What’s the beverage equivalent of hot girl summer? We’re pretty sure it’s Sprite’s recent refresh—a simple yet bold new look that’s certainly caught our attention.
“We were coming off of a brand rested from a global point-of-view to have one global marketing campaign versus more regional ones,” said Frederic Kahn, senior design director for global design at The Coca-Cola Company. “Moving forward, we wanted to put forth one brand idea and a similar reason for being behind it. That was an important part of it because we had some inconsistency across the market.”
The redesign, which encompasses not only packaging but all touchpoints of Sprite, centers on clarity. This clarity manifests in many ways. For one, it’s in the more focused strategy and messaging. Chris Garvey, executive creative director at Turner Duckworth in San Francisco, the agency that worked with The Coca-Cola Company on this project, explained that Sprite had a lot of visual equities that, when combined, seemed to muddy the message—there’s the spark graphic, the tilt of the letters in the wordmark, a cut of a lemon-lime, and a splash. All of these elements came together to say “refreshing,” but they all seemed to talk over each other. The Coca-Cola Company team and Turner Duckworth wanted to get clearer with the strategy, brand identity, and packaging.
They took the idea of getting clearer literally, too, and the updated brand ditches the electric green bottle for a clear plastic PET bottle. That suits the new vision for Sprite, and it also helps Coca-Cola hopefully work its way towards becoming more eco-friendly. PET plastic has the highest recycling value, and clear plastics have a higher recycling value than dyed plastics.
“We changed the bottle of Sprite from green plastic to clear plastic to be easier to recycle, and I think this ties in really well with this idea of clarity,” said Rapha Abreu, global vice president of design for The Coca-Cola Company. “Now we have a clear bottle that holds a clear liquid, so there is a lot of consistency in the message of clarity. So the challenge was, with that change, what are the implications on the actual identity?”
Turner Duckworth had a deep level of brand familiarity, already having worked on Sprite before. They had an open and collaborative method of working with The Coca-Cola Company, ensuring the branding fell in line with Sprite and Turner Duckworth exploring the possibilities. They were then able to go back and forth in an iterative process until they found the right design solutions—something energetic yet artful and, what all three of them admitted, more choiceful.
As the second-largest brand in The Coca-Cola Company, Sprite needed a refresh that also wasn’t a complete departure from the beverage people know and love. While the rebrand makes all the design choices much more purposeful, there’s a refreshing, stripped-down quality. The green has a punchier quality to it, for example, and the spark makes its statement on the bottlecap rather than behind the wordmark. This isn’t, however, a blanding situation.
“The devil’s absolutely in the details,” said Chris. “I always try to remind my team that we can build as much strategy upfront, and there’s a lot of instinct involved, but sometimes you’ve got to play with these elements and figure it out.
“We all got really into the weeds on the actual typeface. One really lovely thing was just the initial exercise of removing the spark and trying to lay out the wordmark on a horizontal baseline. I don’t think we ever truly appreciated how much equity was built into that wordmark because you never see it on its own. One of our designers crafted what was essentially the current wordmark but redrawn in this format, and we realized there’s a lot of strength there.”
The new wordmark still says a lot and still has that spark, even if it doesn’t have the literal spark graphic in the background. Aspects of the Sprite name like the serif formations and the way the letterforms rest by each other couldn’t be fully appreciated until everything else around the word was removed.
Overall, the team felt like they had room to play and innovate with a well-established brand. The product rendering and photography (shot by Martin Wannacott) was fun territory especially—one that Chris said does everything it should from a refreshment standpoint but also captures that artfulness about it. “It’s taking the brand to another level that gets a little more into the behavior beyond the packaging and seeing how clear liquid and bottles can distort the typography.”
It wasn’t all fun and games, though—the redesign had some time constraints, too. “There were some hard dates set in the sand by leaders in the company that we just had to do,” Frederic explained. “A couple of markets were ready to launch immediately with the packaging. So the challenge was, how do you move quickly and forward with that without losing sight of the brand world? And that was something that Turner really delivered on. They thought about the whole visual experience, experiential interactions with the brand, motion, the photography, and the whole piece while also being able to keep in mind some of our packaging deadlines.”
Bottlers and retailers in China, the first market to implement the design, have already expressed positive feedback. “They are very excited with the work,” Rapha said. “They feel they have something that elevates the brand to where it should be. The redesign brings gravitas to it but also feels very current. It brings the iconicity back to this brand.”
Without a doubt, the clear direction and clear messaging of the new and improved Sprite gives consumers a refresh that is just that—completely and utterly refreshing.
Images courtesy of Coca-Cola.