three brand identities emerge – design diary

General Electric (GE), founded in 1892 and one of the largest conglomerates in the world, presents the brand identities of the three companies, which will henceforth operate independently of each other against the background of the impending split.

In November 2021, the American company General Electric announced that it would split the company into the three divisions of aviation, health and energy as independent public companies. Competitor Siemens took such a step a few years ago (Siemens Healthineers, Siemens Energy, etc.).

The presentation of the future brand identities that took place a few days ago marks an important milestone for GE. All three companies (GE HealthCare, GE Vernova and GE Aerospace) will benefit from the long heritage of the GE brand. Forming three separate companies allows for greater focus, tailored capital allocation and flexibility to deliver long-term growth and value, GE said.

Excerpt from the press release:

GE today announced the brand names of the future companies it will create through its planned spin-off into three industry-leading, investment-grade global public companies focused on the growth sectors of healthcare, energy and aerospace.

GE Monogram Evolution, source: General Electric

GE Vernova: The new name is a combination of “ver”, derived from “verde”/”verdant” (“green”) and “nova” (Latin “novus”). The name and color green (“evergreen”) embodies the beginning of an innovative era towards lower carbon energy that GE Vernova will deliver, according to the company.

GE HealthCare: The new brand color for GE HealthCare is Compassion Purple. The coloring must reflect humanity and warmth and act as a differentiating feature.

GE Aerospace: For the new aerospace company, the GE monogram will be displayed in a shade of blue that tends toward black. The color known as “Atmosphere Blue” is based on the upper limits of the atmosphere. With GE Aerospace, the company will maintain its strong position in the aerospace sector while at the same time instilling a confident vision in space. The rights to the GE brand will remain with GE Aerospace after the split into three companies. Long-term licenses will be granted to GE Vernova and GE HealthCar, the company announced.

Statement Linda Boff, GE’s Chief Marketing Officer:

“Over the past six months, we have conducted a thorough, customer-centric process to understand the inherent value of the GE brand to our anticipated future business. Based on data and analysis from thousands of conversations, it became clear that the GE name and our hundred-year-old monogram is a legacy of innovation, a symbol of trust from our customers around the world, a symbol of our team and a talent magnet for future leaders.We are proud that these future companies can build on GE’s DNA .”

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“Iconic” is now an inflationary adjective – but it’s appropriate for the GE monogram. Heavily influenced by Art Nouveau, the basic construction of the GE brand has remained unchanged for over 120 years.

The exact origin of the character, where the letters “G” and “E” are joined to form a ligature, could not be accurately determined despite extensive research by GE. So the name of the creator is still unclear to this day. However, it is documented that the first calligraphic symbol was created in 1892, when the two companies Edison General Electric Company and Thomson-Houston Electric Company were merged under the name General Electric, which is still valid today. The first recorded use of a circled, square-curled rendition of the “GE” monogram was in 1898 and in connection with a ceiling fan. In 1899, a year later, the circular signet was registered as a trademark. Since then, the trademark has always only been minimally adjusted, and later also well-known agencies such as Landor (1986) and Wolff Olins (2004) were allowed to lend a hand – the basic construction and the Art Nouveau look with the four flourishes have been retained until today. Technically speaking, there is actually very little to suggest a fundamental change to the character, be it the quality of the representation or the ability to render. Against the background of the digital transformation and the resulting changed requirements, this is truly remarkable.

The most interesting aspect of the split is certainly giving the three units a relatively large degree of independence as a brand. Both the company color and the fonts used in the wordmarks vary. The branding is therefore adapted to the respective context. Different target groups can thus – potentially – be addressed in a more needs-based way. (Only) the signet and the “GE” abbreviation contained in the name ensure that the company belongs to the GE umbrella. The question of how independent the new brands must/can appear inevitably arises when a company splits up. As I understand it, there is no plan here, no ideal model that companies should apply, so to speak, according to a catalog of measures. The competition offers a guide for brand decision makers. At Siemens, for example, the process of spinning off Siemens Healthineers and Siemens Energy was not dissimilar. Color, typography and other design features partially differ from the parent brand. However, the Siemens wordmark itself remained untouched.

When companies are split up, there is sometimes a risk that the brands associated with the company name will develop a life of their own and in some cases several different brands will emerge. For many years, various variants of the AEG logo were in circulation (meanwhile, AEG Powertools, Elec Tech International and other licensees also use the logo, which was redesigned in 2016). It’s hard to say today whether the GE brand world will one day become as confusing.

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