TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) CI Design

A symbol mark as a symbol of trust

CL: Tokyo Electric Power Company AD/D: Kazumasa Nagai PR: Toyoki Kobayashi AG: Dentsu

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which supplies power primarily to the Kanto area, first introduced its CI in 1987. The request for a symbol mark had been received by NDC one year earlier. As a supplier of electric power, TEPCO was a company that operated in the background – one which few ordinary people were aware of and which supported everyday living from the shadows. However in order to meet the needs of the times, the company began to feel the need to change from its background role to become a company in greater contact with consumers.

The previous TEPCO symbol mark had utilized a lightning motif. Lightning is a natural phenomenon that symbolizes electricity, and at the time when electric power companies were first created, it was extremely easy to recognize as a symbol of electricity. However as time passed, electricity became thought of less as a natural phenomenon and more as a part of our core infrastructure, so much so that companies, factories, and ordinary everyday activities had become inconceivable without electricity. Despite this, because the basic universality of electrical power supply was not easily visible, it became necessary to clearly show the company’s face and demonstrate its reliability in order to gain the greater trust of the consumers.

Because CI is something that is introduced for the future of a company, multiple meetings were held with the company’s top management, with whom we discussed the future. At that time, I suggested a symbol mark that was round and gentle, the exact opposite of the jagged lightning bolt.

I felt that round was the shape most suitable for electric power. The situation where people can best understand the importance of electricity and feel gratitude for its presence must be a family spending time together in a brightly lit home. Round also suggests the Japanese ideals of peace and harmony. In order to also provide a sense of completeness and balance, I designed a single mark composed of six circles. For such a large company, a mark with a concrete, material image would become tiresome. This mark was completely abstract while being at the same time somehow familiar. Depending on one’s perspective, it could even suggest a cartoon character. It provided a sense of the domestic warmth provided by the electricity that supports Japan. The deep crimson color that was selected as the corporate color was also chosen to express brightness, strength, vitality, and energy.

Compared with logotypes, symbol marks are more abstract. They are experienced intuitively, and repeated experiences eventually result in a sense of attachment in the viewer. The TEPCO symbol mark was proof of its reliability, and the core of communication between the company and ordinary consumers. For this reason, we created a design system which was centered on this mark and which focused on elements that consumers contacted directly, such as signs and company vehicles. A symbol mark achieves its effects through an accumulation of repeated contacts. The mark received a high level of exposure, appearing in all manner of locations including on manholes, electricity bills, company cars, and TV commercials. A symbol mark has no meaning if it is not used; it is necessary to use the mark extensively and create a significant positive image through the effects of repeated exposure.

If visual communication is not conducted accurately, it can have the opposite effect and invite confusion. Even if the ideal mark is born, what allows this healthy child to grow up and become a healthy adult is the correct provision of information by the company.

This mark became instantly recognizable among the public. A company which supplies invisible electric power gained a new image as a company close at hand, supplying the infrastructure which is most important to people.

Application design: Masashi Uehara, Tomoyuki Yanagitani, Gaku Ota, Tadashi Yoshida, Keizo Suenaga

Kazumasa Nagai
Born in 1929 in Osaka. Withdrew from the sculpture faculty of the Tokyo University of the Arts in 1951. Participated in the launching of Nippon Design Center in 1960, where he currently serves as chief advisor. In addition to many CI and symbol marks, beginning from the latter half of the 1980s, he has produced the animal-motif “Life” series. Major awards include the JAAC Members Award; Asahi Advertising Award; “Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo” Prize at the Tokyo International Biennial Print Exhibition; ADC Grand Prix and ADC Highest Member Award; induction into the Tokyo ADC Hall of Fame; Japan Advertising Award Yamana Prize; Yusaku Kamekura Award; Masaru Katzumie Award; Mainichi Design Award; Minister of International Trade and Industry Design Merit Award; Minister of Education’s Art Encouragement Prize; Medal with Purple Ribbon; the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette; Gold medal, silver medal, and special prize at the Warsaw International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix and gold medal at the Bruno International Poster Biennale of Graphic Design; First prize at the Mexico International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix at the Moscow International Poster Triennale; Grand Prix at the Zagreb International Poster Exhibition; Grand Prix at the Helsinki International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix at the Ukraine International Graphic Art and Poster Triennale; and Grand Prix at the Asia Pacific Poster Exhibition (Hong Kong).