Living image - Issue 170 - Magazine | Monocle

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From the logo of a museum to the badge of a car, brand design is everywhere. And for as long as branding has existed, there has been the need to rebrand too. In a world that’s cluttered with visual communication, great design stands out. Refreshing a tired image can help companies to cut through the noise.

Pablo Juncadella
Typeface details for Mucho's Visa project

“The stakes are high with a rebrand because the existing customer base can easily walk away,” says Pablo Juncadella, a founder of branding and design agency Mucho. The firm is a collective of 50 employees that started with an office in Barcelona and now includes outposts in Paris, Melbourne and San Francisco. When monocle meets several of the team – connecting via teleconference – they are discussing their approach to rebranding. “Some clients can be nervous, which is understandable,” says Juncadella. “But on the other hand, a good rebrand can transform a company.”

If any company should know about this, it’s Mucho. The agency has worked on projects for Apple, Chanel, Thames & Hudson and FC Barcelona. The assembled brain trust agrees on the essential first step for would-be rebranders. “You have to ask yourself why it is necessary,” says Rob Duncan, a partner based in San Francisco. “A genuine rebrand is needed if a company is struggling to stay relevant or if there is significant change afoot.”

“Some clients can be nervous... but a good rebrand can transform a company.”

A case in point is Mucho’s recent work with Visa. The company, known for secure financial transactions, was seeking a new look to align with its new digital-first approach. “Visa is now more digitally oriented and its messaging is about equitable access to the economy,” says Duncan, who worked on the campaign. Mucho used Visa’s existing logo as the basis for the redesign. It kept the thick, parallel gold-and-blue lines while shifting the word “Visa” from between them to above, making the symbol read as an “equals” sign. “We didn’t create anything new,” says Juncadella. “This was always there. We just generated a new way of seeing it.”

The Mucho team prides itself on being a group of generalists who can flit between different projects. “We would get bored if we specialised,” says Tilman Solé, a Barcelona-based partner who recently worked on the rebranding of Colnago, an Italian cycling brand that was founded in 1954. In 2020, an Emirati company bought a controlling stake in Colnago. “The purchase necessitated a rebrand since the company was starting a new chapter,” says Solé. “It’s heading into territory beyond cycling.”

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Solé and his team dreamed up a new palette featuring gold, while slightly altering the brand’s iconic “ace of clubs” symbol. The logotype was also redesigned to look more aerodynamic and to better fit the bicycle’s frame. Yet the most significant change was the presentation of Colnago as a cycling company and a lifestyle brand too, with its new branding now being used across apparel and coffee and, in future, potentially hotels.

About the same time, in Australia, the agency oversaw another legacy rebrand with the Art Gallery of New South Wales. “The institution was celebrating its 150th anniversary and opening a new exhibition space,” says Dominic Hofstede, a creative director and partner at Mucho. “They needed to bring all of these sub-identities under one brand.” Mucho’s creative efforts saw the gallery move away from its solid black square logo to adopt an ultra­marine blue palette, deliberately reminiscent of artist Brett Whiteley’s canvases of Sydney Harbour.

This project, Hofstede says, was still tackled as a rebrand using the same methodology – one built around asking, “Why?” Hofstede explains that such an approach has rarely faulted the 20-year-old business. Yet in recent times, one thing has changed: companies, he says, are gaining an increased understanding of the power of design.

“Businesses are no longer treating it as an afterthought,” says Solé. “They recognise that to communicate effectively, visual culture is essential.” Juncadella nods in agreement. “We are at the decision table in a way that we were not before.”

Monocle comment: Refreshing your image comes with its risks but the benefits are many, ranging from reaffirming your company’s relevance to signalling a change in the way that you operate. Rebranding is a matter of how you engage with your customers and clients – so don’t treat it as an afterthought.

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