A slap in the face.

A while back we posted a story and some images of the new ‘South Africa’ tourism logo, and a bunch of other hugely disappointing brand elements, marks and icon’s for various other South African (mostly World Cup) related brands and organizations.

We were amazed and mystified that none of the incredibly talented designers that we know of in this country were given the opportunity to do a better job.

We just met with one of the Creative Directors of ‘Woolworths’ South Africa, who informed us that the new Woolworths identity and branding exercise was actually designed by Australian based design guru Vince Frost at Frost Design, and their inspiration behind the look of the re-brand was none other than our own personal design hero Dieter Rams (from Germany).

A while ago, ‘Pick ‘n Pay’ (another huge South African company) also went on a massive re-branding mission, and bizarrely hired the UK based design agency ‘Landor’ to handle their re-imaging for them (instead of a local designer or agency).

Why on earth do these people not look a little closer to home and create ‘African’ brands designed by ‘African’ designers, instead of ‘African’ brands designed by foreign creatives who could never understand our culture better than someone local???

New Woolworths logo designed by Frost Design (Australia).
How do you make a logo feel more contemporary? Simply chop off it’s serif’s.

Woolworths ‘Organic’ range designed by Pearlfisher (UK).

New ‘Pick ‘n Pay’ Logo designed by Landor (UK).


  1. Perhaps with a bit more research and a few insights this blog post wouldn’t have been titled a ‘slap in the face’.

    Pick n Pay chose to work with Landor in the UK on the recommendation of their incumbent advertising agency Y&R in South Africa. Y&R and Landor Associates are both part of the WPP Group, a non-trivial media conglomerate.

    Pick n Pay required the services of big brand strategic consultants to make good on a genuine and robust transformation of their business. Landor is a global brand consultancy originally founded in the USA with an extensive and verifiable track-record of big brand consulting. Pick n Pay is a big brand even by global standards and so the services of a big brand consultancy was required, services unlikely to have been found in South Africa.

    The rebranding of Pick n Pay is not a design exercise exclusively, the brand transformation was only in part visible as a re-design of the identity. Besides the requirement for big brand strategic thinking available in London (the birth-place of brand consulting) it is also likely that the project was given to Landor UK because Johan Engelbrecht a South African Design Director with relevant big brand experience was available to work on the project.

    I am a South African and I worked with Johan and other senior strategic brand consultants on Pick n Pay in London in 2007, as did other South Africans and designers and consultants of various other nationalities who have a good relationship with the country. I redesigned the Pick n Pay brandmark (aka logo) and determined many of the design elements which can be seen on my website…


    The Woolworth redesign, on the other hand, is far more problematic. Frost Design is a design consultancy and although they claim to do branding they are not an equivalent to Landor Associates. Brand consulting and design consulting are a world apart. A strong case can be made against Woolworth for the reasons cited above but such a case is not so easily made against Pick n Pay.


  2. Design is a good idea wrote:

    Thanks for your detailed response Andrew.

    I think Landor and Frost both do amazing work, and I personally think the Pich ‘n Pay and Woolworths rebranding is excellent… I was just a bit puzzled by the fact that they both chose to work with international agencies instead of giving someone local a chance. There are a lot of SA based companies, designers, etc… that are doing excellent branding work. I just think people here (in SA) deserved a chance.

    It’s nice to learn that local designers (like yourself) were also involved… and well done on your work and achievement!

    Gonna go look at your site now.

  3. Jdxb wrote:

    Hi, great post from Andrew. We both (and a much bigger team) worked very hard on the PnP rebrand, and proud to say we’re both saffers and proud of the work, but I understand the controversy around the fact a large amount of money was spent in the UK – remember, it was the client’s choice in the end who to appoint on the project …


  4. To the points in my initial post, ‘giving someone local a chance’ is not appropriate when you are responsible for a big brand such as Pick n Pay. Big brands require big brand consulting, simple.

    The issue in the re-branding of Pick n Pay is not about design capabilities, the issue is about brand consulting of which design is only one part. Market position and strategic business transformation led by brand is a far more profound and complex business. It is clear that Landor Associates steps up to the mark in all these areas. Design on its own can only do so much for a brand.

