Week 4/20 – week ending 24 January

DK unveils major brand redesign

DK has unveiled a brand redesign, revealing it is updating its logo and introducing a new tagline – “For the curious”.

The publisher also has “a new brand narrative”, declaring that DK “believes in the power of discovery”.

“More than ever, DK is committed to creating beautiful and inspirational books,” said c.e.o. Ian Hudson, “and we were always aware that our brand would need to evolve alongside our publishing. This feels like the right time to make a change, as we seek to further push the boundaries for DK readers and engage new audiences globally.”

In conversation with The Bookseller, Hudson explained DK’s publishing had “moved on” in several respects over the past few years, and that this was a step change it wanted to see reflected in its brand and brand narrative.

Whilst DK has always been known for its big encyclopaedic works, its books have evolved to be “cleaner and sharper and less dense” in terms of text; it is introducing more illustration, which in some instances it is actually blending with photography, for which it is known; it is diversifying its output to appeal to a broader audience, for example by publishing autobiographies and biographies and more humour; and it is starting to commission more authors. Not only creating content for a global market – DK’s biggest market being the US – it has begun to also publish more locally.

“We not only wanted our brand and brand narrative to move along with the evolution of our publishing,” said Hudson, “but to act as a guide as we go forwards to stretch us to do more.”

 

At the outset of the rebrand, colleagues across DK worked with Nicola Fawssett of Fawssett Consulting to synthesise and articulate its new brand values – namely, to “know your audience”, to “push the boundaries, and take some risk”, with quality always “fundamental”.

The publisher then partnered with the design studio Pentagram to deliver a new brand tagline and visual identity to reflect its “new and growing” portfolio of publishing.

The company said its new brand tagline – “For the curious” – is intended to focus on DK’s “vision to inspire curiosity and enable discovery for everyone” and is reinforced by the new brand narrative. As for its new look, Angus Hyland, partner at Pentagram, said it had simplified the logo to bring it into the digital age.

The old logo for the world-leading illustrated reference publisher is an open book with the letters D and K printed in red on verso and recto pages, with additional detail added to produce a 3D style. In all it uses three colours: black, white and red. The new logo, which DK describes “at once radically different and instantly recognisable”, takes a much more modern, pared back approach. It uses a single thick outline for the open book, and the initials DK sitting inside this are centred, sitting on a straightened baseline. It now uses only one colour, keeping the DK red.

“Only a handful of publishing brands have a globally recognised visual identity. We needed to retain DK’s iconic status while bringing the old mark into the digital age,” said Hyland “Working closely with a cross-functional DK team, we went through a series of design iterations that radically evolved and simplified that familiar logo to function both at different scales and on multiple platforms and applications.”

Asked whether some customers could be resistant to the change, Hudson said it was “human nature [that] change will feel uncomfortable for some”; however, it was “fantastic” when he saw it for the first time. “It’s clean, it’s impactful, it works in different colours, it works really well digitally, it is something uplifting. I would say that, but it’s also true,” he said. “The DK logo has changed a number of times in the past, and much more radically than it has done this time.”

DK’s brand redesign was unveiled on Tuesday (21st January), with an internal launch led by Hudson, followed by an announcement to authors and partners. The new logo will appear on DK titles and reprints in their respective markets from the middle of this year.

Through the TCM, in the UK in 2019 DK improved 5% year-on-year to £27.5m. Its bestseller was a World Book Day title, Lego Minifigure Mayhem, but it largely received a boost from two gardening titles —Veg in One Bed and RHS Gardening Through the Year. The UK, however, is less than 20% of DK’s market.

The rebrand follows DK’s sale of Rough Guides at the end of 2017 and closure of Prima Games at the end of 2018.

Other publishers that have rebranded in recent years include Pearson, which overhauled its logo in favour of an interrabang, and Headline, which rebranded for its 30th anniversary, both in 2016. Carcanet Press rebranded ahead of its 50th anniversary last year, with a new, simplified black and white logo and colour scheme.

PRH pulls out of unlimited access subscription models

Penguin Random House has withdrawn its e-books and digital audio titles from unlimited access subscription models in a major rebuttal of the business model.

PRH has long argued against such models, which it believes risk devaluing the price of content, but has allowed some e-books and audio titles to feature in the type of all-you-eat models that have become popular in Northern Europe, with retailers, including Storytel and Bookbeat, broadly successful in growing audience numbers off the back of the offer. However, PRH has now said its books will no longer be available on unlimited access subscription models.

A company spokesperson for PRH UK said: “Penguin Random House has decided that at this stage we will not participate in unlimited access subscription models. Our decision was made collectively by the company’s international leadership team to preserve a diversity of content in the marketplace and the actual and perceived long-term value of our authors’ intellectual property.” The move has led to speculation that PRH was poised to launch its own rival subscription service in the manner of the forthcoming Disney+ streaming operation that will try to compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime, but the company has scotched those rumours. Such a move would be a huge surprise given PRH’s long antipathy towards subscription models, and its committed support of existing booksellers.

In contrast to PRH’s approach, last October HarperCollins began selling a “limited number” of backlist e-books via Amazon’s £7.99 a month subscription e-book service Kindle Unlimited in the UK and Australia as a “strategic and tactical” push.

The news follows PRH UK’s newly centralised rights structure, unveiled in November, to encourage “a stronger and more strategic platform to explore the best rights opportunities on behalf of its authors and unlock growth potential” the publisher said during the consultation stage.

In December it was revealed that Pearson was selling 25% stake in Penguin Random House to Bertelsmann, as its c.e.o. John Fallon prepared to retire in 2020, with the deal expected to close in the first half of this year.

The Bonnier Books-owned subscription service BookBeat announced it was “pausing” broader investments in the UK market in early 2018 because there had been so much reluctance from bigger publishers.