Established in 1953, Grado Labs is a designer and manufacturer of headphones and phono cartridges for turntables. Family-owned and family-run for three generations, the company has been operating from a townhouse in Brooklyn, NY, where they have built by hand every product they have created, from the original phono cartridges, to various wood and metal headphone designs, to in-ear headphones. The reputation for their small operation is impressive as attested by their press page, which is full of legit praise and not just puff pieces. Recently, Grado Labs introduced a new identity and packaging designed by Brooklyn-based High Tide.
Drawing our inspiration from the timeless simplicity of the headphone designs themselves, we were guided by a mid-century aesthetic that seems just as at home today as it would have in a 60’s recording studio — using only the essential elements.
The original Grado logo, created during the 70’s, deployed Herb Lubalin’s iconic ITC Avant Garde Gothic typeface. To impart a more modern feel, we added slight customizations to the type and played with how the letters connect to each other, just as the creator had intended. The final version pays homage to both the original Grado mark and Lubalin’s idiosyncratic letterforms, yet is re-interpreted and optimized for the modern consumer.
The old logo was fine… it’s hard to mess up Avant Garde Gothic out of the box but it certainly didn’t match the same level of craft that was devoted to the product. The new logo keeps Avant Garde but updates it with a retro look — an oxymoron perhaps — that subtly conveys more attention to detail but also visually pairs better with the bold headphone designs. The new logo is a great ode to the original presentation of Avant Garde, with all its wonderful ligatures and kissing letters. The “RA” ligature with the slanted “A” is great and drives the rest of the spacing decisions, which are all well balanced. The new monogram is pretty slick too, building on the geometry of Avant Garde and also playing off of their product’s shape. The animation of the monogram on the website is a sweet bonus.
Sad packaging was sad. It always amazes me when great products (or companies or services) succeed with bland design. Not all Grado packaging was as lackluster… based on some Google Image searching there were a few other designs but nothing stellar by any means (just not as sad as these blue boxes).
The new packaging is super nice. It’s minimal in all the right ways, with a stark white background, a left-aligned logo that is middle-aligned with the monogram on the side, and a bold black label that can (I assume) easily to adapt to the different headphones. Even the black foam on the inside looks great. Simple, easy, bold.
Cute and small packaging is cute and small.
As is usually the case, having a great product helps sell any modestly good design and the lovely headphones here look great with a more than modestly good identity. Not sure where the above image plays out but, yes, please. Overall, a finely tuned identity that clearly reflects the quality of the product.
Thanks to Pēteris Tenisons for the tip.