Penguin redraws Peter Rabbit amid brand refresh to “futureproof” him

The new look “places Peter front and centre” according to the publishing house, and has been designed by studio CreateFuture.

Penguin Random House has revealed a refresh for The World of Peter Rabbit, in a bid to “futureproof” the brand for future generations.

First thought up by Beatrix Potter in 1902, the Tale of Peter Rabbit has never been out of print an remains one of the world’s best loved children’s stories.

In 2022, Penguin Random House Children’s will commemorate Peter Rabbit’s 120th birthday with a collection of celebrations. In preparation of this, the team engaged design studio CreateFuture to update the branding for the classic character.

“We felt a real duty of care to Beatrix Potter”

While Potter’s illustrations remain “perfectly pitched for physical books”, Penguin art director Anna Billson says, in 2021 the need for digital applications is huge. This is why a refresh was needed.

The main challenge of the project then was protecting the brand, while also ensuring it could be used in a more modern way, according to CreateFuture creative director Dave Ward. “We felt a real duty of care to Beatrix Potter and the 120 years of memories held by fans,” he says.

A balance needed to be struck between “heritage and modernity”, Ward explains. To tackle the brief, CreateFuture worked with illustrator Chris Mitchell. Mitchell was tasked with reimagining Peter Rabbit in a way that could be used as a brand icon for the wider world, along with supporting illustrations.

“Retaining the charm, mischief and character”

There were several requirements for the updated illustrations Mitchell explains. “Along with the accompanying animal icons, the illustrations had to be created in a contemporary solid line vector style to feature across multiple platforms and touch points, with clarity of craft at all reproduction sizes,” he says.

Moreover, each illustration needed to “retain the charm, mischief and character” associated with the originals he says. To ensure this, the team drew reference from early source material, including Potter’s original watercolours.

It was a unanimous decision between the team that the logo needed to depict Potter’s most classic image of the “running rabbit in a blue jacket”, Ward says. The simplified vector version of the rabbit, he says, is the first of its kind in Peter’s 120-year history.

He adds that where possible, elements of these early sources have been added into the new look. The title font of the first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, for example, has been redrawn and is used in the identity. Meanwhile Beatrix Potter’s signature is included in the logo.

“Hop, Skip and Jump”

Beyond the logo, Ward explains an “intuitive” design system has been developed so that future users of the brand can do so effectively. This was done because Peter Rabbit can have different meanings to different people, he says.

“The Peter Rabbit that appears on a new-born’s baby grow does not have the same energy as the mischievous Peter Rabbit that causes trouble in Mr McGregor’s garden,” he explains. To solve this, the design system delineates three different levels of energy which can be used when appropriate.

The three levels are labelled “Hop”, “Skip”, and “Jump”. For more subtle, calm depictions of the rabbit, the “Hop” system will be used. This is more subdued, and has a focus on animals and pastel colours.

One level up, for a slightly more energetic portrayal, “Skip” uses brighter colours and bolder illustrations. Finally “Jump” is to be used where the mischievous rabbit is out in full force, and uses multiple colours, animals and motion lines.

“In this way, the appropriate Peter can be used across all applications,” Ward says.

What do you think of Peter Rabbit’s new look? Let us know in the comments below…

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  • Graham Pugh September 21, 2021 at 9:40 am

    It’s a nice and attractive job but it’s not the same rabbit, unless he’s aged. They’ve turned a brown rabbit grey.

  • Maxine Hayes September 21, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Why’s he suddenly become grey? Wouldn’t that be more confusing…? I’d at least prefer him to be the same colour as the books.

  • Joan-Marie Abley September 21, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    When did Peter Rabbit dye his fur? is this also a leap into the 21st century, if so then he ought to be sporting some tattoos too. The anoying squiggly lines are too bold and look messy. Perhaps another rebrand is needed.

  • Nick Button September 21, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    Wouldn’t it have been more sympathetic (and more of a challenge) to have found a way to get the original illustration to work better digitally? It’s been around longer than any of us and survived through many design trends but somehow the need ‘for it to work in a digital space’ is the reason to change it completely

  • Jacquie Yvonne Heathcote September 21, 2021 at 4:02 pm

    No! No! No! You cannot muck about with Peter Rabbit. He was a brown rabbit so why change his colour? The new design looks 1930’s style to me….not 2022.

