Hydrate level 4, please!

In today's Back to the Future post, Senior Designer Sabrina Pennewiss looks at Black & Decker, and how a constantly evolving brand has maintained the same innovative spirit.

The Back To The Future trilogy is probably to blame for my massive love of science fiction. I think one of the brilliant ideas in all three films is that the past, present and future are all presented in the same location, allowing the viewer to actually become time travelers themselves, drawing their own comparisons as we watch Marty visit Hill Valley in the 1950s, the Wild West and of course, the year 2015.

As a designer, it was fascinating to see in Back to the Future 2 (BTTF2) brands imagining themselves and their products 30 years in the future. Sneakers became self-lacing, video games were hands-free and skateboards turned into hoverboards. But my love for hoverboards aside, to me one of the most exciting futuristic inventions was Black & Decker’s food hydrator – a microwave-like oven that turns Pizza Hut’s miniature pizzas into a regular-sized, ready-to-serve meals in a matter of seconds.

Black & Decker, most well-known as a leading manufacturer of power tools, has been around for over 100 years. By transforming the tool industry in 1916 as the inventors of the first portable electric drills, as well as starting the DIY revolution in the 1940s by introducing a line of portable drills for consumers to use at home, Black & Decker completely embodied an innovative spirit. Since their early beginnings, their vision was to provide solutions that make life easier, so it was interesting to see how Black & Decker in BTTF2 would once again be the spearhead of innovation with its food hydrator.

However, Black & Decker was a little less adventurous when it came to imagining a futuristic 2015 identity. Taking a closer look at their original 1985 logo and comparing it to the imagined counterpart in 2015, not much had changed.

B&D comparison

What remained consistent however, was the hexagonal nut, a universal fastener, a globally recognisable symbol of the machine tool trade. Unsurprisingly, not only is it present in the BTTF2 version, but made even more prominent by increasing the size-to-type ratio. Seemingly to Black & Decker, the hexagon was a big part of its heritage, a symbol which represented its industry but that also had a lot of equity.

Interestingly Black & Decker, since they were founded in 1910, has in reality changed its logo numerous times and often quite drastically so.

B&D logo history

Ironically, when Lippincott rebranded Black & Decker (or rather ‘Black + Decker’ as it now is) in 2014, the hexagon was entirely dropped from the logo. Couple that with a brand new typeface and a curved box around the logotype, and Black & Decker now looks nothing like its BTTF2 counterpart.

Regardless of what you might think of their new identity, it can’t be said that Black & Decker haven’t stayed true to their nature of constantly inventing and simplifying products, as well as themselves. It is their goal of delivering innovative and smart solutions that has kept them ahead of the game for over a century. That aside, looking at the current trend for healthy living, I doubt we'll be seeing food hydrators anytime soon.

You can read more about Back to the Future Day and whether the featured brands were successful in predicting their future in our Creative Director, Natasha Chance's article over at The Drum.