Case Study: EDP Identity
Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2013 “Justified” competition, for which an esteemed jury identified 14 submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. To learn more about the jury’s perspective on this selection, see the juror comments.
EDP’s old logo represented a smiling red mouth placed in a square. The smile was tired and off-kilter, but research showed that the company possessed considerable equity in the color red, being the only major brand in Portugal to use that color extensively. As EDP is a world leader—number one on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index when it comes to producing renewable energy—we did not have to take the usual energy rebranding route of depicting a green sun or a leafy tree. When you’re actually green, you don’t have to flaunt it.
EDP had its last rebranding in 2004. It’s now a very different company thanks to significant growth over the last five years. Today, EDP is a global brand operating in 13 countries, with 60 percent of its earnings generated outside of Portugal—evidence of their evolution from a national to a truly international company. The decision to rebrand came naturally. Every trademark has a lifecycle, and we were of the view that the old logo, “the smile,” no longer represented EDP’s position, nor that of their market.
EDP’s CEO, Antonio Mexia, provides clear leadership, and we had access to him for all of the important decisions. EDP also had a proper budget and a realistic timeline for the project.
When we began work on the new branding, we knew exactly what we did and didn’t want. We wanted to innovate—to create an image that represented EDP in Portugal and the rest of the countries where the brand is present. We wanted a dynamic brand that would be perceived as human, sustainable and innovative. The most important concepts to communicate were EDP’s values. We chose to focus on three specific values: humanity, innovation and sustainability.
Although EDP is a global company that does business in Europe, South America and—to a lesser extent—the United States, they are not completely viable around the world. However, they have an excellent product. Sixty percent of the energy they currently produce is renewable. To put this into perspective, consider the fact that the U.S. is trying to achieve a goal of 20 percent energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The new EDP identity is built using four fundamental shapes: a circle, half-circle, square and triangle. These four shapes have been combined and layered to build 85 unique EDP logo marks, resulting in a modular identity that is transparent, innovative and customizable. The logo marks may evolve over time, much like the EDP brand. The graphic language itself includes hundreds of representational illustrations that can be combined to tell more complex stories. We created this video that defines the EDP brand.
We also created a commercial to introduce the new EDP identity, highlight EDP’s impressive numbers relating to renewable energy and communicate EDP’s commitment to people. Both EDP and the new brand are dynamic. Instead of having only one logo, EDP now has 11 logos that may be used interchangeably.
In the process of developing voiceovers for the commercial, Stefan Sagmeister, Jessica Walsh and EDP discussed the right tone for the brand. The company specifically wanted the accent to feel “international.” We also began work on a Portuguese-language version, although EDP clearly specified that it shouldn’t “sound Brazilian.” The client told us this would be a sticking point from the get-go, because they needed something very precise, and we didn’t necessarily speak Portuguese. However, our Brazilian designer was able to assist in discussing and interpreting the nuances of the Portuguese language with the client.
Not being located in the same country or time zone as our client was a challenge, but it also had a focusing effect in that we had to make the most of our in-person presentations. Particularly in instances when we were close to delivery deadlines, we had numerous phases during which we were communicating several times a day.
The new EDP brand is flexible, open and innovative. In essence, it is a new language. Clear, inclusive and comprehensive, it plays a truly supportive role in the company’s narrative—not only in terms of form, but also conceptually, offering innumerable possibilities and transformations. The 11 interchangeable logos represent innovation and richness; they are dynamic and variable, like the company itself.
Because EDP already provided 98 percent of electric energy to Portuguese households when we began work on the project, their market share was not expected to change as a result of the rebranding.