Pfizer’s Cool Brand Identity Design for 2021

Pfizer's brand identity design cover

Pfizer is ahead of its Covid vaccine with a brand identity design that supersedes the previous one from 2009.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in the official relaunch statement:
“With Pfizer’s increased commitment to breakthrough science, now is the time to update our identity to reflect that reality”

This redesign of the visual identity was presented on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 by New York design agency Team. Brand consultancy firm Landor & Fitch was in charge of developing the rebrand strategy.

According to statements by those responsible for this design firm, the project took 18 months in its entirety.

Brand Identity Design Analysis

At first sight, the new identity clearly represents the effort of a biotech industry giant like Pfizer to highlight the company’s shift from a diversified healthcare company to one focused on creating prescription drugs and vaccines that prevent and cure disease.

To achieve this, they worked on the concept of simplifying a molecular structure of DNA. This concept can be seen in different elements of rebranding, from the logo design to advertisements, packaging, informative videos, signage, brochures, etc.

The aforementioned simplified structure is presented in 2D and 3D versions according to presentation needs, very much in line with what we predicted as the design trends for 2021. In fact, Pfizer’s new brand identity design uses several of the elements that we predicted would be a trend: Mix of realism and flat design , animation, abstract and geometric shapes and three-dimensional design.

In terms of colors, there are no risks: they decided to play safe and keep on the same hues of blue they have used for decades. See video below:

These shades of blue are very common in corporate design, with very calm and subtle tones that goes to darker (yet still calm) shades. Very classic and clean colors indeed.

However, a color that breaks patterns would be a great idea, specially when you consider the responsive menu used in mobile design (we’ll talk about this later). You can see the colors in the image below for better visualization

Brand Identity Design Colors

Logo Design Analysis

As we all know, brand identity design usually starts with a logo design. And this time is no exception: Pfizer’s logo design guides the whole development of the brand, both in visual and conceptual terms.

The first thing that stands out is that Pfizer abandons its classic oval, which was part of the brand identity since 1940. In other words, it emerges from one of the elements that accompanied the brand identity for 80 years.

It is true that like most large corporations, Pfizer has been very conservative when it comes to its brand image, and from 1940 until today, it had only 3 logos. And each one of them was a small variation of the previous one, either in color or typeface

Pfizer's Logo evolution 1849-2021
From a circle to ovals to… DNA

As you can see in the image above, Pfizer’s logo history started with a black and white logo. This type of logo is known as emblem . From there, they moved to the oval versions. First one still in black and white. 50 years later, they added the blue color, keeping the horizontal oval.

In 2009 they added gradients and the ellipse was rotated slightly pointing up and to the right.

Now 2021 comes with surprises: they ditched the oval and added the “simplified DNA” pictorial branding. They kept more or less the same typeface, only slightly stylized. There are no big changes here.

However, there is an interesting psychological play (not sure if it is intended): the ellipse has not completely disappeared. If you look at the image above, you will see that the logo always had a development or growth. At first it was horizontal, then it acquired color, then it pointed upwards and got gradients. And now, it has a pseudo-3D treatment.

In other words: if you move the elements of the “simplified DNA” shape, you get the oval in pseudo-3d and create an impossible shape called a Mobius Strip. This particular impossible shape is a common representation of infinity

Pfizer logo as a Möbius strip
Move the logo elements and you get a Möbius strip

In short: the logo looks modern, playful yet classic and has some hidden meaning. This is the kind of logo that will stand for a long time (maybe 80 years?) and something any designer working on brand identity design field loves to achieve: simple, memorable, classic.

The verdict is: AAA+

Brand Elements and Collaterals

The rebrand comes with several graphic elements based on the logo colors and concept. These elements work as visual identity and voice for the whole brand.

The design company in charge of this project presented several examples of brand usage based on some brand guidelines. However, the brand guidelines are unknown for the time being, so we don’t know for sure how will they apply such guidelines. We assume they’ll have a brandbook for the project, so we’ll need to wait. For now, the presentation is a bit strange, with design construction grids that are very difficult to understand.

