EDP Identity

EDP Identity

Case Study By
Sagmeister & Walsh
August 2010–April 2011; launched January 7, 2011
Project Title
EDP Identity
  • Creative director: Stefan Sagmeister
  • Art director, designer and illustrator: Jessica Walsh
  • Designers: Stephane Elbaz, Michael Freimuth and Richard The

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. 


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.


The identity system we created for EDP is flexible. It has the ability to transform into different shapes while still speaking clearly in a single language. (Creative director: Stefan Sagmeister; Art director, designer and illustrator: Jessica Walsh; Designers: Stephane Elbaz, Michael Freimuth and Richard The)


Instead of having only one logo, EDP now has 11 logos that can be used interchangeably. (Designer and illustrator: Jessica Walsh)


Our goal being to visualize energy, we wanted to use four basic shapes and layer them in different ways to create various changeable logos. (Creative director: Stefan Sagmeister; Art director, designer and illustrator: Jessica Walsh; Designer: Stephane Elbaz, Michael Freimuth and Richard The)


EDP is a world leader: number one on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index when it comes to producing renewable energy. When you’re actually green, you don’t have to flaunt it. (Creative director: Stefan Sagmeister; Art director, designer and illustrator: Jessica Walsh; Additional illustrators: Stephane Elbaz, Michael Freimuth and Xavi Garcia)


In keeping with EDP’s rich and expansive collection of logo marks, the brand also maintains a growing library of iconographic artwork. (Creative director: Stefan Sagmeister; Art director, designer and illustrator: Jessica Walsh; Designer: Stephane Elbaz, Michael Freimuth and Richard The)


We designed a custom EDP typeface with the help of typographer Ondrej Jób. (Typeface designer: Ondrej Jób)


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.

Additional information

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.

Juror Comments

"This bold identity for EDP heralds a new way of thinking in the sustainability space. When companies provide evidence of environmental, cultural and economic success, they do not need to resort to the tired indicators of being “green.” EDP confidently displays its global leadership in producing renewable energy through a vibrant and dynamic system that excites the ideas of progress and promise. Truly creative, the EDP branding is a breakout moment for design as a strategic business lever." —Valerie Casey

"I really like this rebrand because of its juxtaposition of complexity and simplicity. Everything feels incredibly cohesive because of the color red (the company knew they had brand equity in that color so it was kept for consistency), but the library of icons and interchangeable logos makes for a very complex visual identity. I also think the rounded sans stencil typeface that was commissioned is very interesting."  Jessica Hische

"Energetic without oil, green without being green—what I liked about this project was its proposition of a systemic solution. The elemental, four-shape “kit of parts” can be recombined in infinite variations to visualize energy. How renewable is that?Brad Johnson

"Moved the needle. Inspirational. The flexible and seemingly infinite ways that the identity system builds and extends the brand is the beauty and genius behind this design solution. MTV and Nickelodeon travelled down this path before. It’s news when an energy company embraces this approach.Clement Mok

"Getting people excited about a utility brand is a tough challenge given the relative unsexiness of the subject matter. The modular illustration system Jessica Walsh developed is both visually intriguing and emotionally uplifting, thereby creating a sense of excitement for people not typically engaged with energy and utilities." Josh Rubin

"Modular, flexible, malleable, responsive identity programs are quite in vogue at the moment. This is a rare example of one that was conceived and executed extremely well. From its 11 logo variants to its simple, four-shape illustration system and custom typeface, this single-color identity program is both restrained and exuberant. While seemingly endlessly flexible, it also manages to speak with a singular voice. Aside from its technical achievements and beauty, the design also stands out as an innovative and surprising solution for a sustainable energy company." Christopher Simmons

"Although I wanted more insights into the process, I am a champion of pushing the boundaries of how corporations express who they are. How refreshing to have an energy company not use green, and to position themselves as friendly and not arrogant. I love challenging how a symbol should function, but realize that the whole look and feel is actually more memorable than the morphing trademark itself. I would have liked to see more applications to better understand the way this strategy was applied in a static environment." Alina Wheeler


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