New Commercial Arts (NCA) has overhauled Nationwide’s new identity in a bid to position it as a “dependable disrupter” in the financial services industry with a refined colour palette and logo.
This marks the building society’s first major rebrand since 1987. Nationwide chief customer, brand and engagement officer Catherine Kehoe defines Nationwide as “a scaled challenger” as it “doesn’t do banking in the way that traditional banks do”, however, it has “more trust and experience” than new banks or fin-techs, like Monzo or Revolut she adds. NCA co-founder Rob Curran and his team took the idea of Nationwide as a “dependable disrupter” and applied it to everything from the wordmark and icon to the colour palette and illustrations.
“A real design heritage”
Staying true to Nationwide’s heritage was part of NCA’s brief and Curran says he found “a real design heritage” in the archives, particularly with typography. He describes the archived fonts as “friendly yet grown up” and notes how there was a lot of condensed lettering, which has now “come back into favour”.
For the wordmark, NCA designed a customised version of Founders Grotesk. Modifications included “opening the terminals of the e and the a” and “rounding the tittles of the i’s” to soften the font, says Curran.
A noticeable change is Nationwide’s move to a lowercase n. Aesthetically, this makes all letters the same height, Curran feels that a capital N would disrupt the flow from the icon into the wordmark. The goal was to make the wordmark appear “modern but familiar” and “simultaneously bold and humble”, which invovled hundreds of iterations, according to Curran. Building Society was also dropped from the wordmark in an effort to make it “cleaner and sharper”, Kehoe adds.
Taking influence from Nationwide ads from the late 80s and early 90s, NCA switched Nationwide’s serif heading font from Cabernet to Editorial, pairing is with an unmodified version of Founders Grotesk for body copy.
“A rising sun”
Nationwide’s village icon has been relatively untouched structurally since 1987. Initially, both NCA and Nationwide were unsure whether the circle icon in the logo was a tree or a sun, until the archives revealed that it was green in older versions, according to Curran.
Despite this, he says testing revealed that most people see it as “a rising sun” which carries positive connotations and frames the house nicely, given that Nationwide’s core brand is mortgages. He explains how NCA reduced and simplified the icon to the point where it is still familiar but “if it was reduced any more you’d lose it”.
After removing the “fussiness” of the village icon, NCA was left with the “dominant shapes” and used negative space to paint the familiar house shape in front of the rising sun icon, says Curran. He adds that it was “instantly recognised as Nationwide” during testing.
Replacing stock illustrations, NCA designed a new suite of ownable assets in which the sun plays a role. Curran describes how the sun “casts shadows on the illustrations” which appear in uniform red, white and blue hues and are “intended primarily for meaning”, rather than being ornamental.
Nationwide also ditched its character illustrations with exaggerated proportions and NCA made the decision to omit photography from the new identity. This was in favour of making things “useful and meaningful” rather than having “arbitrary reflections of random people”, says Curran.
“A sea of sameness”
Blue is a common colour across the financial services sector and Nationwide wanted to avoid the “sea of sameness” of traditional banks while avoiding the “fin-tech, neo-bank look and feel”, like Monzo and Revolut, says Curran. He thinks that the latter was initially “new and fresh” but has now become dominated by neon.
The blue and the red of the old identity was “showing its age the most”, according to Curran, as it was “too bright, too brash and too primary”. He notes that, with the new palette, Nationwide was conscious of not “cheapening the experience” but neither did it want to “give off signals of luxury”.
Nationwide’s new darker blue was chosen with accessibility in mind and has a “really good contrast ratio” with the new red tone, AAA accessibly in large text and AA in regular text and graphics, Curran reveals.
A secondary palette of accent colours comes into play, with names like reflected summer yellow, bakery orange, and charm pink. Curran explains how these hues are inspired by “colours from society” and provide an “accent of warmth and modernity against the blue”, but will never be seen on large applications.
Colour is also used in a functional way in the new identity, which has not been done in the sector before, according to Curran and Kehoe. Kehoe describes the new bank cards as “stunningly simple and accessible”, as they use colour to signify which type of account the card relates to.
In the physical branches, the wordmark will appear on the façade lit from behind with the icon also displayed on the hanging signs, which protrude from the outer wall. Nationwide’s new identity has already started to roll out over the weekend of 7-8 October across 12 branches, with all 605 due to be finished by July 2024 and new banks cards will appear from 23rd October.