New: Logo and visual system
Story in brief:
"We're back on track. We got a little fancy there, for a while;
it's time now to return to our authentic roots, set aside our
differences, and pull the team together." This is the implied
message that returning CEO John Mack is sending with this very
discrete and essentially internally-focused rebranding.
After a period of corporate turmoil, this is a regrounding in
Morgan Stanley's "the quiet company" heritage, refocusing on
performance rather than self-promotion (which the logo's triangle
was felt to represent). Carbone Smolan, who had been quietly
working on design of event and communication graphics, were well
placed to see the needs and the solutions.
For designers it's a particularly interesting case, for (1)
the subtlety of the letterforms redesign, felt more than seen, and
(2) the sometimes greater impact of a new visual system, on priority
audiences, than of a new logo.
(1) The letterforms -- the designers note these four changes,
hand-drawn to make a more "solid and ownable" mark:
(2) The visual system features two new 'brand patterns,' called
Chromatic and Watermark. Leslie Smolan says the Chromatic
Pattern (shown here on a 'barrel' canopy sign) "reinvents Morgan
Stanley blue" in ten hues.
C.E.O. - John Mack
Identity design - Carbone Smolan Agency
Can a less distinctive mark, an almost self-effacing mark, be
stronger? You couldn't make a better case than this one.
So... Yes. It is certainly on-message, for "the quiet company."
If the 2001 mark designed by Landor had been more relevant in its
distinctiveness, however, I might say No. In my
2001 review I didn't
understand the pointer/triangle or the Morgan/Stanley color
differentiation; I flippantly, and wrongly,
speculated that "Stanley" was on its way out. Apparently, few
people at Morgan Stanley, either, really understood whether the
triangle was supposed to mean something, so it came to mean 'market
spin;' to quote Leslie, it was "a graft that didn't take."
Bottom line: If you are blessed with a great name, go with the
name. Then use design to express excellence.