Design firm Pentagram uses “circular logic” to bring the financial institution into the digital-payment era.
Last week Mastercard revealed an updated brand identity with the unveiling of a new minimalist logo – the brand’s first redesign in 20 years. With the goal of modernizing and optimizing the brand for the digital era, the financial institution’s new logo and brand identity system will launch in late July, alongside Mastercard’s newly enhanced digital payment system, Masterpass. As the company’s most “comprehensive brand design system” to date, both Mastercard’s redesign and its updated Masterpass service signify the brand’s continuing effort to remain innovative in the increasingly competitive digital transaction industry.
Although Mastercard has successfully evolved over the years by introducing digital products and new technologies for credit card payment systems, the brand’s iconic logo—two intersecting circles with a wordmark superimposed—was stuck in the 1990s, according to FastCoDesign. Furthermore, the way people buy and pay for things has changed dramatically over the past two decades, with a host of new payment platforms – such as PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay – now available.
To help them create a new and simplified identity system for the modern-era that would also help clarify the brand to its millions users around the world, Mastercard hired the international design firm, Pentagram, to lead the brand’s makeover.
“Everything has changed in the past 20 years,” said Michael Bierut, the Pentagram partner who oversaw Mastercard’s rebranding project. “There was a lot of screw tightening and design tinkering happening [with the logo] in the first 30 years of the company. Then they almost got frozen in 1996.”
In an interview with Adweek, MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar said that although Mastercard wanted a new and simpler design that would better translate across digital platforms, the brand was also acutely aware of the existing logo’s brand equity, and was careful not to veer too drastically from its universally-recognizable logo.
“The key for us is the equity in that logo—we have to leverage that going into the future,” Rajamannar said. “We had to retain the most recognizable elements of our brand, which are the interlocking circles, the red and yellow colors, and the name Mastercard itself.”
To help bring the financial instruction into the digital-payment era, while still maintaining the brand’s existing equity, Pentagram implemented “circular logic” when redesigning Mastercards’s new logo and identity, with circles serving as the basis for brand’s broader new design system.
In addition to implementing a new font system that was chosen for its circular, sleek, modern look, Pentagram followed the current design trend several corporate logos are opting for –simple one-dimensional shapes and serif-free basic fonts that better translate across digital formats. Verizon and Google are among a slew of companies who have moved in a similar design direction over the last year.
Now, instead of two circles interlocking, the updated Mastercard logo has two circles that blend into one another in a Venn diagram-like fashion. In addition to the simplified circular icon, the white and shadowed typeface that was previously placed inside the two interlocking circles, is now located outside and below the circles, making the logo more flexible and easier to render horizontally or vertically.
Mastercard also dropped its traditional use of the camel case, or the practice of writing compound words with a capital letter. Now, instead of ‘MasterCard’ with a capitalized ‘C’, the payment processing giant will use either ‘Mastercard’ or ‘mastercard’ in all lowercase. Although this is a less obvious change, it further represents the New York-based company’s attempt at modernizing their brand identity and eliminating many of its outdated design elements, such as the use of camel case type. As Rajamannar explained, the result is a visual nod to the evolution of payment.
“We wanted to signify that the [physical] card is just one type of payment,” Rajamannar told AdWeek. “With the evolution that is happening [in digital payment], the card is no longer the most important element. We wanted to de-emphasize it, and so we’ve taken away the capital letter C.”
Mastercard’s newly designed logo and identity system accompany the company’s announcement of its updated digital payment system, Masterpass, that is now enhanced with new digital capabilities, such as smartphone compatibility and contactless payment readers. Mastercard’s updated Masterpass is indicative of the brand’s attempt to remain competitive in the digital transaction industry. With tech giants – such as Apple, Google, and Samsung – increasingly entering the banking market, there is increased pressure on traditional financial institutions, such as Mastercard and Visa, to shift their focus towards developing innovative online payment solutions and financial service technologies.
“Creating digital products is a big thing for us and part of a broader cultural transformation,” said Cindy Chastain, Mastercard’s Senior VP of Customer Experience and Design. “As we’re evolving as a company, this is the right time to evolve our brand identity.”
Mastercard’s broader new design system will launch alongside the new logo and Masterpass later this July, appearing on everything from credit cards to billboards, with circles and arches playing a prominent role in each execution. The brand’s new identity system will ultimately proliferate across the company’s full range of services and experiences later this fall.