  • Eleanor Kwei September 21, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    Regrettable. Marketing people should not be allowed anywhere near these classics.

  • timothy donaldson September 22, 2021 at 11:34 am

    why has he lost a lot of his colour, is the future colour averse?

  • Jessica Jenkins September 22, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Peter Rabbit can have different meanings to different people. True.

  • Iza Pislewska September 22, 2021 at 11:41 am

    Its an interesting change to the visual branding of the character considering it ‘future-proofs” it while keeping the visual and conceptual essence of the tale

    The article is not highly critical of this change but it does point out the points of criticism made about it, especially about how the character’s mischievous aspects have to be kept.

  • Marcus Gurtler September 22, 2021 at 11:41 am

    It is a spectacular redesign but I would argue that the original design was perfectly acceptable. They’ve completely changed the rabbit as well he doesn’t even look like Peter.

  • timothy donaldson September 22, 2021 at 11:42 am

    define *futureproof*

  • Jessica Jenkins September 22, 2021 at 11:46 am

    I wonder how Beatrix Potter would feel about Peter Rabbit hopping across multiple platforms.

  • hhh ppp September 22, 2021 at 11:51 am

    The new design modernise that Peter rabbit, but at the cost of loosing the subtlety of the water paints and hand drawn visuals. This just seems like a way to put peter rabbit on to products, exploiting nostalgia for gain

  • Alice Kilian September 22, 2021 at 11:55 am

    Making him grey rather than brown gives the brand two separate identities. He is no longer recognisable as Peter Rabbit. If I saw this logo on its own, I would not immediately think that it was Peter Rabbit. Brown would have been more in keeping and true to the brand.

  • stella briggs September 22, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    I dont think such a beloved character should be so harshly revamped , the illustrations that everyone knows and loves couldve been brought to life in another way but i dont think making peter the rabbit grey and so vectorised is the right approach , sure it was probably needed to be able to catch up with everything new and modern ,but there are other ways of doing this .

  • Jessica Jenkins September 22, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    What about the other characters? Maybe Mrs Tiggywinkle wants to be future proofed?

  • Elliot September 22, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    Peter rabbit died the moment they casted James Corden to play him in the movie

  • Tristan Root September 22, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    It all feels like a fairly flimsy attempt to justify making a beloved children’s character into a cute little vector to slap on baby clothes and wallpaper and roll in the money. All the heritage talk is just to make that more palatable.

  • Stevie M September 26, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Along with all the above comments, whilst the original is more of an illustration, it is appreciated that major brands today prefer a logo. That said this seems more about de-gendering Peter Rabbit as some grey soulless animal. Also, what’s with a yellow Robin and an Orange Blue Bird?

  • Cherie September 26, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    I think it’s fantastic to get Peter Rabbit ready for digital platform and future proof him to keep the story alive. I do think the energy re-vamp is a lot more masculine in touch and very bold. When I was a child (and I was a train set child not dolls) I loved the soft dreamlike images of Peter Rabbit. They were as cuddly as a soft bunny. The water colour soft tones in those small little books made then cute and collective.

  • Adam Whitehouse September 27, 2021 at 10:38 am

    I can understand the simplification of the character detail, but the colour change is ridiculous, he has always been brown.

  • Leslie Lewis Flippin November 1, 2021 at 4:13 am

    I don’t think anyone should change the appearance of Peter Rabbit. He belongs to Beatrix Potter. If Peter Rabbit needs to be changed, then make up your own rabbit and story. I wouldn’t tamper with Beatrix Potter’s wonderful works of art and beautiful stories that children of all ages and adults, as well, absolutely devour and love to this very day. I think Beatrix Potter would be very hurt by people wanting to only make money and fame for themselves changing her artistry and imagination. Please don’t change Peter Rabbit or any of the wonderful animals and creations of Beatrix Potter’s Blessings and Gifts she was given to share in this world.

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