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New Work: Mohawk

A family business founded in 1931, Mohawk is North America’s largest privately owned manufacturer of fine papers and envelopes. The paper business has changed enormously in recent years, with revolutions in digital technology transforming the ways people use paper. To meet this challenge, Mohawk is leveraging connections in the digital, design and photo spaces to develop new web-based offerings. This week the company launches a dynamic new identity system designed by Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and his team that helps reinvent Mohawk for the digital world.

The new mark is based on the letter M. The logo serves as a monogram for the name Mohawk, but is also inspired by the papermaking process and the printmaking process, both of which involve paper moving around cylinders. The forms of the logo suggest paper rolls, printing presses and circuit boards, as well as the idea of connection and communication, the core functions of paper. “Whether it’s for a small book of family photos or a brochure for a giant corporation, it’s all about communication,” says Bierut. Applied to advertising, swatchbooks, brochures and ream wraps, the logo is a building block in a flexible branding system that includes more than a dozen color variations and countless patterns based on the mark.

The identity is the third Pentagram has created for Mohawk in the past 20 years, following logos designed in 1991 and 2002. Bierut and designers Katie Barcelona, Joe Marianek and Aron Fay worked closely with longtime client Laura Shore, Senior VP of Communications at Mohawk, to develop the identity, visual system, and campaign tagline, “What Will You Make Today?” The identity is accompanied by the launch of a new website,

The logo accompanies a change of the company’s name to “Mohawk” from Mohawk Fine Papers and can appear with the name or stand alone. The simple icon functions as an “ingredient” or endorsing brand that can work alongside identities for signature Mohawk brands like Superfine and Strathmore, as well as digital enterprises like Felt & Wire, Mohawk’s popular paper-centered blog. The logo is easily reduced, so it can appear as an app, a button or a favicon adjacent to a URL.

“For these online experiences, Mohawk should not be a headline, but something supporting a larger experience,” says Bierut. “Mohawk needed a symbol—a reducible thing that can work in many, many more ways than the first and second times we had approached this.”

Animated version of the logo. Music by Joe Marianek.

In 1991 Bierut designed an identity for Mohawk that utilized a Baskerville typeface and an engraving of the company’s Native American figurehead to signify the tradition and quality of its paper. In 2002 Abbott Miller redesigned the identity for a more contemporary interpretation of the brand, developing a signature based on the typeface Metro, originally drawn by the great American designer W.A. Dwiggins. The system included swatchbooks designed with an editorial approach and sophisticated photography.

The new identity focuses on bright, bold color and forms based on the logo. The M, with or without the name Mohawk, appears in different colors and configurations that can be extended in countless ways depending on the application and intended audience, emphasizing the company’s desire to connect with its customers. “We wanted to show a company that has been around as long as Mohawk has is still capable of changing the way it looks the next time you see it, and the time after that and the time after that,” says Bierut. “Color is a great way to do that.”

The core logo appears in more than a dozen color variations, and has been arranged in bold, vibrant patterns on paper ream wraps. The colorful patterns play off the idea of connectivity—connecting the dots in the M logo—and exhibit a sense of playful surprise. “The logo is toy-like, which encourages experimentation,” says Bierut.

The fluid, flexible system meets a strategic need for Mohawk, which works with many design studios to create promotional programs and pieces for its various product lines. The system needed to inspire and engage other designers, and the new identity functions as a toolkit that invites further development and customization. Chalet is the identity’s principal typeface, with supporting typography and text set in Sentinel.

“The new Mohawk is dedicated to the makers,” says Laura Shore. To this end, the team created a campaign centered around the theme, “What Will You Make Today?” To kick off the campaign, Thomas D. O’Connor, Jr., Mohawk’s Chairman and CEO, answers the question in an animated clip, “Tom O’Connor Makes Paper,” created by Pentagram with the designer/illustrator Felix Sockwell and producer Hillary Frank.

Animated clip introducing the ‘What Will You Make Today?’ campaign, featuring Mohawk CEO Tom O’Connor. Illustration by Felix Sockwell. Animation by Matt Delbridge. Production by Hillary Frank.

Additional coverage: Felt & Wire, Brand New, How.

Project Team: Michael Bierut, partner-in-charge and designer; Katie Barcelona, Joe Marianek and Aron Fay, designers.