My rebranding Playboy project came to a close last week with the end of our fall semester. If you read the last article, you are familiar with the first part of this project, which was the new logo for Playboy. While it is absolutely the flag bearer of the entire project, the logo development represented a small amount of the work we were required to do for the overall project. The final deliverable for the class was a book in which we the explain history of the brand, walk through our rationale for the new identity, explore the process of the logo development, present brand standards and guidelines, and show example brand implementations and extensions. Other than this required content, there was no specific criteria for the book. Each student also gave a short final presentation explaining their rebranding and the choices they made along the way. Everything was created for the Nature of Identity class at the Academy of Art, as part of the graduate graphic design program.
I really enjoyed the conversation the first post on this project generated. I was excited to see that the new logo was as polarizing as it was — I feel like these types of solutions are the most exciting and rewarding for me. I noticed that many people were up in arms about the idea of Playboy removing nudity and becoming an all article magazine. While I would like to note that the new strategy was purely a conceptual exploration constructed in an educational environment, I actually do think they might be well served to switch things up this drastically. Playboy was once irreverent and boundary shattering. They are no longer. I can think of no better way to recapture this audacious spirit than by doing something this extreme…
Speaking of the articles, you’ll notice the title of the book is “I Read it for the Articles I Swear”, the expression I based much of the rebranding off. As I mentioned in the last post, most people these days do not read it for the articles, they read it for what you see below, which is the first spread of the book.
The goal of the book was the tell the story of the Playboy brand; how it started, what happened along the way, and why I had to come along and rebrand it. To do this effectively I knew I would need a lot of imagery. Thankfully, the internet is a great resource for finding images related to Playboy (though I often had some explaining to do when roommates found print outs of my “project research”). I started the book with a substantial exploration of the history of the brand. The story of Playboy is a fascinating one and I left a lot of room to portray how the brand begun and show exactly what it was like when it started. I included articles about the company, Hugh Hefner, and the original logo development. I also left a lot of room to show scans from old issues that really summed up the vibe of the magazine in its early days.
After you’ve read through the first 20-25 pages of the book, you get a pretty good idea of what the old image was like. As you continue through, more recent spreads of the magazine start to appear and things get…less refined. I included some example images that I felt conveyed what the magazine has become; just another trashy men’s magazine, at home in a frat house, next to a Maxim. Once you reach the halfway point of the book, it is stated that it is time for a repositioning, and everything stops with a spread of grey pages. The original plan was to include a centerfold to divide the book in half, with one side representing the old magazine (with a nude centerfold), and one side representing the new magazine (with a poem or article). While it would have been great to sum up the concept in this one item, there were printing concerns that I did not have time to address.
The paper stock in the beginning was printed on a very glossy, magazine like paper. The quality of the print is amazing and everything looks terrific, albeit a little tawdry due to the magazine like finish. This was intentional, as the second half of the book was printed on a matte off-white stock, providing a stark contrast to the first part of the book, both in look and feel. The idea being that, as you progress through the book (and through the history of the brand), the materials become more sophisticated and elegant. Both sets of pages were printed at Plotnet here in San Francisco. The print process was done on an Xerox 700 Digital Press and the clarity of the text is remarkable. I gravitate towards really small type (3pt..4pt…) and I’ve gotten used to losing some detail on my inkjet. I’m not famililar with the specifics of the laser process, but the output was very detailed and exact. Not to mention fast as anything; one set of 75 pages took about 10 minutes to print.
The second half of the book is all about the repositioning. As the logo is the most prominent portion of this process, it got a large number of pages. It starts with a small selection of the hundreds of sketches I did before deciding on the final mark. While the quality of my sketching may not have deserved as much face time as it gets in the book, I felt like it was important to include, if only to show the evolution of the conceptualizing. The next section is the brand standard manual in which all of the rules for the new brand are explained. I had never produced a full standard manual before and this was one of my favorite parts of the project. Our teacher provided us with many (fascinating) examples of other company manuals (Skype’s is great) and this helped guide the layout. The contents of the section include discussions of all typography, colors, grids and composition regulations, and logo usage.
