Thoughts | Andy Kirk - Design Strategy Director

Any way the wind blows

Share

Image credit: Pentagram

Here we have it, a new and exciting visual identity for that high street battleship John Lewis. You know, the one we love to hate because we all hope we’ll never be old enough to shop there?

Big boxes of conservative colours, a flash of Sixties inspired mini-skirt stripes and a fresh new typeface (circa 1928). It all comes together to be very grown up, clean cut and simple. With rival retail brands tanking, this isn’t the time to get carried away with something trendy that’s going to date and look like they’re trying too hard because this is John Lewis and we don’t do that kind of thing. We are the shopping equivalent of Miss Jean Brodie – “in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders”.

 

Image credit: Pentagram

There’s nothing revolutionary here, folks, you can go about your shopping reassured that everything is very much in control. We have learned that it’s more about making the John Lewis world fit for purpose and, underneath that cold exterior, they are investing heavily to make sure that the brand works in the channels where the shoppers are active, too.

Unfortunately, in trying to achieve timelessness, it feels a little like time stood still.

The big idea however, the big purpose, is uniting John Lewis and Waitrose, bringing them closer together as partners. And this isn’t just about partnership / part ownership for the workers (sorry, employees), it’s about making sense to those of us outside of the employee discount schemes that we can be part of something bigger, opening up to a broader idea of partnership and belonging. At least, that’s what it would be nice to take out from the change.

Image credit: Design Week

It’ll sure take some good communications to move “& Partners” away from the idea of dull accountancy firms (even though addicts of US legal dramas will know how sexy it is to be made Partner).

And the ad to launch this facelift? It’s a parody of a song that is the height of self-parody. A mock-rock opera, the music regularly voted ‘Britain’s Favourite Song’ and long enough to suit the brand’s calm epic vision. And the film has all of the charm and chuckles of that classic British comedy, ‘Nativity’ (the sequels were rubbish, but Mr Poppy will live forever). Oh, it is a sequel to ‘Nativity’ and it’s not even Christmas yet. 

I'm easy come, easy go and I can just about live with a brand being dressed liked my Mum, probably because I spend too much time there not to secretly admire their quality standards and calmness under fire. My biggest gripe doesn’t come from this almost invisible visual change. It’s that Bohemian Rhapsody is no longer about the futility of life. And, oh how I would have enjoyed seeing those cheeky kids have murder on their minds and turn their ray guns on their parents (maybe in another parody).

On second thoughts, thank goodness John Lewis are there to keep the status quo. Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters. Nothing to see here, folks.

Share
Enjoy your thought pieces like this by subscribing to our 'cue' magazine