Transformation of a Logo

From the smelting tools of Norddeutsche Affinerie to the modern Aurubis triangle

Old “smelting tools” logo:

In 1953, Norddeutsche Affinerie introduced a logo as its company sign which was made of the three smelting tools: pick, tap and fork. It formed a triangle with the letters “NA” in the middle. After the end of the upheaval of the war, NA had managed to get itself back on its feet commercially and had evolved into a major copper producer. For a company as large as Norddeutsche Affinerie, which had well over 1,000 employees at the time, a corporate logo was essential. So, the logo was developed from pictures of the typical tools used by workers in the smelting plant.
At the time, the design was based on theemblems and symbols of old guilds, and the arty, detailed design was much liked. However, little thought was given to the notion that a logo would also need to look good when reproduced on a much smaller scale on business cards or ballpoint pens, and that it would need to help create a uniform corporate image. It also sometimeshappened that the company logo appeared in different shapes and colours.

Norddeutsche Affinerie logo:

Even though the logo did not always prove to be entirely user-friendly, the smelting tools were not replaced until 1991, when the 125-year anniversary of the company was marked by replacing the stylised tools with a blue triangle. The company signet made its first appearance on the 1989/90 annual report. Udo Burk, the owner of an advertising agency, was the one who designed the new logo at the time. He remembers the design concept: “My brief was to preserve the long tradition of the triangular arrangement of the smelting tools, whilst at the same time giving the logo a modern and memorable feel which was clear, clean and optimistic. At the time the Metallgesellschaft was an important shareholder, and their signet was blue. This prompted Norddeutsche Affinerie to choose a blue logo as well. Original considerations had included a copper colour. We also used the same style of lettering as the Metallgesellschaft.”
As a result, “Norddeutsche Affinerie Aktiengesellschaft” was placed in block capitals underneath the logo. The company’s internal magazine NA-intern reported at the time: “ ... there is little use in being one of the most modern copper smelters in the world if we fail to constantly document this for the outside world. It would be going too far at this point to explain the advertising psychology behind all of this, but one thing is certain, and this has been verified by numerous studies: Modern corporate design helps to document corporate philosophy and technical advancement for the outside world.”

NA triangle logo

However, this new logo did not last the forty years of its predecessor, and by 1999 work was already under way to modernise it. After the tensely anticipated millennium change, which thankfully passed without any problems, Norddeutsche Affinerie presented itself with a new image in February 2000. The logo was now shorter and more to-the-point, and the aim was to replace the complicated company name “Norddeutsche Affinerie” in the long term with “NA”, similar to the approach adopted by HP and BP.
The company website was also modernised, and a corporate design was developed with the intention of using it in all publications in order to establish a uniform and consistent image. The cautious explanation in the then magazine NA-intern – “with time, […] it is hoped that the abbreviation ‘NA’ will replace the malapropisms of our company name like ‘Norddeutsche’ or ‘Affi’, which have gradually become commonplace […]” – was appropriate, because just nine years later it was time again for a new logo – and most people still referred to NA as the “Affi”.

Aurubis logo 

After the merger of NA with Cumerio a name change became unavoidable, simply changing the logo would not be enough this time. The geographic identity which had once put the norddeutsch, i.e. north German, into Norddeutsche Affinerie no longer applied, as the company operated factories in seven European countries, and as Bernd Drouven announced at the first staff meeting shortly before Christmas 2008, it would have done little to boost the feeling of togetherness if the new company locations in Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria and Switzerland had been forced to put up signs saying “Norddeutsche Affinerie” over the entrances to their factories. In addition, just as predicted in 2000, the abbreviation “NA” had never really taken off, and most people continued to use the abbreviation “Norddeutsche”, which was very difficult for them to pronounce. The name change came into effect in many sites on 1 April 2009.
In a joint effort between many departments, in only a short space of time the new logos were put up, factory passes were replaced and business papers were reprinted (more information about this can be found on the next double-page spread). Although this marks the start of a new era for the corporation, the smelting tools from the old days have remained, representing as they do the values of consistency and trust - and in doing so they remind us of the long tradition of the company.