Pentagram designs “edgier” visual identity for Rolls-Royce

Marina Willer has worked with the luxury car company on an identity that targets a younger demographic and supports a wider digital application.

Pentagram partner Marina Willer has created the new identity for Rolls-Royce which seeks to modernise the marque and appeal to a more diverse audience.

The design work includes a new wordmark, typeface, as well as a refined version of the brand’s Spirit of Ecstasy symbol.

rolls royce new identity

The new identity has been prompted by a changing demographic. There are now calls for an “edgier, alternative Rolls-Royce”, according to the brand. As well as an increase in female drivers, the age demographic for a typical Rolls-Royce driver has changed. The average age of an owner is now 43.

In recent years the brand has also moved into what it calls a “House of Luxury” — last year it produced a Champagne Chest as part of its accessories collection. The new identity had to meet all these demands while remaining true to the brand’s heritage. The digital application is key, as Rolls-Royce has highlighted online as crucial to its communication with a younger audience.

“New audiences”

rolls royce new logo

Willer says that the new identity needed to be “forward-facing” as well as targeting “new audiences”. She adds that not coming from a background in car design has helped her see the brand from an outsider’s perspective (Willer did design the identity for the Ferrari exhibition at the Design Museum in 2017).

“The vantage point provided me with the opportunity to observe Rolls-Royce as a manufacturer of luxury products,” she says. The identity has been in development for around a year, though Willer has worked with the brand before on the identities of its two biennial initiatives, Dream Commission and Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge.

Willer’s redesign centres on the Spirit of Ecstasy, one of the brand’s most recognisable symbols. The sculpture features on the prow of all Rolls-Royce vehicles and the two-dimensional version has been given a raised prominence in the new identity. The physical badge which appears on cars and the brand’s monogram has not been changed.

The updated Spirit of Ecstasy

Pentagram commissioned illustrator Chris Mitchell to create a “distilled form of the iconic statuette”. The illustration has been simplified but drawn in a way that adds depth to the emblem, which Willer says is important to show the three-dimensional origins of the figurine.

Most noticeably, her position has changed from left to right, as it is commonly believed that facing the right is facing the future.

“The Spirit of Ecstasy can now be interpreted as the muse for the marque, in addition to the motor cars themselves,” Willer adds. It appears across wider parts of the visual identity, such as social media platforms. Rolls-Royce intends for the symbol to become a prominent part of its lifestyle branding in the future.

Colour palette

An updated colour palette is an attempt to create a more “expressive” visual language which would appeal to both male and female clients. The traditional black was “hard and masculine”, Willer says.

A mix of bright purple hues and fluorescent tones have been chosen. The purple in particular was picked as a nod to royalty and a sense of historical luxury. A special tone, Purple Spirit, has been chosen as the marque’s signature colour.

While gold was previously used in the identity, there is now a rose gold tone which will be used for printed forms.

Updated packaging that uses the new colour scheme

“Timeless expression”

Willer has also updated the wordmark, looking to the brand’s history as inspiration. The studio found typography from the visual archives in the 1930s which emulated an Art Deco style. This was part of updating details from the “brand’s DNA”, Willer says.

In the wordmark “Motor Cars” has been reduced in size to emphasise the marque’s name. Smaller details — such as the angled ends of the two Ls — were key, the designer adds.

The two Rs appear bigger here to echo the monogram. This “obsession over detail” and bespoke quality of the wordmark shows the shift from corporate to lifestyle brand, she adds.

A new typeface, Riviera Nights, has been adopted for the identity which is an iteration of the brand’s former typeface Gil Sans.

As the marque hopes to move into a wider world of luxury goods, Pentagram has created a pattern for an extended visual language. The Spirit of Ecstasy Expression resembles a silk fabric, but is generated digitally.

It can be used for digital communication and also created for printing, embroidery and engraving. Rolls-Royce says that it will become a “distinctive and recognisable element of the marque’s visual language”.

The Spirit of Ecstasy Expression

What do you think of the redesign? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Jeff August 25, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    I’m afraid it’s too small and detailed for social media. Hard to read.

  • john papa August 26, 2020 at 7:17 am

    I cannot see “edgier”. And i question this thing designers have with changing the past by using terms such as more “expressive” visual language which would “appeal to both male and female clients”. I dont think they really care…all that matters is its a RR and they have one.

  • Jonathan Bonsey August 27, 2020 at 11:23 am

    I agree with John Papa. The word “Edgier” brings me out in a rash and in the context of Rolls Royce even more so. The word can’t really have been part of the brief from RR management surely? The new identity system is not “edgier” in the slightest. It’s downright beautiful. The word ‘Edible’ might be more fitting.

  • Eleazar Hernandez August 28, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    Honestly, I am underwhelmed. Pentagram is such a large and respected firm that everyone tends to believe whatever bullshit rationale for a design they toss out as the gospel. Time and time again, they push out work that utilizes a sans-serif (Helvetica, Gills Sans, or Futura-esque) font, they design a nominal mark or make a couple of small visual edits to an existing mark and everyone stands up and cheers. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pentagram, I admire and respect most projects they have done. I am just tired of reading rationale that is not valid or sounds like bullshit made up to justify what a design team felt like producing.

    How does using the color purple, streamlining an icon, using a filter-inspired treatment, and polishing a sans-serif logo equal something that speaks to a more diverse, edgier audience? A sans-serif double R “echos” their monograms?! Designing a logo that is fit for a mall clothing store targets the “new” 43-year-old female Rolls-Royce driver?! So the new demographic all love sans-serif fonts and the color purple? C’mon! Really? Sounds like a bunch of crap a second-year design student would spew out.

    My point is, just because Pentagram has done great, thought-provoking, or even industry-changing design in the past doesn’t mean every single project that comes from them is worthy of the same veneration.

    On a positive note, I do commend the team that was able to sell this solution and actually convince Rolls-Royce that it is good.

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