Angles are being rounded at Citroën. The famous chevrons of the brand have blunted their spikes and they are now embossed. Altering a logo, the supreme synthesis of brand identity, is always a delicate exercise because of its strategic importance and the message it conveys. Besides which, Citroën is not just a brand like any other, for the French. It is a myth embedded strongly in everyone's lives. André Citroën, the Croisières Jaune & Noire, the Traction Avant, the Deuche, the DS, de Gaulle and the attack at Petit Clamart, Séguéla ads. We all have a little bit of Citroën pinned to the soul. As proof, the deluge of opinions and sentiments expressed on the Web after the plastic surgery. What is the nature of the changes that the brand proposes?
What characterizes this recent transformation is the rejection of the angle. It is completely obliterated. Not only have the upper edges of the arrows been rounded out, but the lower points have also been widened and are no longer sharp. The square motif also disappears with its four right angles.
A rejection of the angle that one observes in the new typography, which goes so far as to impose a transformation of the capital N of the former typeface and a smoothing of all the other letters which are still in capitals. A curved embossing is added, the chevrons are metallic, and the red is retrieved in the name.
The choice of curved lines, typical of the living world, is a choice of no small consequence. It is the forsaking of the abstract and perfect world of straight lines and angles, those that require tools to be drawn by men, for the world of nature.
From visual to tactile. From the abstraction of 2D to the materiality of 3D. These are the two extremes of artistic expression presented by Wilhelm Worringer in "Abstraction et Empathy", first published in 1906. Geometric designs consisting of straight and broken lines belong to forms of abstract art and correspond to the oldest civilizations such as ancient Egypt, where men seek to transcend a reality that they believe they do not control. In contrast, the organic style, using rounded and wavy lines to imitate nature where there reigns a relationship of trust between man and the phenomena of the outside world, reached its apogee in the Greek civilization.
In our case, Citroën chose empathy. A more direct rapport with customers. Greater proximity. On the whole, a greater humanism.
This is not really new to the brand. Everyone remembers some of the superb commercials in the 80's created by RSCG. The most poetic of them all is that of untamed chevrons (84) where a horde of horses escape from a parking lot and flee from a grey and concrete city to attain the wide open spaces of nature.
Or the one with the BX in 82 in which it personifies itself (by using Jacques Séguéla's Star Strategy) and, breaking taboos, flows into the sea after driving from Paris through a safe and quiet night, with background music and Julien Clerc singing, "J'aime, j'aime, j'aime" ("I love, I love, I love"). It is also interesting to glance back at Roland Barthes’ remarks in his Mythologies about the DS. He speaks of "... a return to an aero dynamism ... less sharp, less aggressive...; of a wide embossing"… and especially " ... as if we changed from an order of the machine to an order of the body". This symbiosis with the living world expressed by the use of organic lines, is it the new theme of communication for Citroën?
The Press Release
While the representation of technology, by the metallization of the 2 elements that continue to remind us of the chevrons and their parent-gears is successful, we may be sceptical about the depiction of conquest. The chevrons might well have been freed from their square, red cage, but only to be reinstated. The 2 "boomerangs", as they have been baptized by Web surfers, were reinforced and smoothed and inspire a great stability. The effect of power is achieved through this stability and mass, but at the expense of conquest, movement and change that are also characteristics of the living world. No humanizing targets, but above all, no movement. The impression of authority that peremptorily pointed in a single direction – upwards - is lost. The call to soar has disappeared, to make way for a solid and reassuring stability.
We have go to the website to find this movement. Here we are greeted by a flow of serpentine lines, fine and red, highways in space, which lead us to a series of photos and messages that appear successively: Citroën is reinvented, the slogan "Creative Technology" (sic. in French), the reminders of innovation, automobile competitions, and the desire to create a new spirit, new lines and new relationships with customers. In short, an ambition for significant change.
Unfortunately this change of logo lags way behind the stated ambitions. This organic retouching of the logo could actually be a break, similar to those that the brand has made us get used to throughout its history, but it is, in fact, only an upgrade of some stylistic inconsistencies and procrastination, when compared to its competitors and market trends.
Embossed logo: the logo already had volume before 1980. This was also the case for the motifs fixed on the cars.
Other French competitors undertook this graphic exercise some years ago. The Renault diamond was given its relief in 1992 and Peugeot added a cast-shadow on the right side of the lion in 1998.
Curved lines: the lines of Citroën cars have generally been relatively fluid. The monobranch wheel is probably the most significant accomplishment in refusing the angle. Applying the same treatment to the logo is a way of increasing the consistency of the aesthetic expression of the brand. It also takes into consideration the aesthetic tastes of the markets.
Not only are our daily lives becoming more aesthetic but they have also become more baroque since the turn of the 2nd millennium. Logos, products, advertisements and architecture make place for curved lines (for obvious reasons, we will treat this question in another article).
Creative Technology: you may ask what the real purpose is behind the position of the adjective before the noun, as in English? In any case, the slogan is quite legitimate. Technological innovations have marked the Citroën saga. Hydro-pneumatic suspension, hydraulic steering, disc brakes, automatic clutch, and so on. Nevertheless, the market place is rather crowded. Renault released its slogan "automobile creators" some years ago; Audi's message has always been based on technology.
We will see in a future article how this upgrade exposes, in fact, the issue of the relationship between man and technology. One thing is certain: the chevrons are not ferocious and they do not see red anymore. Creative technology demands it!
© Gerald Mazzalovo