First sold in 1895 as Campbell’s Beefsteak Tomato Soup and first condensed in 1897, Campbell’s soup is one of the most well-known consumer products in the United States (and possibly internationally, thanks to a certain artist). It was originally created by Joseph Campbell, a wholesale fruit and vegetable vendor, and Abraham Anderson, a commercial canner and packer, who formed Anderson & Campbell in 1869, which was succeeded by Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company when Anderson left the company in 1876, which eventually became Campbell’s Soup Company in 1922, maintaining the founder’s name after he passed away in 1900. The parent company portfolio of brands includes Campbell’s, Cape Cod, Goldfish, Kettle Brand, Lance, Late July, Milano, Pace, Pacific Foods, Pepperidge Farm, Prego, Snyder’s of Hanover, Swanson and V8. (Other than Campbell’s I had no idea all those other brands were owned by Campbell’s Soup Company.) As the flagship brand, Campbell’s is most recognized for its condensed tomato soup but it also comes in popular varieties like cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, chicken noodle, and French onion as well as “Chunky” options (introduced in 1970) like clam chowder, gumbo, and chicken pot pie. Yesterday, Campbell’s introduced new packaging, the first change in 50 years, designed by Turner Duckworth in collaboration with Toronto, ON-based Ian Brignell for logo and typography.
Maintaining the famed red and white color blocking loved by generations, the redesigned Campbell’s label features several new elements to contemporize the brand while respecting its heritage — including a modernized logo scripture, which was based on founder Joseph Campbell’s original signature. Campbell’s fans will be able to spot more hidden elements, including the Campbell’s ‘C’ in the fleur de lis and slanted ‘O’ in soup that pays tribute to the letters from the first red and white label in 1898.
Even though it’s literally my job to look at logos closely I had never taken the time to look closely at the Campbell’s logo which is based on founder Joseph Campbell’s signature and while it’s perfectly fine I am surprised by how much the uppercase “E” in there bothers me or how much the “C” resembles the Coca-Cola “C”s. Neither thing is wrong or troublesome, I just had not thought about it for more than the five seconds it usually takes me to walk past Campbell’s soups at the grocery store. Losing any semblance to a signature over the years, the execution and finesse of the old logo did leave a lot to be desired for and the new logo, drawn by Ian Brignell, comes in hot like a French onion soup with a lot of lovely details and an impressively sophisticated look for what is one of the most mainstream consumer packaged goods out there.
The biggest change is the separation of the letters, losing the connecting script structure that now allows the letters to have more breathing room and create a lighter and, perhaps counterintuitively, more fluid wordmark even though none of the letters connect anymore. Every single letter is an improvement while maintaining the general equity of the old logo, starting with the lovely “C” where its swash thins out as it passes under the thicker stroke and its small bit on the left echoes the apostrophe at the end. The funky “E”, to my chagrin, remains but is actually now so perfectly resolved in weight and size in relation to the other letters that it’s now my second favorite element of the logo. If I had one complaint it might be the “pb” pair, perhaps mainly the “p” with its stem that goes up too high, or perhaps it’s the curl of the “b” at the top. It works as a whole though and I’m really just getting deep into the details where it’s easy to literally stop looking at the big picture. Overall, a fantastic logo evolution.
The first thought going through probably everyone’s minds is “Why change? The cans look exactly the same” and I would say, “Yes, they do and that’s perfect”. At the scale of Campbell’s there isn’t much benefit to making any dramatic changes. You want people to instantly recognize your product and not even have to think about whether something has changed. In this case it’s almost impossible to not recognize Campbell’s red-and-white split can so the evolution is about making it the best version of itself and updating something that was designed 50 years ago under different (and outdated) technical circumstances and production limitations. All the little tweaks are an improvement, yielding a cleaner, crisper design. It’s not exciting by any means but it does feel like the equivalent of a really good haircut after decades of sporting the same style.
Of the many updated details, I particularly like the effect of the revised medallion — first added to the can in 1900 after the soup won a bronze medal for product excellence at the Paris Exposition that year. Sitting in the middle of the can at the horizon where red and white meet, the more ornate and detailed medallion adds a great pop of texture to the otherwise minimal cans. The new “SOUP” lettering at the bottom of the cans is also a nice evolution from the previous more heavy-handed lettering that, as cool as it was on its own, demanded too much attention and felt a little antiquated. Sure, Andy Warhol’s paintings and prints wouldn’t be the same without it, but in terms of conveying a certain lean-ness this new version has a lighter presence. The small fleur-de-lis icons to its side are cleverly constructed using two flipped “C”s to create the symbol. Like most mass consumer packaged goods, the depiction of the ingredients is always an odd thing to fit in and while these are not any more or less exciting than usual, they get the job done in their simple photographic approach that gets out of the way.
The identity takes a really strange turn with the introduction of flat illustrations that look like I drew them, which is one of the cattiest, snarkiest, least complimentary things I have said in a long time because I can not draw to save my life. I imagine the idea, perhaps, was to echo the simplicity of the white and red bands of the cans but these are truly underwhelming in every aspect. After how much care and thoughtfulness went into the logo and cans I am really surprised at these. But, we’ll see, maybe they won’t get implemented.
Other applications also seem to be halfway there in terms of overarching idea, execution, and cohesiveness. There are some good things in there like the grilled cheese sandwich photo over the logo or even the typography in the first ad but then it’s hard to tell if these wants to be hip or clever or homey. Time will tell, I guess. Where it matters though, on the shelves and in the aisle, the evolution takes the existing equity of the brand and improves on it in a way that subtly signals a commitment to quality and consistency while setting up the packaging for, perhaps, another 50-year run.