Being the third largest consumer goods company in the world (at least by 2012 revenue) is no small task. Add to that the honor and responsibility of being the number one producer of food spreads in the world (such as butter or margarine), and at least some trouble is bound to occur. That is unless you happen to be the owner of the Unilever logo and brand, one of the most successful and oldest multinational companies in the world.
Headquartered in both London and Rotterdam, Unilever is the best at what it does, owning over four hundred different brands spread over 190 countries. With a primary listing on both Euronext Amsterdam and on the London Stock Exchange, it would seem like the multinational did something right by slowly shifting its focus from food brands to beauty and health products.
Despite the company being formed as early as September 1929, the earliest known rendition of the Unilever logo is from 1969. That is a different version than the one used today. The current Unilever logo design was only revealed in 2004, and it has been successfully used ever since.
Changes and Evolution
The current version of the Unilever logo was unveiled in 2004, along with the company’s 75th birthday. It is a brilliant example of the perfect composite logo, managing to merge every theme for which the company sells products into a large letter U. This version is clearly far better than the previous version of the logo. However, that doesn’t mean that any of the Unilever logos are to be discounted.
Even the first Unilever logo, while not as impressive as the current one, had a few things going for it. Featuring some classic World Trade Center imagery, the old Unilever logo depicted a large, blue letter U, similar to the one today. However, instead of multiple symbols making up the letter, the U’s two vertical lines formed the twin towers of the WTC.
The font for the old Unilever logo was actually the only weak part of the entire ensemble. Featuring a simple serif custom typeface, the old Unilever logo spoke volumes, while at the same time not saying enough. While the logo itself could evoke a certain trustworthiness for the company’s products, the font was just bland and uninspiring. But that all changed with the reveal of the 2004 logo.
Unilever Logo Design Elements
Once the Unilever logo was redesigned some twelve years ago, the brand’s entire image has changed drastically. It’s not necessarily that the company went in a different direction, it’s just that there finally is a Unilever logo meaning other than just the reliability and quality inspired by the image of the twin towers.
The main design elements of the new Unilever logo are, of course, the main logo and the Unilever text underneath it. Meanwhile, the meta Unilever logo history includes self-referential factors such as the shape, the color, and the font of the logo.
Whether we’re talking about the Hindustan branch of the Unilever multinational or about any other one of its subsidiaries, the brand has seen a greatly increased popularity ever since the logo was redesigned. But why is that? Why would an internationally renowned brand go through such an increase in popularity after a rebranding campaign?
We’ll take a look at the meaning behind the Unilever logo and see what it’s all about.
According to Miles Nelwyn, the London-based graphic designer behind the 2004 redesign, the shape of the new logo is meant to feature 25 of the most successful product types for the company, all blended together to form the shape of the Unilever letter U.
For example, the sun at the top of the U’s left bar is meant to represent our primary natural resource, the company’s origins (Port Sunlight), as well as a number of brands which use sunlight radiance as a sort of limited means of communicating their scope.
Other examples would be the hand with the flower next to it, explained as to represent sensitivity and care, as well as skin and touch solutions, or the DNA double helix, meant to stand for life, bio-science, and healthy living. Similarly, the palm tree was meant to symbolize paradise, as well as palm oil, the product which initially started the company back in 1929.
While the designers considered using Unilever brands logos to merge and form the logo as it is today, it was decided that symbols of the products would do a better job. And they totally did, as the Unilever logo is widely considered one of the most smartly designed and successful composite logos of all time.
Often used by companies which have to establish a loyal customer base, blue is a very versatile color. It is a color used primarily in IT (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Vimeo, Dell, Samsung, etc.) and the food industry (Pepsi, Oreo, Taco Bell, Pfizer, etc.), as it is supposed to create a trustful image for the company.
Often associated with trust, confidence, faith, truth, loyalty, and wisdom, blue is used in the Unilever logo to evoke feelings of trust and loyalty, determining customers to return to the brands owned by the multinational corporation and use its products. Seeing as the company is the third largest in the world, it would seem like the efforts that went into determining the logo’s color has worked.
There really isn’t all that much to say about the Unilever logo font. A stylish, handwritten custom typeface sits underneath the big U of the Unilever logo, complimenting it with its sophisticated elegance. The two go perfectly together, with the uniformity of the font making up for the seemingly random patterns of the logo, and with the convoluted patterns making up for the simplicity of the font.
One of the fairly small number of companies which make a handwritten font actually work without looking tacky, Unilever has scored when hiring Wolff Olins and Miles Nelwyn to create their logo. The end result is perhaps one of the most inspirational and motivational logos seen in the past decade, from the compositional nature of the letter U to the font in which the company’s name is written underneath the logo.
Inspiration and Trivia
While we have talked about the history of the Unilever logo and how it came to be, as well as about what it is meant to evoke in customers, we have yet to talk about the direction of the design process. When the Unilever PR heads hired Wolff Olins for the design of the new logo, the idea around which the multinational based the design was of “adding vitality to life.”
And despite the fact that it sounds like a pretty difficult idea to represent in a logo, the plan went forward without a hitch, eventually giving birth to the Unilever logo as we all know it today.
The first steps towards establishing Unilever were taken in 1927, as two margarine factories in the Netherlands and Germany merged to form Margarine Unie. Then, in 1929, the two joined Lever Brothers, a British soap maker. This resulted in Unilever, as the names of the two were mashed into one.
The partnership with Lever Brothers began because it was the perfect move – palm oil was used in both soaps and margarine, so the import would move more smoothly for larger quantities. Following the same business model, the company joined with more and more companies over the years, eventually becoming the multinational corporation it has become today.
Despite the fact that Unilever owns more than 400 different brands, only 14 of those make the bulk of the profit for the company – Axe (Lynx), Becel (Flora), Dove, Surf, Heartbrand ice creams, Hellmann’s, Knorr, Lux, Lipton, Magnum, Rama, Rexona (Sure\Degree\Rexena\Shield), Sunsilk, and, Omo.
The largest food spread producer and the third-largest consumer goods company in the world, Unilever was founded 86 years ago by the merger of two margarine companies with a British soap maker. The rest is history, as the Unilever logo and brand have been a vital part of the market ever since.