GW is changing up their look?

What’s a Warhammer shop?

New Games Workshop storefrontSeems there are some new storefronts going up. As soon as this pic was posted online it made waves and caused controversy. Lots of folks are saying it’s too simple, boring, bland or generic.

My industry insider’s take on it.

As someone working in advertising and marketing (as well as branding, typeface and logo design on the side), here’s my take on it for what it’s worth.

I think it makes a statement, and it’s very mature. Full stop.

But then, proceeding from that full stop… It does what it’s intending to do very well. It’s expensive and risky for a company to make these kinds of changes, and I’d venture to say this is an extreme branding test more than anything. This is supported by the fact they only redid a handful of stores (sounds like 3 or 4). What are they going for here? Something that speaks to the nature of the hobby. It’s dark and modern.

Companies don’t choose dark gray (almost black, really) as an afterthought or a mistake. In the world of advertising, very dark gray or black signifies classy, premium-quality, luxury goods. We all know GW wants to be a premium brand anyway. So, mission accomplished, mystery ad agency. Next up, it’s stark. The typeface is nearly white (it’s actually pale yellow in real life), in all caps, in a solid, meaty font. Tight but breathable spacing. I won’t mention the bad kerning on that sign right now… There are no questions with that logotype on that background. No grayscales, pop or sizzle, and no half measures. This is about as in-your-face as marketing can get.

The lack of a company logo is very interesting in and of itself. They’re saying: this is an exclusive club.

If you don’t know what Warhammer is, you’re either intrigued enough to find out or you won’t go there, and that’s fine with them.

Warhammer store storefrontBut, with those windows, it’s still friendly and open enough that you feel like you CAN go in if you’re intrigued. Think of it like a gym, almost. You can see people in there doing strange things, and it makes it feel a little otherworldly. If you DO know what Warhammer is, it calls to a geek part of you that would all but compel you to enter. You can walk right past a Games Workshop store on the way to your Favorite Local Game Store, but this is different. If you’re exploring a new neighborhood or city and you see a Warhammer store, psychologically you’re enticed to go there.

It’s like a freak flag they’re showing off.

And here's another new one. Stay classy.
As for blandness and simplicity, I’ll just say this is the way of things. They’re keeping up to date. This is no-frills stuff. Clean, modern and uncluttered. There’s no need here for a bright red starburst violator that says “ON SALE NOW!” It is what it is. It matches the new Warhammer 40K branding quite well, which many people have responded favorably to. The artwork inside or on the posters may be colorful or baroque as the case may be, and the simplicity here simply calls more attention to those things. Just as it should be.

Important aside based on some of the comments I’ve seen:

I reject out-of-hand any insinuation at all that designing a logo, even a typeface one (logotype), is easy in any way. That’s like telling a carpenter or a musician that anyone can do what they do. Sure, with the right training, but it’s really tough to do well and there’s something to it that can’t be taught. It’s equal parts craftsmanship and art. It costs a lot, because it’s a rare talent, and it takes a long time. I guarantee this wasn’t some temp worker just going into Microsoft Word and just playing around with fonts til he found one that ‘looks fine.’

What do you think? Note, I never said I actually I personally love it. It’s just very effective, in my opinion. Of course, you know what they say about opinions. What do YOU think about it? 

EDIT: The brand shift continues…

Warhammer App iconWe’ve seen a few new developments since I first posted this article late last year. First, the Warhammer app for mobile devices. Although the branding here is clearly 40K, it’s still simply called Warhammer. The logo is a cropped snippet of our familiar aquila, in clean deep red on a white background. No grunge, no frills, no fancy. The aquila has an almost universal appeal to Warhammer fans, and Games Workshop knows it. People get tattoos of it. Of course the app is an advertising engine for Games Workshop itself, but even within the app there’s not a GW logo in sight. In fact, they simplified the look and feel with the most recent update to be even more clean and modern.

WarhammerTV YouTube headerOur next example is the rebrand of the official YouTube channel. This one is fairly recent still. Again, the branding here is blatantly 40K, and it’s still simply called Warhammer. Notably, they’re not using the same colors, logotype or even font as the Warhammer storefronts. They’re different applications so it’s not necessarily unusual in the world of marketing–simply interesting. This is less about positioning them as a premium brand and more about appealing to an existing fanbase. The yellow energizes us (and increases our anxiety), but it’s a rich golden yellow that speaks to age, quality and reliability without seeming old or stodgy. Yellow is a smart move in some ways because it’s so rarely used in marketing and advertising (in no small part because of that anxiety thing I mentioned). The skull seems to be standing in as a sort of logo in this treatment. That’s rather fascinating, as it’s the first time I can think of them trying to ‘own’ the simple skull. This is clearly the stylized skull that’s been a part of 40K since 2nd Edition, where it began appearing on Space Marine transfer sheets. I wonder if they’ll start using it in other places. The app icon would be a great place for it, as it would fit well within a squared bounding box.

So, the plot is thickening. Can you find any other examples of new branding?

I suspect we’ll see continued brand shift over time, as people do seem to be warming up to it by and large. What else have you noticed lately? How are these new channels changing your perception, if at all?