PAGE: A simple line with big branding impact

Hamburg, 29.10.2021

As lead agency for corporate design, we're redefining the brand appearance of Deutsche Bahn – and get it ready for the digitally networked mobility of tomorrow. We shared some background information with PAGE online.

There's a company in Germany that literally everyone knows – Deutsche Bahn. Most people come to know the train company as children, and its visual codes are subconsciously anchored in their minds. For many Germans, the logo, typeface and "white train with the red stripe" have been well established brand codes for decades. From a brand perspective, this recognizability is an invaluable asset – but it becomes a challenge when the brand decides it wants to change. As the company's lead agency for brand and design, Peter Schmidt Group rose to the challenge. "The initial briefing was quite striking," recalls creative director Felix Damerius. "It was about changing the image of Deutsche Bahn, transforming it from an annoying mother-in-law into a trusted friend who is not entirely free of faults but is still always there for you when you need them." At the same time, the company's briefing included instructions to change as little as possible!

The agency's solution was twofold. First, a radical simplification of the existing design: Elements like an arrow that was created during the era of print media were considered static and technical, and thrown overboard. The use of typography became more distinctive, and the imagery was given more emotional appeal. And secondly, the creative team developed a new element called the Pulse. It's a simple red line, derived from the familiar logo. And it perfectly matches the look of the trains.

Empathetic communication in the smallest possible space

Many of Deutsche Bahn's customers have already noticed the Pulse as an element in the company's communication campaigns. But it unleashes its full potential in digital interaction such as micromoments and user interfaces – precisely those touchpoints that are becoming more and more important in the age of digitally networked mobility. It also makes a striking impression in very small applications, and it is so versatile that it can enter into a dialog with users, respond to customers' feelings, or simply direct travelers to their next train connection. Because it can be used as an icon, as part of an illustration, or even in architectural applications, it gives Deutsche Bahn many new possibilities for individualized communication. It can structure content, tell a story, become a trusted companion. As such it conveys the very same values Deutsche Bahn wants to be known for in the future.

Establishing an emotional bond between people and the brand

"The Pulse proves that even the smallest design elements can have a big impact and interact with people in an empathetic way," explained Lukas Cottrell, managing partner of Peter Schmidt Group. "And this capability to empathize with people is more important for brands than ever before. It is the only way brands can cultivate deep, emotional relationships with their target groups." This is why Peter Schmidt Group developed the concept of Empathic Branding, which empowers companies to address customers and their needs in highly individualized ways. Jürgen Kornmann, Chief Marketing Officer Deutsche Bahn, is enthusiastic about the changes. "The design system is clever, and the Pulse is full of personality. That makes it easier to manage the brand and give it a more human appearance.” Peter Schmidt Group was able to objectively prove that this impression is in fact correct.

But it's not just rail passengers, the client and the agency who are impressed by the concept. At the beginning of the year, the work won Silver Nail from the ADC – the highest award in its category. This was followed by the Red Dot “Best of the Best” and the Corporate Design Prize (CDP). "The Pulse looks as if it has always been there," said Felix Damerius, “and this familiarity is what accounts for the quality and success of the corporate design.”

Read the article in German at PAGE online

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