Refreshing a Delectible Brand: Bon Appétit has a New Logo

The editor of Bon Appétit magazine announced this week that the new issue of the magazine features a refresh of its logo, which has gone untouched for seventeen years. As a publication with a substantial history, not to mention a growing circulation of over 1.3 million and a successful website on Epicurious.com, this is a daring and frequently detrimental step for the brand. However, in this case, they've done a nice job at creating a sophisticated yet approachable image by combining a nicely-done custom type project with a well-executed style strategy.
They don't let me write much about design around here, being a strategist and everything, but since I'm a fool for typography, Thanny was gracious enough to let me gush over one of the well-done rebrandings among the many, many, many, many missteps — be careful, that last one may haunt you for a while. I've also been paying attention to food and wine magazines lately, so this definitely caught my eye.
Before, then after: Bon Appetit's old logo Bon Appetit's new logo Bon Appétit employed the well-known type designer Matthew Carter to design a custom typeface for the new logo, a smart choice for a brand currently sporting a logotype. Many custom typefaces for brands end up trying for distinction and uniqueness, with a spin to a certain character here or there. Carter, instead, appears to have made some well-reasoned modifications to a classic.
To my eye, the new typeface is based on/inspired by John Baskerville's namesake type (which is in turn based on the work of John Caslon) and its very popular variation Mrs Eaves. These typefaces are known for their sophistication, while still being approachable and widely usable. Both of these reflect Bon Appétit, but it appears that Carter went for a slightly more youthful slant with the modification, with a heavy stroke and a significant reduction in the stroke's modulation — that is, the variance between the thickest parts of the stroke and the thinnest. He also seems to have increased the x-height, which is essentially the "tall-ness" of lowercase letters compared with capital letters.
Both of these adjustments a call-out to the modern, geometric, modulation-less typefaces we see almost everywhere in pop culture. Helvetica, perhaps the most ubiquitous typeface on the planet, as a very consistent stroke width and a relatively tall x-height. Helvetica is considered a lot of things, but most would agree that it can be youthful and sporty.
This is all not to mention that the "o" and accent-aigu in the logotype will be changed with each issue, so color is a key component, but no specific color is a key component. It's like a Hypercolor shirt except actually attractive.
In the end, many could have combined the properties of Baskerville and Helvetica and yielded an ugly Frankenfont, but Matthew Carter instead yielded a very nice logotype that is youthful and hip, while still having a classic sophistication. And Bon Appétit was smart enough to run with it.
M. Jackson Wilkinson

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Posted in Article Category: #Design & Content
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