Bloc.io’s UI/UX Design apprenticeship helped me learn the trade via several projects and through weekly video conferences with a mentor. I plan to share my positive experience in detail and today I’d like to talk about my BIC Cristal project. My mentor — Jason Early, who by the way is an excellent designer, developer, and mentor — challenged me to reimagine the BIC Cristal. For those of you who have not heard of the company BIC or its Cristal pen, the Cristal is the company’s most famous ball-point pen, and probably one of the most popular ball-point pens in the world. In all likelihood you have probably used one in your life.
Take a look at the current — as of this writing — landing page for the BIC Cristal. The BIC Cristal is branded as a cheap, replaceable, almost throw-away ball-point pen. This has been the way the Cristal has been marketed for as long as I can remember. The challenge was to develop a landing page for the BIC Cristal that transforms this image. What that image should be depended on what I would find as I researched the history of the Cristal ball-point pen.
During my research of the BIC company and the Cristal pen, I found many interesting facts, which I will be detailing as I go through the different design elements of the landing page.
First, I want to talk about the logo and how I went about redesigning it. The redesign of the logo, icon, and landing page went in parallel and fed back to one another; as I learned more about the company and the product the designs changed here and there.
What you see above is the current logo. The BIC font is inconsistent in its design. One line gets thinner towards the bottom, another line does the opposite. The overall look and feel is, well, there isn’t an overall. It’s messy. I thought playful, but with the serif-y ‘C’ not so much. I think it’s just a mess. Juxtapose the messy slanted text to the upright figure and the design gets even more confusing. He — could be a she, but I’ll bet he’s a he — has a v-neck sweater, long socks, and a necktie. He holds a pen — with his hands behind him — so he’s probably a student of some proper sort. Only students who attend expensive prep schools wear clothes like that. I’d bet hardly anyone uses a BIC pen at these schools. The logo and icon together and independently don’t seem to be working very well.
I wanted to simplify icon first. The ball-point head is the most prominent part of the design and it has relevance to the company’s product itself so I wanted to keep that.
What I did here was to get rid of what I thought was superfluous elements. I wanted to get to the most simple form that still pointed to a human figure, while maintaining some connection — the v-neck — to the original. When I did that the icon looked like the letter ‘i’ so I thought why not integrate it into the logo. Then I started adding radius corners and paired it with a bunch of different fonts.
The thinner the icon got it looked better with thinner fonts, and vice versa. Nothing quite worked. I wanted to see what the icon would look like if I went all the way and made it really thin.
I went through a lot of different font faces, but at the end decided to stick with Slim Jim. Slim Jim looked modern, but it had some of the same qualities of the original font face, namely irregularity. Some corners have radius corners while others are sharp. But unlike the original these irregularities in Slim Jim brought about a modern feel with a little bit of softness.
The icon looks very much like the letter ‘i’, but it also connects back to the original student: it also looks like a tie. I was happy with the results.
The Cristal is a remarkable pen. Each Cristal is manufactured to make a line that is 2000 meters (or about 80,000 inches) long. BIC has been fine-tuning the Cristal for 65 years.
That ball-point doesn’t seem special, but it is: tungsten and carbon is fused together at 2000 Celcius to form tungsten carbide, an alloy that is almost as hard as a diamond.
Every single Cristal — 100% of them — are inspected for roundness and resilience. Since 1950 BIC has manufactured 100 billion Cristals. Now that’s something.
I used an iPhone to photograph and Snapseed to edit. I chose black and white to bring about nostalgia but also modernity.
My guess is not many take a close look at this pen, so I wanted to show the tungsten carbide ball in detail in the second photo. The third photo was taken to complement the 100 billion milestone and the hexagon shape.
There will be lots of different pens you’ll want, but if you think about all of these qualities, the BIC Cristal really is the only pen you’ll ever need.
I believe the goal of re-imagining the BIC Cristal pen as something extraordinary was accomplished through the re-designed landing page. Teaching myself the history, manufacturing technology, and what makes the Cristal special helped form the design not only of the logo, icon, but the entire concept.