Established in 1966 by Swiss brothers Art and Ernie Brunner after emigrating to California, K•Swiss is a “heritage American tennis brand” credited with designing the first all-leather tennis shoe fifty years ago, now called the K•Swiss Classic and an icon of both athletic and casual footwear. My guess is a large percentage of us here, particularly those over 30, have worn a pair of K•Swiss shoes at some point or another. After a long period of ubiquity on people’s feet during the 1980s and 90s, the shoe has lost traction in the last few years, posting losses from 2009 to 2012, but under new management and ownership since 2013, the company is looking to make a comeback and earlier this month introduced a revised logo designed in-house.
The new minimalist shield logo retains the classic K•Swiss Five Stripes trademark, though the orientation of the stripes has changed. The stripes now point upward to signify the brand’s momentum toward the future. The streamlined stripes are now positioned at a precise 58-degree angle.
The red, white and blue K•Swiss logo has long signified America as the place where the brand was introduced in 1966. The classic color trifecta is given a facelift with the introduction of an official brand color, Brunner Blue. Named for K•Swiss’ founders, brothers Art and Ernie Brunner, the color matches the legendary shade of blue found on America’s most competitive tennis courts. The rich and sophisticated hue provides a premium feel and will be introduced into all branding elements, including: the K•Swiss logo, packaging, retail displays and website.
The typeface used in the K•Swiss wordmark draws inspiration from the font used by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration on interstate road signs. Created the same year K•Swiss was founded in 1966, the font evokes the spirit of the open road and the innovative drive used to craft each K•Swiss product. The angles in the letters ‘K’ and ‘S’ are positioned at a 58-degree angle to complement the orientation of the stripes in the new Shield Logo trademark.
I’ve never been particularly fond of the K•Swiss logo. It’s been fine throughout the years but I don’t think it ever quite had the legion appeal of Nike or Adidas or even New Balance’s “NB”. Even its typifying five stripes on the shoe are perhaps two too many to compete with the simpler three stripes of Adidas. So, this new iteration, with the stripes going upwards doesn’t feel like sacrilege of any kind and it makes sense to want to convey upward movement because putting that in a press release is fun. It’s still recognizable as it maintains the same shape and it makes for a more robust and useful crest that is less fuzzy and busy than its predecessor.
The typography is where something might have gotten lost. The condensed version of the old logo felt more appropriate and athletic. This use of Interstate — a type family I haven’t really thought about in at least ten years after it was used extensively everywhere — feels… unathletic. It’s more lumbering than nimble in that weight and very tight letter-spacing.
The limited number of applications available point to a very simple approach that relies on the single-color crest, which is a very commendable move. Perhaps it’s the crappy photos but to make this kind of simplicity work and to communicate the “heritage American” vibe they stand for, the production and finishes have to be much more sophisticated. Overall, the evolution is positive and doubling down on the tennis-ness of the brand instead of trying to compete in the running shoe market owned by Nike should serve them well. “Serve”. See what I did there?