Established in 1915 in Geneva as Fabrique Genevoise de Crayons, Caran d’Ache is a manufacturer of high-end art and writing instruments, most notable among them its colored pencils. The company takes its name, adopted in 1924, from the pen name of French, Russian-born, nineteenth-century illustrator, Emmanuel Poiré. The nickname itself is based on “karandash”, the Russian word for pencil. Their product offering comes in three categories: Color, which includes pencils, pastels, watercolor, and more; Writing Instruments, focusing on fountain pens; and the Office Line, a small range of really nice pens. Previously identified with separate logos and marks, Caran d’Ache recently introduced, coinciding with its 100th anniversary, a new single identity for the company and its products designed by the Geneva office of Base.
The signature of the cartoonist Emmanuel Poiré, to whom Caran d’Ache owes its name, was the starting point of our redesign.
The new logo replaces three previous Caran d’Ache marks: the droopy lettering used for the colors line, the Optima-esque wordmark used as the corporate and Writing Instruments mark, and the CdA monogram, used for I’m not sure what. If you were to look only at the corporate wordmark as the before, the conversation leads one way: it’s a nice evolution that cleans up the letters by having better interaction between characters and adds a touch of contemporary aesthetic by going full sans. However, when you look at the classic, melting wordmark associated with the colored pencils then it’s another conversation: The wordmark foregoes a lot of built nostalgic equity in exchange for a more sterile approach. It’s not that the old droopy logo was great; it really isn’t if you look at it for more than one minute but it’s a classic.
In application, it makes a convincing case, achieving a good balance of sophistication and playfulness at the same time, benefitting from the product it’s selling. Looks fun on a box of colors, looks classy on anniversary edition packaging.
When we considered Poiré’s signature, handwriting, the fact that they are a Maison de Haute Écriture… it was obvious that such an iconic brand should have its “own writing,” its own typeface.
We knew that by developing a typeface it would allow us to express the elegance and uniqueness of Caran d’Ache. The alternates developed allow numerous combinations.
The custom type designed by Nonpareil is a little odd. I mean… it’s nice but some of the alternates that are meant to carry the flair of writing are exaggerated in strange ways, like the “e” at the end of the above sample or the “y” in “Acrylic” or the cut “s”. The ascender height is also a little extreme.
Overall, this identity knows exactly who its audience is, as evidenced by the not-fully-1%-targeted video above. Ultimately it’s targeted at adults and artists, so losing the kid-friendly droopy logo might not be the worst thing that can happen — the little snots can mess up their Crayolas all they want.