Example of grid used in an ad
A grid used in an ad. Note how the columns have padding, something strange for an advertisement . We can see the grid has different sizes as well
visual identity rebranding grids
In this case, we see an ad with different grids, this time without padding

There are also other elements that look really nice and bring the concept to life, such as 3D animations throughout the whole website. See example video below:

Typography

Pfizer’s new brand identity design makes use of a free Google font, which is a quite curious thing for an established company. The chosen font is Noto Sans , designed in-house by Google.

The reason to use Noto Sans is related to the multiple glyphs and language support. From Noto’s page:

Noto helps to make the web more beautiful across platforms for all languages. Currently, Noto covers over 30 scripts, and will cover all of Unicode in the future. This is the Sans Latin, Greek and Cyrillic family. It has Regular, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic styles and is hinted. It is derived from Droid, and like Droid it has a serif sister family, Noto Serif.

https://fonts.google.com/specimen/Noto+Sans#about

And you can see the same concept in one of the animations of the brand presentation website:

Pfizer's Cool Brand Identity Design for 2021 2
Pfizer’s new user experience keeps cultural accessibility in mind

While free, Noto Sans is an excellent choice, and it shows on all applications of the brand, no matter if printed or digital. The clean and simple lines that are characteristic of this typographic font and the multicultural and multi-language features makes for a perfect choice.

Rebrand and User Experience

As with many rebranding efforts, digital user interfaces are a bit iffy (as an exmple, see the full analysis we did for Burger King’s rebranding). Sometimes this happens because of the rush, sometimes because the designer or project manager doesn’t really care about digital media.

We don’t know what the case is here, but the website design and responsive mobile version seem like a half-done job.

Also, the UI design was not applied to all pages, so you can see a mix of old style pages and new rebranding pages coexisting together.

new user interface example
Example of new user interface for Pfizer’s rebrand
old user interface example
This page with completely different design guidelines is in the same site as well. Different font, colors and style. Only the logo is the same.

The case of the responsive version for mobile is somewhat more extreme. It has very serious spacing problems, which are easily solvable. But as mentioned above, the lack of a consistent color guide culminates in something extremely messy by using random colors that have no point of contact with the new color palette.

Pfizer's Cool Brand Identity Design for 2021 3
Colors out of palette, blurry icons, lack of consistency in sizes and overall treatment. And this is just the menu.

A striking detail in the mobile version is the location of the logo. Unlike most of the sites that place it in the upper left or even in the center, in this case the designer decided to place it on the right.

Since we do not know the research behind this decision, we cannot venture an opinion, only to say that it is a striking decision.

Finally, the new version has very minor accessibility issues. This is refreshing news, since the old version (still visible in the site on most pages) has very serious accessibility problems. We hope Pfizer’s website design company standardizes the whole site rebrand soon.

Visual Identity Design and accessibility issues
Example of old brand identity design with accessibility issues. In this case, small font size and very low contrast

Overall, the UI design looks like a half done work, so we expect it to change soon. At the time of writing this article ( a bit over a week after the brand identity relaunch), this is what we found.

Pfizer’s Brand Identity Design Conclusions

Overall, we think this rebranding campaign will be a success and will achieve all its goals. The logo design is beautiful and leaves no room for any criticism, it’s just perfect.

The pieces that accompany the new design are really very well thought out and very classy. We can talk about a corporate design that is conservative but elegant, without looking outdated.

We’re not sure what the plans are for this new brand identity design in reference to the long-awaited and anticipated Covid-19 vaccine.

However, we estimate that Pfizer launched the rebranding as media support for the launch of the vaccine (not yet approved by the FDA). In this way, the communications regarding the launch will have a modern and consistent image.

The only item to criticize is related to the user experience, more specifically to the user interface (UI), both on desktop and mobile.

However, it is fair to acknowledge that large corporations typically do not have good user experiences in almost any sense. And this is especially visible in certain industries such as chemical and pharmacological, of which Pfizer is a part.

Therefore, considering the context, and based on a possible update of its digital media, we can say that this rebranding is quite above the average in its industry. Time will tell, but they hardly make such a well thought out rebranding effort to put aside the main means of contact with users.

Bottom line: a great redesign job on pretty much every line. Hopefully these types of jobs will become more common in big pharma and chem industries.

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