Pierre Katz could be considered one of world’s greatest “facial” rejuvenators of luxury brands. But his tools are typography and elements of design rather than Botox or a scalpel.
Katz, who is headquartered in Paris, is often called in when a new owner of a brand wants a new look to signal a new reign, when an old owner wants to give the brand a new direction, or simply when someone decides that the grand old dame needs a pretty young face again. When bottles are involved—such as with Champagnes, spirits or even perfume—the bottle itself may need changing along with the label and exterior packaging.
Recently, Katz expanded from being a studio into forming an agency, Agence Pierre Katz, “to offer bespoke expertise across a range of disciplines that are complementary to the know-how the agency currently proposes—brand identity, packaging, artistic direction, collateral materials and brand strategy.”
When he gets an assignment, Katz first likes to do research and ask questions. Why was this symbol used in the first place? Are there old design elements that should be resurrected? But most of all, what is the purpose behind the redesign and what is the redesign meant to accomplish?
We asked Katz to explain some of his more-recent work, especially the before-and-after brand looks. His remarks have been slighted edited and condensed.
Remy Martin Accord Royal – Redesign
Pierre Katz: Since the centaur is how most people know the brand, I used the Rémy Martin name as a pedestal for the mythological creature, just changing the shadows and simplifying to make it more readable. The redesign for the letters was inspired by the proportions of the Roman capital letters, giving the name a more architectural dimension. I also condensed the name to voluntarily neutralize the readability, to make the name more vertical, like a colonnade that holds a centaur that also was made bigger. Finally, I introduced big and small capitals to ennoble the name and create a rhythm. ‘Fine champagne cognac’ was redesigned to create a greater contrast with the Rémy Martin name in a sans serif typeface but with up strokes and down strokes that give it a non-mechanical, elegant and humanistic quality.
Château de Pommard – Redesign
Katz: For Château de Pommard, everything needed to be changed. There was a new owner who wanted to restore the prestige of the domain, so I found a coat of arms for the château that needed restoring—the design was clogged—and we replaced the Château de Pommard name with a motto to fit the heraldic tradition. The idea was to create a singular silhouette for the bottle, and we needed to add more quality and personality. I changed the label to a business card size with a textured paper to make it more contemporary and qualitative, very different from traditional Burgundy bottles. I chose an off-white color to evoke the color of the great Château de Pommard wine, the flagship of the domain.
Lejay Crème de Cassis – Redesign
Katz: The brand Lejay-Lagoute needed a make-over to harmonize its signs, become more upscale and be desirable for international expansion. I couldn’t find any historic evidence on the significance of the monk. The brand that called him “legendary,” but it’s hard to know what for! On an old label for the brand, I found a little jay engraving that suddenly appeared like an obvious choice: a perfect fit for Lejay. It’s a bird you can find anywhere on the planet and a naturalistic symbol that unconsciously says, ‘If this blackcurrant is good enough for the bird, it’s good enough for you.’ To design the logo, I chose a 19th Century Elzevir typeface found in the brand’s archives and redesigned it to make it larger, more generous. (The little triangular serifs also recall the tiny claws on the bird’s foot.)
Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc – Redesign
Katz: Ruinart wanted to bring back their packaging ‘into the light.’ most of all on their flagship, the Blanc de Blancs. All the signs were already there, legitimate, full of character. I cleaned up the coat of arms to make it denser and removed the founding date and put it instead at its base. I redesigned the letters of the Ruinart name, which was in a very characteristic gothic style, to a style of gothic that does not evoke anything rough or Germanic, but rather something ancient and venerable. So I redesigned each letter to make them more luminous, graceful, less-crooked. I also changed the architecture on the label, taking the ‘Blanc de Blancs’ to underneath the Champagne appellation to properly qualify it. There is not a lot of information on this label, but the organization of four different typefaces also gives it its flavor and its quality.
Favarger – Redesign
Katz: Favarger is the single chocolate factory truly from Geneva, and so we needed to make Favarger the ‘official’ chocolate of the city, the capital of luxury. So I proposed a design of a golden heart encompassing the eagle and the key of Geneva, a symbol that could both mean ‘I love Geneva’ or ‘I love Favarger,’ a risky move. But since Favarger was a legitimate, old and respected house of the region, it was worth taking the risk. I kept the founding date but also added the name of Geneva to clearly reassert its proud, century-old origins. The mention ‘chocolats et cacaos’ reassert the métier of Favarger. The typeface is typically Swiss deeply functional with a minimal sans serif look. The symmetry of the ‘F’ and the ‘R’ participate in this architectural impression, like two pillars holding the brand together.
Jour d’Hermès – Logo Creation
We also asked Katz to explain briefly how he works in creating a new expression within an existing luxury brand, in this case a new perfume for the Hermès family.
Pierre Katz: A fragrance’s name bears the brand’s values, and it incarnates an archetype or an inspiration of its own – a certain type of woman, of man, a sensation or an abstract idea. Signs ennoble brands and give them character. A brand’s or a fragrance’s logo is their symbolic face. This project bore different challenges, because it was a complete creation that needed to express what an ‘Hermès day’ would look like. As it is also an ode to the light of day, the name needed to be very luminous, delicate and promising. So I was inspired to create a sophisticated character in a slanted version instead of an Italic to give it an élan, an energy. I wanted to give the name a bold spacing to make it breathe and increase its luminosity. The tall ‘J’ also creates a rupture that is the beginning from which the rest of the name unfolds, like the beginning of a new story or a new day. In fact, I treated Jour d’Hermès in a literary manner, like if it was the title of an epic novel. It’s the least you can do for a great feminine fragrance by the Hermès house!
For more of Pierre Katz and his work, head right here.