See how Baskin-Robbins refreshed its logo to add 'personality'
Baskin-Robbins has spent decades making sure you, the consumer, know exactly how many flavors of ice cream it has on offer; and now, the 75-year-old brand finally has a logo that reflects its stores’ full variety.
Today, the ice cream chain—which, as of last week, falls under the Inspire Brands umbrella—unveiled a refreshed, integrated visual identity from creative shop Jones Knowles Ritchie that includes an overhaul of its kooky signature font and an update to its well-known “31” logo, which is no longer just pink and blue.
“We started with this idea of variety, which is informed by a lot of our research. We came across this world of flavor,” says James Taylor, the creative director at JKR who has been heading up the Baskin-Robbins redesign since its inception in December 2018.
Historically, BR was accustomed to “branding at the speed of culture,” Taylor says, releasing fun, timely flavors for special occasions, such as the Beatles’ arrival in the United States and the Apollo 11 moon landing. “That was something that was totally missing in the brand today. It got bigger, and it got more formulaic.”
Utilized as a “canvas for flavor expression” by JKR, which also had a hand in former parent brand Dunkin’s 2017 redesign, Taylor turned BR’s not-so-hidden “31” logo into a series of as many mini-identities. Once exclusively pink, the inset number now evokes a range of flavors from strawberry to mint chip to Jamoca Almond Fudge, “adding a layer of personality” to the ice cream brand’s symbol, the agency says.
As for the logo itself, Taylor compares it to Marmite: “People either love it or hate it.”
Rest assured, both he and Baskin-Robbins have heard the blog posts and social media rants calling for the brand to scrap its “31” iconography; strategically, though it “didn’t make sense to lose the brand’s distinctive asset,” Taylor says—especially when in some global markets, such as Japan, the store is referred to by its synonymous number rather than its hyphenated name.
Instead of doing away with the current logo, Taylor opted to modernize it, axing the circular lock-up and quirky wordmark while accentuating the “hidden” number. “It’s not quite the FedEx logo, but you feel pretty good about yourself as a designer if you come up with something like this,” he adds. “It’s the kind of equity a lot of brands would kill for.”
JKR also collaborated with type foundry Face 37 to update Baskin-Robbins’ font, swapping out the jagged pink-and-blue lettering for a cleaner, sans serif style that features a “sophisticated white” text. The new typeface is fully internationalized, too, allowing the ice cream chain to maintain its new identity in every language at its more than 8,000 worldwide locations.
“The program of work was focused on the international market. You know, how do we take this American icon and kind of refresh it for the next 10 to 15 years,” says Taylor.
The new redesign aims to stay true to the brand’s original pillars of identity, first outlined in the early 1950s when founders Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins hired local California ad agency Carson/Roberts, which suggested the duo lead with their promise of selling 31 ice cream flavors.
“Their recommendations included the ‘31’ logo to represent a flavor for every day of the month; Cherry (pink) and Chocolate (brown) polka dots to be reminiscent of clowns, carnivals and fun; and lastly, the use of cartoons to bring their flavors alive with personality to graphically highlight the name and delicious ingredients,” a corporate biography on BR’s website says.
The ice cream chain’s visual identity has evolved significantly since then, though some still believe it has a long way to go.
Last year, graphic design expert Debbie Millman gave BR’s logo a zero-out-of-10 rating and pleaded with JKR to intervene and update the brand’s visual identity, according to Business Insider.
“I think JKR did the best they could with the cards that they were dealt,” says Millman, who co-founded the world’s first graduate program in branding at the New York City’s School of Visual Arts. But although she concedes the redesign is an improvement on Baskin-Robbins’ “hokey” former iconography, she wonders whether client constraints dampened the agency’s full range of creativity.
“I think it’s really respectful and really does keep the integrity of the brand intact,” she says of the brand update, “but knowing how talented JKR is, I am a little curious to what they might have been able to do if they had free reign to start over.”
Clown-adjacent visual cues notwithstanding, JKR did opt to retain some of the chain’s most recognizable branding characteristics through the refresh, such as the pink spoon and the standard pink-and-blue logo, which will remain as part of Baskin-Robbins’ icon portfolio.