Established in 2001, Mailchimp is a marketing platform for small businesses. Its core offering is one of the most popular email campaign and marketing delivery systems used by designers, non-designers, and pretty much everyone. There is no formal figure to be found, but their number of users is in the millions. Since its founding, they have now expanded into a “leading marketing platform for small businesses” (which, to be honest, I’m not sure what it means, but in principle it means that there is more to Mailchimp than email marketing). Yesterday, Mailchimp introduced a new identity designed by the San Francisco, CA, office of COLLINS and Mailchimp’s in-house design team.
Disclaimer: Mailchimp has been a sponsor of our Brand New Conference since 2010 and has advertised on our blogs on and off since the mid to late 2000s. I have been using Mailchimp since 2010 (here is the first campaign we sent). My opinion is definitely influenced by this — I would be kidding you if I said it wasn’t. Luckily, the redesign rocks, so it makes writing this praising review a lot easier. I don’t think it needs to be stated but it should be stated anyway: this post is not paid in any way by Mailchimp. If it gets too chummy it’s simply a testament to how great they are as a company, a product, and a supporter of creative endeavors.
In partnership with the in-house Brand Team, we sought to capture and elevate the ineffable Mailchimp spirit, a potent combination of wry humor, modest celebration, and a dash of absurdity. We developed a new brand system that, in each element, works to maintain a precise balance between the sophisticated and the surreal (bucking reductive, over-simplified design trends), to better chart the company’s unique path and expression. The solution seeks to amplify Mailchimp as beacon for its customers, a message to growing brands that growing up doesn’t mean erasing your peculiarities.
The evolution retains all the elements that endeared the brand to its first fervent fans while creating space for Mailchimp to grow and speak with greater authority to a wider audience.
With this redesign, we set out to retain all the weird, lovable elements that endeared our earliest customers to Mailchimp, while creating space for the brand to grow and connect with even more small businesses. We didn’t want to lose our heritage in the process, so we focused on capturing the essence of what Mailchimp has always been.
The Freddie icon has long been our brand’s primary mark. We’ve simplified it a bit, with tweaks to its shape and fine details to make sure it looks great at any size.
Previously, our beloved logo script and Freddie icon had hierarchy issues and never appeared together. This meant the icon wasn’t always recognizable on its own. Through a process of iteration and refinement, we’ve developed a wordmark that lives in harmony with the Freddie icon to build equity for both.
Mailchimp’s script logo has always been a favorite of mine, even before Jessica Hische updated it and made it a hundred times better. In a sea of sans serif logos, their script stood out with personality and quirkiness. Their Freddie icon always seemed lost though as it was never meant to be locked up with the wordmark and sometimes it appeared as the hero, sometimes it disappeared, but it never quite established a link as being a logo. It’s worth noting that originally, way back in 2001, Freddie and the wordmark lived together as designed by Mailchimp’s co-founder, Ben Chestnut, and now they are back together again.
Freddie has been given a much needed single-color treatment — there used to be one too before, but the main use was in color — and simplified for wider reproduction; less fur, no “M” on the cap, cleaner ear, simpler hairline. All improvements that maintain the icon’s equity but make for a much more functional device.
The biggest change, obviously, is the loss of the script. It was great and I will miss it. But the shift is made much easier by a new, equally quirky wordmark that gives not a single damn about the current trends in mainstream identity design and introduces a custom piece of typography with plenty of personality and a great visual presence that’s impossible to ignore. My only complaint would be that I would have liked to see the “m” uppercased, especially since in communication about the redesign, they are making a big deal that the name of the company is not MailChimp anymore but Mailchimp, with lowercase “c” — so much emphasis is placed on that change that it’s odd that the wordmark doesn’t follow suit. A squat “M” could have looked good too. But it’s fine, it’s all good, because that wordmark is delicious.
Settling on yellow as their brand color is a great move too. In part, yes, because bananas are yellow and monkeys eat bananas but also because it’s such a non-web-platform color, where they all lean to blues and greens. This darker yellow feels both fun and sophisticated, especially when paired with black.
Cavendish Yellow is an energetic brand expression building recognition in moments when our voice must be clear and memorable. We anchor on a single color, used with purpose, to drive consistency across all properties.
Cooper Light is our brand typeface. It can be dressed-up and editorial or casual and approachable. You may have seen its larger cousin on dusty old funk records and inside questionable sandwich shops.
The new core typeface is Cooper Light, which is a fine choice. This does build on the rising trend of slightly ironic type choices in part made popular by the Chobani redesign. Going with a light serif does diverge a little, as the trend points towards bolder, sharper serifs.
Our new illustration style allows us to communicate about complex tools and marketing practices in a simpler and more human way.
To create the art for this system, we worked with a number of different illustrators around the world in addition to relying on our internal design team. By introducing a variety of artistic voices into our brand, we make room for a diversity of perspectives and visual styles.
Our new animation style is a natural extension of the illustration. We create a moving world where creatures, characters, and objects appear free but observed, and familiar but abstracted. We capture the key qualities of the illustrations through movement, and play with motion in unexpected ways. We also use animations to uncover or enhance moments of surprise found in the content.
The illustrations are fun and weird, especially when they are animated. If you peruse the Mailchimp website sometimes they feel TOO weird and ambiguous. I also get a slight Dropbox illustration vibe, although these are all far more interesting. And weird. I’m not super crazy about the illustration-heavy approach but, on the other hand, I don’t know what else it could be.
When paired with type and some color, the illustrations take on a great Dr. Seuss vibe.
Exploration and experimentation live at the heart of our brand photography. It finds a message in unexpected places and tells a story through surreal scenes and dreamy landscapes.
I’m on the fence about the brand photography. It’s something that can veer into punchline territory very easily. Like, the person jumping photo is cool but what in the world is the woman doing in between two sheets of acrylic? It starts to get too artsy and interpretative in a pretentious way.
One caveat on the redesign might be how much freedom they will now have in all their materials as, up until now, the Mailchimp in-house team has done some amazing, colorful, vibrant, weird, variedly-styled projects that this more defined style could potentially be limiting. (You can get a sense of what I’m talking about here). Overall, though, this is a fantastic update that maintains the weirdness of the company but delivers it in a new grown up style that feels authentic, unique, and bananas.