and Heidelberg Antiqua pairing like in the “We are more than machines” tagline, which has a great corporate European aesthetic. Overall, it’s a safe and sort of expected evolution — in the sense that it follows many of today’s identity basics — that gives a boost of energy to a 165-year-old company.