current writings on all things

Ribbons, How Brands Take Shape

Mead Westvaco Logo


MeadWestvaco, a global supplier of paper products, packaging and chemicals (and subsequently a resource used by many designers… for the paper, not the chemicals) on March 24th unveiled a new brand that shortens the company moniker to “MWV,” introduces a new ribbon element that is animated in a cheesy Flash presentation on the corporate website (more on this later), and incorporates the presumptuous tagline “How brands take shape.”


According to chairman and CEO John Luke, Jr., “the new MWV brand identity… clearly states to customers that MWV… is uniquely positioned to help their brands take shape.” Really? On their own, the letterforms of the new mark communicate to me that the company has given up its rich heritage as the combination of the Mead Corporation and West Virginia Paper Company (and its many highly recognizable consumer brands such as At-A-Glance, Day Runner, Cambridge, etc.) for a more generic acronym that when rendered, resembles more of an old-fashioned telephone cord than anything else.


The new ribbon element that MeadWestvaco (sorry, MWV) uses is graphically interesting, and is a definite improvement over the much-dated look of the typeface ITC Eras that constituted the old logo. Because it is set in all caps, however, the new logotype sacrifices readability in favor of the clean and modern look of Helvetica… as a result, “Mead” is virtually indistinguishable from “Westvaco.” This is probably an intentional part of the redesign given the press release and CEO comments. The other aspect that bothers me is the extreme horizontalness of the brand; I am curious as to what a stacked version of the logo might resemble, and if it would be as effective.


In the promotional video introducing the new brand and explaining the positioning “How brands take shape”, the ribbon flies across the screen to New Age “space sounds” music, twisting and turning at right angles as it moves between foreground and background, and around short blurbs of text shown in perspective. For a moment I had flashbacks of the movie “Tron”, with all of its cheesy, “cutting edge” CGI graphics and animation (which was really cool back in 1982!).


The new positioning tagline for MWV is “how brands take shape.” While on the surface this proposition seems harmless enough, as a practicing designer (and a member of their target audience), something about it rubs me the wrong way—perhaps it is my conviction that brands are more than just great logos or clever packaging… or perhaps this blanket statement seems too arrogant for me. In the end, though, it is not necessarily what I think about this new MWV/MeadWestvaco brand, but about how customers perceive it.


—Ryan Hembree, principal/creative director (originally posted on