Though no stranger to the principles of environmental stewardship, Columbia Forest Products – North America’s largest manufacturer of hardwood plywood – was perhaps as surprised as anyone to find itself transformed into a leading light in the sustainability movement when research it funded led to the development of the industry’s first cost-neutral process for making formaldehyde-free hardwood plywood. Instead of offering the new process – named PureBond – as an alternative alongside its traditional urea-formaldehyde plywood offering, Columbia opted to convert its entire manufacturing process to PureBond, eliminating formaldehyde completely. Pinch was retained to develop a brand that would speak both to Columbia’s existing following among woodworkers and also to an emerging market of architects and designers.
Here, we wanted to suggest purity, modernity, and industrial competence. Much of the marketing done in the name of sustainable building carries the taint of movement politics; we believe that the green choice may be the best choice, but that the best choice is the important part of the proposition for most folks. Green shouldn’t be percieved as marginal or experimental. It is the mainstream.
We built the trademark around a set of interlocking forms derived from the interiors of the capital P and B; and meant to suggest water beading, but also the strength of the underlying chemical structure. PureBond inventor Kaichang Li studied the adhesives secreted by mussels, which allow them to cling to their host despite constant moisture. (It isn’t hard to make a strong formaldehyde-free adhesive – wheat paste qualifies – but it’s damned difficult to make one that stands up to moisture. PureBond actually outperforms the UF adhesive it replaces handily in moisture resistance.) We further developed this side of the narrative by the use of a set of layered, repeating patterns.
During the first days after PureBond was introduced, Pinch generated a large amount of technical/evangelical literature for specifiers and end users, for which we developed a crisp, rational set of standards. Here are two technical papers and a product sheet showing end use, and the folder we designed to hold them.
Sample kit, containing 3"x3" samples of various veneers laid up using the PureBond technology, specification information, and brochure telling the PureBond story in detail. Note simple kraft container – although the brand's visual language could be quite sophisticated, we always strove to execute using simple processes, and always using the most eco-friendly materials at our disposal, e.g., FSC-certified papers and materials with very high post-consumer content.
Once Columbia had completed the conversion of its mills to the PureBond process, Pinch developed a twelve-page brochure both to accompany the product sample kit and to introduce the product to architects and interior designers. The brochure follows a simple argument in human terms, starting with a survey of the environmental risk associated with traditional UF plywood, to the story of the chemist pursuing his own curiosity who ended up doing applied biomimicry before he even knew the word, to rather technical discussions of the product’s performance compared to its competition, and finishing with a solid testimonial from an early adopter. This brochure is shown in greater detail on its own; use the popdown menu above or follow this link.
Pinch designed a new coverboard for Columbia to coincide with the conversion to all-PureBond production. Coverboards protect the upper corners of hardwood plywood from damage during shipping, an important job when the plywood is selling for $100 per sheet. Columbia has mills and customers in Canada; we executed the coverboard in simultaneous English and French, and specified a custom tiedown to match the brand color.
Pinch developed brand application standards for application on distributors’ delivery trucks. Probably the single largest piece we did in 2006.
Pinch developed modular language for portable exhibits used in smaller tradeshows. This particular configuration was used at the USGBC’s GreenBuild 2006 in Denver.
Counter card (8"x16") and two-sided hangtag created for cabinet shops wanting to announce their use of PureBond. This system was designed to be inexpensive to produce and easily customizable with the shop owner’s name and logo.
Columbia had been pursuing an internal sustainability strategy for several years, but had done nothing to communicate these beliefs outside the company. This piece, prepared for inclusion in an educational package sent to high school shop teachers, gave us the opportunity to begin to develop some real language for Columbia’s sustainability story. The piece is shown in greater detail elsewhere on this site, and while not technically a PureBond piece, it is certainly part of the larger evangelical effort behind PureBond.