The Design Challenge
Lowe’s approached us in 2006 to help them bring design consistency to their in-house brand of Kobalt Tools. They use a variety of manufacturing resources located all over the world to make their tool line, and previously, the products shared very few visual elements to tie them together. This lack of visual consistency made it hard for consumers to recognize and remember the Kobalt brand. Lowe’s asked us to help them create a Visual Brand Language for Kobalt Tools incorporating;
– Refinement of Kobalt’s visual messaging
– A signature look for the Kobalt brand
– Design standards for their products in the form of a VBL guide
– Implementation of the VBL across a wide variety of products
Our internal team conducted ethnographic research to identify key visual references that appealed to targeted buyers to ensure our designs would be relevant. We analyzed competitors’ visual elements to look for ways to differentiate Kobalt Tools within their category and worked closely with Lowe’s internal design team to create signature visual elements: product shapes, color palettes, grip textures and logo treatments. The new Kobalt VBL helps communicate durability and precision. We created a 72-page Visual Brand Language Guide detailing the essential visual elements of Kobalt and how to apply those elements to any Kobalt-branded product. This guide is used by Lowe’s to unify product designs made by various vendors around the world.
Lowe’s wanted the tools to not only look consistent, but they needed to function well and be comfortable to use, too. In addition to the VBL, we did extensive ergonomic research in cooperation with our research partners at the OSU ergonomic research department, to refine the design of the tools and ensure all Kobalt tools had a comfortable grip. Our team of designers helped Lowe’s create the initial 80 SKUs of Kobalt product. Over the years, we’ve since partnered with their team to design an additional 200 Kobalt products.
When our partnership with Lowe’s began, brand recognition for Kobalt Tools ranked among the lowest when compared to other tool brands. By investing in a unique Visual Brand Language, extensive advertising, and a commitment to creating high quality products, Kobalt is now among the most recognized and respected tool brands. Kobalt Tools sales have increased dramatically and Lowe’s now enjoys brand momentum over many competitors in the tool category.
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