Established in 1947 (originally as Jenn-Air Products Company, manufacturing industrial fans), Jenn-Air became well known in 1961 when its founder, Louis J. Jenn, invented the first downdraft cooktop (using one of the company’s fans), a self-ventilated stove that sucks in air during cooking. Since then, the company has focused on kitchen appliances, from dishwashers to microwaves to refrigerators to cooktops and ranges. Last week, at the 2018 Architectural Digest Design Show in New York, Jenn-Air introduced a new campaign — under the brand positioning of “Bound by Nothing” — and identity by Chicago, IL-based 45 Irving.
JennAir today revealed its new brand campaign, Bound By Nothing, a creative mission to reinvigorate luxury audiences. The rebellious campaign signals the brand’s intent to tear down stale conventions, slashing through conformity to usher in a new era of luxury standards. With new product lines and an overhauled brand identity rooted in the progressive spirit of founder Lou Jenn and today’s tastemaker lifestyle, JennAir is breathing new life into the very meaning of luxury.
Complimentary imagery features a mix of theatrical product design shots and some “glitch”- a cryptic, subversive set of visual cyphers that wakes people up from old luxury and actively undermines the status quo.
I usually start my posts by talking about the logo not the campaign but, in this case, the campaign heavily sets the tone for the identity. After watching the video at the opening of the post you might be left wondering if you were being pitched stoves and fridges or if it was a trailer for Cinemax After Dark. (15-year-old-me is wondering if they still have that?) I don’t know about you but when I think of stoves and fridges I’m not looking to be aroused or act rebellious or have a threesome in a limo but, then again, I might have been doing it wrong all my life. I feel like there are certain consumer products that don’t need to be and can’t withstand (at least not with a straight face) being sexualized but dammit if Jenn-Air isn’t going to try. And they are going all out on this gambit. The launch of the new campaign and identity can be seen at this microsite and were heralded by an ambitious booth at the Architectural Digest Design Show and an after-party featuring Nas. Images of this can be found on Instagram with the hashtag #boundbynothing — it’s hard to tell what’s going on in the booth but it’s clear it’s more epic than your typical tradeshow booth.
Touting a revived spirit that does not forget its past, the new identity boasts a bold, confident “J,” created with two ascendant columns hinting at JennAir’s product silhouettes and signifying defiant innovation that begets progress. Upon closer inspection, the counter form reveals a sculptural curve inspired by the intuitive downdraft design.
The brand’s new wordmark purposefully encapsulates its emboldened spirit, as “Jenn” harkens back to the progressive spirit of Lou Jenn, while “Air” represents the endless possibilities that lie ahead. Together these are the tenets of the brand in its every action - from product performance and design to ownership connectivity and service and each touchpoint in between. Embodying the ethos of the Bound By Nothing campaign, the JennAir brand is limitless, paving a path of progress in the luxury category.
On to the logo… The old one was appropriate, looking like an appliance manufacturer. Nothing too ambitious, nothing too annoying. The icon nicely referenced the air technology with an abstract wave of air being pulled into their stoves while also looking like a really flat “J”. The wordmark was a little bland but fine. The new logo is… out there. I sort of like the “J” monogram because it’s so bold and it demands attention but its rationalization as looking like “JennAir’s product silhouettes” is confusing as there are zero 45-degree angles in any of their silhouettes. The construction of the “J” is also a little confusing, with a mix and match of rounded corners versus straight corners and even the rounded corners don’t match with the inner ones looking oddly flattened. Then there is the matter of the wordmark… which is a cacophony of angles and letters missing pieces. It’s a very uncomfortable-looking wordmark. It seems like, in an effort to turn up the rebellious attitude up to 11, no one stopped to check “Is this too loud?” because, yes, it is. Some customization would have been good on the wordmark but this is too much and it distracts heavily from the monogram which, when you see applied on the products, will make you like it a little more than you do now.
We created a foundation of color and texture fusing JennAir’s marketing materials with their products, including an accent color inspired by their distinct use of brass details, an “obsidian” taken from their trademarked column interiors, and the “lace” pattern that appears as a hidden detail on most JennAir products.
We programmed a custom font to randomly cycle through deconstructed letterforms to deliver JennAir’s distinct voice in all their headlines without having to police the heck out of a manually deconstructed lettering approach.
This reminds me of yesterday’s Lafayette Anticipations by Wolff Olins and Colophon custom type but Jenn-Air’s lacks the finesse and rhythm of that one and instead adds one more element to an already fragmented (literally and slightly metaphorically) identity.
Again, it’s hard to tell if you are being sold stoves and fridges or the latest, impossibly expensive luxury condo in New York with its own gym and sex den. (Don’t know if the latter is a thing but after writing it, it sounds like it could be.)
The one glimmer of coolness in this project is the application of the monogram in the actual products. It looks pretty great in all of its forms, especially as a car-like badge when placed on the front but I also love how it’s applied in places like the inside of the fridge and in the gutters of the cooktop. Overall, I wouldn’t mind the idea of giving Jenn-Air a rock-star-of-the-appliance-world attitude in order to stand out from the competition but the campaign veers almost into parody and the identity, instead of being a subtler complement to the campaign, doubles down, adds more fuel to the fire, and it’s all close to going up in flames.