LCD TV, logo, packaging
this is the story of the rebirth of an 80 year old brand. an austrian brand well known in the first half of the last century for its quality and reliability. MINERVA products were exported all over the world. europe, africa, and even china were the destinations for the first FM radios, for the first transportable transistor radios made in austria, and for early color TVs [in the 1950's].
now the brand is back as a synonym for premium and high-class entertainment electronics. GP was commissioned to create their first products of the digital age, the overture of the re-launch. for this very reason GP carried out a brand positioning programme using product design.
to be positioned as a premium brand does not mean cost can be as high as desired. still we had to aim at a specific price point, development and production had to fit a given economical frame set.
furthermore already existing technical constraints and specifications did not allow any extraordinary design revolution. what could be more exciting to the GPdesignteam? a big challenge, but finally we reached a solution that at the beginning was perceived as almost impossible.
brand building through product design using the GPanalyzer model
it is not that new, that product design influences brand values. but that brand development starts with the product design and that the product design, the form factor, ignites the rest of the brand building scheme makes this project exceptional. again, MINERVA is the first using a new technique of the future.
although one might had thought of just a simple face lift project, we developed the form factor with an extremely complex process. after all this project was aimed to position the new MINERVA brand as a high-quality, premium brand. be aware that manufacturer of LCD-flat screens are faced with the problem today that the product has the trend to disappear.
the GPanalyzer model stood at the beginning of the project. we started the research collecting elements, form features, and signs that are able to represent the premium world. not only in the electronic sector but in wide range of product categories, from furniture to food, from fashion to jewelry. in that way we got a thorough image of the premium universe in that our target group lives — or at least wants to live.
at the same time we sorted out which features have quite the opposite meaning to avoid getting the design language contaminated by signs that belong to other targets. at the end we knew exactly what makes an electronic product part of the high-end spectrum and what makes it an agent of the mass market [which was to be avoided by all means].
after this set-up we had all our tools ready to shoot in the right direction. we were not aiming at the hi-tech addicted, greedy for technical performance; nor at super shiny glossy shouting surfaces. we found out that we had to go for those who want a TV to be an object with class and elegance, even if it is turned off. we created a TV that integrates with furniture of different interior styles in an acceptable way. if we were to find an equivalent for the MINERVA flat screen in the fashion world we could say that this TV is the giorgio armani of the TV world: exclusive elegance that does not show off with its superior quality.
how to proceed?
as mentioned earlier, one of the challenges we were faced with is that the TVs of our days have the trend to disappear. LCD or plasma technology is about thinness, though the visible elements, apart from the screen itself, is becoming less and less. in addition to this we were to set a visual style that is easily transferable to products that might become part of the MINERVA range in the future.
that's how we entered the more pragmatic design exploration phase. the whole design team was capable to explore solutions within a wide range of characteristic features.
we divided the TV set into its main parts, identified the major problems and explored each piece separately and how it could communicate the brand at its best. the face of the TV, the stand, the materials, the architecture of the product. we did not touch the remote control for that moment, because it is an oem product and could not be changed.
at some point we thought about how could a MINERVA TV look in the near future, when the screen will be very thin, say 10 mm, and the frame will nevermore exist. in that case we would transfer the brand identity to a second element that contains the electronics. that would be a designed box that is then representing the product, communicating with the thin screen on the wall and the remote control. such a unit could be the core design element of minervas future.
but for the first product we had to step back from our visionary view anyway. exploring with a wide view gave us the understanding which was important to keep and what could have been skipped for creating the base for this young brand. the major design solution was to focus on the face and the stand of the TV.
the face is one of the most important features of this product. it is the major brand communicator. to understand this point of view it helps to think about car design: the front end of a car has all the signs to easily recognise the car's brand. sensible people can even identify the brand of the following car by watching the front light pattern, though it differs strongly from brand to brand — at least for the big brands this takes effect.
how are car manufacturer pushing on this?
when we think of a car, more often than not, we think on the front of the car, not the side or rear. for a TV that is even more important. a TV is always viewed from the front, almost never from the side or the back [only if the object is part of the exhibition in the museum of modern art]. for all these reasons we incorporated design features into the MINERVA TV that it could be easily recognized at one glance. helpful especially when the MINERVA flat screen is presented next to its competitors at the point of purchase. we wanted the MINERVA screen to be something fully different from the other brands, but fitting our initially identified target market. this gave us the profile of the visual language, strong and elegant and easy to remember at the same time.
