Balls of Teflon

Let’s not mince words.

No matter what your business environment or size of company, making the decision to undertake a complete brand overhaul takes balls. Rebranding a global corporation—where tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars are a stake in its success—takes balls of TeflonTM.

Who better than DuPont to do just that? This month, DuPont unveiled a new logo and an updated brand identity designed to bring their image in line with new product offerings. This move is indicative of their leadership’s recognition that even a long-established name like DuPont is accountable for keeping up with technological advances and their public perception as innovators.

With a company as deeply ingrained in the corporate world’s collective imagination as DuPont, throwing out 111 years of brand equity (the DuPont oval was originally designed in 1907), was never going to be a viable option. The challenge for the design team was clear: evolve one of history’s most iconic brands without destroying everything the corporation spent a century building. No small feat.

As an example of how easy it is to get these things wrong, I offer you the abysmal 2009 Pepsi rebrand, which in my humble opinion manages to make Pepsi look like a knock-off of itself. So how well did DuPont’s design team do?

In short, very well.

I confess I must qualify my answer with the caveat that only time will tell for sure how successful the exercise has been, but my initial impressions of the rebrand are those of surprise and delight. Surprise in how the evolution of the logo manages to capture the spirit and even the aesthetic of the 1907 creation quite well, and delight that the hard work of their design team paid off. They got it right. There is no re-interpretation needed, no “getting used to” it. It’s fresh, it’s new, and most importantly, it’s still DuPont.

As director of a creative team passionate about thoughtful, well-executed design, I can tell you there’s always a great deal of chatter when a major entity undergoes a rebranding like this. It’s the kind of project a good designer lives for—the industry equivalent of going to the Super Bowl—and if the Monday-morning quarterbacking around the corporate world’s watercoolers sounds anything like ours, then DuPont’s vision and audacity will be well-rewarded.

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