“How Luggage got its Groove Back”
Established in 1898, RIMOWA is a designer, manufacturer, and retailer of high-end luggage based in Cologne, Germany, distributing worldwide in 65 countries through authorized dealers, company-owned shops, and flagship stores. Its classic design, with the groove structure of its aluminum case shells is unmistakeable (even though it’s regularly copied). Ranging in prize between $500 and upwards of $1,000, their products are not for the faint of heart or light of cash. The company’s name is short for Richard Morszeck Warenzeichen, son of the company’s founder, who also gets credit for the company’s first aluminum case. Family-owned until 2016, RIMOWA is now part of LVMH Group, who own 70 different luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, and Fendi. Recently, RIMOWA introduced a new identity designed by London, UK-based Commission and Munich, Germany-based Bureau Borsche.
For bonus reading, Wallpaper* has a good interview with RIMOWA’s CEO Alexandre Arnault about the redesign.
Working with a wordmark designed by Munich-based Bureau Borsche, Commission developed a monogram, typographic style, colour palette, pattern motif, and packaging suite that would deliver a highly considered brand experience for Rimowa’s customers.
Since my luggage budget is usually in the low three-figure range I wasn’t aware of RIMOWA. I have seen the cases at airports, sure, but I didn’t know what they were called just that they looked fancy. In preparing this post I was so surprised that their old logo was their logo. There was nothing luxurious about it and I had to make sure the rounded sans serif, pill-enclosed wordmark wasn’t a knock-off because, if anything, it screamed “Plastic!” not “Expensive aluminum!”. It would have been perfect for budget luggage. The new wordmark now has the pretentiousness of a luxury fashion brand with a deadpan sans serif that, granted, is pretty nice but it’s so purposely undesigned that it almost passes unperceived and blends in with the growing trend of fashion brand logos going sterile (see Calvin Klein, DVF, and Balenciaga).
The new monogram is inspired by Rimowa’s earliest branding from 1898, still present today outside the Cologne store. The two vertices within the mark are designed to reflect the iconic spires of Cologne Cathedral and are enveloped by the soft radius forms of a Rimowa case. The mark aims to serve as a reminder of the company’s innovative manufacturing history and its strong connection to the city of Cologne.
While the wordmark was designed by Bureau Borsche, the monogram was designed by Commission and it shows. Even prior to reading about the project, without knowing two design firms were involved, the two elements felt like they didn’t belong together. The hard corners and joints of the wordmark stand in direct contrast with the rounded angles and corners of the monogram which, itself, has contradicting round/hard corners with the top of the “M” being flat. It’s also kind of strange that they resolved the overlap between the “M” and the diamond shape only on the bottom part but not the top. Lastly, the monogram is supposed to reflect the shape of the spires of the Cologne Cathedral but that’s way too much of a stretch to expect the majority of the public to make that connection and all that’s left is an “M”, which a) is not the initial of the brand name and b) it looks totally different from the “M” in the logo.
What saves these two elements is the application and the beauty of the product itself.
Patterning, based on Rimowa’s iconic Grooves, also features across printed items from the brand. The ‘Grooves’ pattern replicates the scale of the actual grooves on the suitcases and is embossed on brand collateral to echo the highly textural experience of the product itself.
The production value of the applications is quite stunning — custom rivets on the bags?! — and it undeniably establishes the high-end status of the brand. The wordmark really does look great despite my grievance about its generic-ness and the monogram, ignoring what it means or its construction, is beautifully used. Style over substance, I guess. The real treat in the applications, though, is the embossed groove lines that echo those of the cases — it’s a subtle, elegant, and relevant detail.
Nice to see a functional icon set for a change.
As I scroll back and forth on the post, especially seeing how good it looks on the side of a building, I think I was too harsh on the wordmark; it’s really nicely made but the sentiment about it being like a dozen other fashion wordmarks is hard to shake. Overall, this is an undeniable improvement and the most important thing is that RIMOWA now looks like a luxury brand instead of a Fisher-Price add-on.