the road to identity
looking at a TV means focusing on the screen. the visual element underneath the screen serves as a kind of a guide. you could read it like a part of a highway with its converging lines, showing the direction to infinity, into the sunset.
there is something more to say about this feature later.
when we finally arrived at this point we found out, why this element is so strong and perfectly fitting the brand. research found out that there was a radio manufactured by MINERVA in the late 50's which uses a quite similar wave.
this key feature gives a strong memorability to the product, a strong identity to the brand, yet in a different way than the competitors. furthermore, this wave is a solution easy transferable to future products and can be adapted to new materials and finishings as well.
there is one more thing
the stand was the second main element that we were focusing on. all LCD-flat screens on the market have a kind of pedestal, which are all not as wide as the screen. we needed something more sound for 2 reasons: firstly to reach and emphasise our »face design« and secondly to fit our target profile. we knew from our research and analysis phase that a pedestal was the wrong direction. not only because it belongs to the low and mid range mass market brands but also because it does not fit our target group. there should be no element just for decoration, to show off. if MINERVA is the armani of TVs, elegance and class are key.
a computer screen needs a pedestal to bring it to eye level. but why, for heaven's sake, do people think that this is necessary for the home TV, too? normally the TV set is located on [sits onto] a piece of furniture. a pedestal would have no functional purpose, except decorative. often these pedestals have organic shapes, reminiscent of chandeliers, that perfectly mismatch with the square, rational shape of the screen. such a solution fits other targets but not ours.
we decided to make a feet all the way long, as wide as the main case itself. a continuos plate that does not lift up the screen but just holds it in position and acts as a kind of stage where the TV is star. it is not an object by itself but an element of second level, that stays in the background, only supporting, the »red carpet« where the vip stands out.
and now for something completely different
after we had designed the product the brand values where set. now management asked us to design the brand-mark itself, the new MINERVA logo. we were not seeking super-creative-special-original logo. instead we searched for a mark which says premium in this class, unique when compared with brands like loewe or b&o.
we started trying to proceed with the historical lettering but quickly we realized that this does not make sense if we are to meet our target profile. again we analyzed what makes a brand look premium. one key features of premium brands is capital letters. guided by the MINERVA lady, akzidenz grotesk was the typeface of choice. but it would not fit the high standards of GP if we only set the name in a given typeface. thorough investigation brought to light that the name asks for some retouches of the typography. we believed that the M at the beginning and the A at the end should interact in a way. we changed the letter form in a way, so that they were perceived as symmetrical ends, allied to each other. thus the E becomes the centre of the word.
and here it is again — the wave of MINERVA, the highway to the horizon, the cue for concentration. in doing so the logo perfectly blends into the product appearance. product graphic evolves naturally.
another key to premium is to space out the letters. we tried hundreds of version to find the correct one.
and finally, the color. very delicate to choose, for it should act as a broker of the brand values, yet not looking superficial and nouveau riche. we went for black and a special brown, well kind of matt gold.
a different approach for the packaging as well
with all these ingredients of the visual corporate identity we started to develop packaging and marketing material. the idea was to move the appearance away from the technological appeal of all those electronic gadgets available in the market today towards a different mood. more like the package of a high priced fragrance than a TV-box. watching television has to do with light, so we used elements of the logo as secondary elements standing for light beams moving in the background.
this gave a somewhat androgynous look to the product and its promotional material. the purpose to shift a more or less male product towards a more or less female style is profounded that a TV is often seen as a kind of furniture. women have a massive influence and therefore should be considered more often in the technical world than they are nowadays. they are a strong group of customers. fortunately GP is watching that trend and is taking care of their needs too. MINERVA, the product is the brand.
»after the decision was made to revive the traditional austrian brand MINERVA — previously renowned for its elegance and lasting value — for LCD TVs which we developed and produced ourselves, we commissioned GP designpartners to create a corporate design for MINERVA.
the particular challenge was to create a design which was distinctive without being gross, and which would ideally be 'inconspicuously conspicuous'. as an austrian manufacturer we deliberately chose to use austrian design; on the one hand to differentiate ourselves from the asian-dominated competition, and on the other hand to further strengthen the associations between MINERVA and austria.
GP designpartners solved this complex task brilliantly, and were not afraid to go 'back to the drawing board' several times during the creative process before they finally succeeded in optically nailing down the core statement of MINERVA. contributory factors were the broad range of experience and competencies of GP designpartners, their close cooperation with our product development, and the openness in communications between us.
today, our MINERVA televisions have been successfully launched. the comprehensive corporate design developed by GP designpartners has created a stable basis for the successful future of the MINERVA brand.«