    I can’t agree that Frost Design does good work when it comes to brand-led marketing and business consulting. Frost Design appears only to be interested in the fashion of design. They make things look good, fashionably; they are not in the business of serious brand consulting.

    The difference between a design consultancy and brand consultancy insight reflects poorly on Woolworths. As I wrote, a strong case can be against Woolworths.


  5. Design is a good idea wrote:

    I hear you… but when will that ever change?

    If big brands continue to feel that they HAVE TO use international branding specialists, nobody in SA will ever get a chance to prove them wrong. For example… I think local companies like Rex (http://rexcreative.com) are doing excellent work in the field of branding, and they deserve a chance with ‘big brands’.

    I think the Woolworths rebranding was a bit sloppily rolled out… for a while, they were using both the new logo and the old logo at the same time and it seemed to take too long for them to properly unveil their ‘new look’. Now that it has properly been implemented, I think it works quite well.

  6. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for South African consultancies getting up to speed on the brand consulting front. South African design is clearly on a par with the best in the world but, to my points, design can only do so much.

    South African agencies who can demonstrate relevant international strategic big brand consulting need to make themselves available to South African companies to get awarded projects such as Pick n Pay. At the moment there are only a couple of real contenders. As far as I’m aware, The Brand Union has an office in Johannesburg and Interbrand is in partnership with Jeremy Sampson.

    Woolworth’s roll-out is typical of most big brand implementation. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it sloppy. This is normal.

    Rex Creative appears to be what we call a boutique design and branding consultancy. Their work looks good and is clearly concerned with the spit and polish, and crafting of design. Like Frost Design, Rex Creative appears overly concerned with creating design that looks fashionably good. This kind of work is nice to look at but rarely makes significant inroads in brand-led strategic business thinking. They would do well to drop the emphasis on design if they intend to be taken seriously as a brand consultancy.

    Looking good is not good enough.


  7. Liz wrote:

    Stumbled upon this today as I’ve been curious as to who rebranded both companies. Personally, i don’t like either. My family, friends and I all agree that both have taken a step backward. Both look tacky and cheap. The new Woolies logo looks easily forgettable – very plain jane. And PnP looks very wholesale. I remember PnP ads to be printed on nice glossy paper and the more lively blues and reds looked much better than this.

    To me it doesn’t matter who is creating what. It’s not WHO is doing the work that is important, but rather, the quality of the work. It’s a global village full of great competition – we shouldn’t HAVE to choose people based on nationality etc. Most important is that we see progress – in this case it’s lacking!

    Please feel free to share your opinion on these logos. I would actually love to know why they are preferred?

  8. Romz Deluxe wrote:

    Please take a look at the Sky News typeface and place it next to the PnP one. Surprise!!!

  9. Khaya wrote:

    Reflecting on the first time I saw these logos, Woolworths and Pick n Pay, respectively, I assumed the idea was a facelift to keep up with the aesthetics of the times rather than a major business transformation. They both look very trendy. In the case of Woolworths that could make more sense since it has this niche brand image.

    The Pick n Pay logo for me was more problematic on first impression. It looked generic and it seemed to follow the international trend of making big corporations look friendlier / making complex technology look user friendly by using a wordmark/logotype with a dominant lowercase and rounded edges. It says things which I’m guessing are in the strategy: Democratic, friendly, people, technology, personal, home use etc.

    Problem is, this logo made me think software development and mobile banking. But maybe its not a problem until I know where the company is headed. I realised that even what looks like a facelift has major market implications and it has to be aligned with, or even help lead, a shift in the vision of the business leaders. And maybe you do need a big organisation to understand the pains of another big organisation.

  10. Design is a good idea wrote:

    Hi all,

    Not sure why this old story has received so much attention today, but thank you for all your comments.

    @Liz: The new Woolworths logo was designed by Frost (Australia), and a lot of their new packaging was created by Pearlfisher (UK).

    The Pick ‘n Pay rebrand was done by Landor in the UK.