After you’ve learned exactly why the new brand looks as it does, you finally get to see it in action, with the last section of the book. The official title of this section is the “brand extensions” — basically where we flesh out what the new brand has become by showing it in use. Here is where we are free to concoct whatever new products or services the brand can offer. For example, the new Playboy as I imagine it is not just a magazine. It is now divided into three categories: Playboy Living, Playboy Travel, and Playboy Publishing. Each division has its own color, and each subdivision is identified by a title where the tagline usually is.
For example, one part of the new brand under Playboy Living is called Playboy Mansions. This is basically a realty service where you can buy luxury homes inspired by the new priorities of the brand. Modern, minimal and stylish homes, brought to you by Playboy. You can see a Monocle shop repurposed as the Playboy Realty office in the spread below. Other extensions include Playboy Furniture (for use in the mansion), Playboy Nightlife (a bar called “The Den”, as in a fox’s), and Playboy Children’s (‘What’s Happening to my Body” books for kids).
Imagery for this section of the book was sourced via a combination of personal photos and scans from magazines. I hate to use photos that aren’t my own in projects, but given the scale and breadth of the project, I figured I’d have to scrounge around outside my hard drive for appropriate images. The downside of this is I feel like this limits project’s ability to proliferate much past the educational realm. Fair use etc protects us within the school’s walls, but you torpedo any chance of these portions of the project being able to live on their own.
The first thing I decided regarding the production was that the book was going to be huge. I had never produced a book bigger than letter size, and I thought this project would be a good time to experiment with a large format. The page size turned out to be 11″x17″ — down from 13″x19″ due to printing concerns. While 11″x17″ isn’t exactly massive, it is a good deal bigger than I am used to designing for editorial layout, and I really appreciated all the negative space it afforded me. I wanted there to be a lot of room for the content to breathe.
I may have mentioned it before, but I am a terrible book binder. My Set in Stone project was a mild success, but there were a few glue related incidents that I would rather not repeat. Because of this, I decided on day one that I would be outsourcing the printing and binding of my book. As this decision was made before the project even started, I was able to work on a timeline that took into account the extra month I would need for production. Technically this short changed me one month of design time, but when you know from the beginning that you only have so much time, it really isn’t an issue.
Once I had my pages printed, I took them to The Key in Oakland. I had seen some of their work at student portfolio presentations and had been really impressed with the consistent professional quality. As I had been designing the book, I imagined the cover bound in white leather. The idea being to push the “luxury” aspect a little bit too far. As I continued to think about it, I stopped understanding the rationale behind this decision. I thought it was a good idea in the beginning, then lost sight of what the purpose was. I ended up abandoning the leather idea and used a paper stock with a nice little bit of texture. The graphics were then stamped on with black ink using the dies in the picture below.
The cover itself reads “I Read it for the Articles I Swear – The Story of What Happened to the Playboy Bunny”. I wanted to put my new logo right on the front, but my teacher suggested that I find a more subtle solution and leave the new logo “reveal” for the inside. I loved this idea and stuck with it for the final cover. The bow tie hanging down from the top is of course part of the new logo, which you know if you’ve seen it already, but for the new reader, it’s just enough to conjure the brand and get them wondering why it’s hanging out of its normal position around the bunny’s neck. I liked the minimal black and white look, as well as the immediate shock of the slutty first spread in contrast to the cleanliness of the cover.
The end result feels great to hold, though that might just be because I spent three months with the project. Total page count was 75 and production time was about three weeks from printing to binding (book design time was approx 1 month). It’s fantastic to spend so long on a project and end up with such a complete physical manifestation of the process.
I’m still waiting for my invitation to the Playboy mansion (even if it’s only to be reprimanded). Maybe I should send Hef one of the books.