Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) is a renowned American retailer specializing in outdoor recreation gear, sporting goods, and clothing. Operating primarily in the U.S. market, REI offers products from top brands, as well as its in-house line. As a consumers’ cooperative, the company is owned by its members, who receive a share of the profits through an annual dividend. REI is dedicated to promoting environmental stewardship and outdoor education, contributing to a variety of conservation projects and initiatives. With its focus on quality products and customer satisfaction, REI has solidified its position as a go-to destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Meaning and history
Founded in 1938 by Lloyd and Mary Anderson in Seattle, REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) began as a cooperative to provide affordable, quality climbing gear to outdoor enthusiasts. The Andersons’ passion for the mountains inspired them to import an ice axe from Austria, marking the birth of REI.
Over time, the cooperative expanded its product range to include a wide array of outdoor gear, from camping and hiking to cycling and water sports. The company also developed its own line of products, catering to the evolving needs of its members and customers. REI established a strong online presence, complementing its retail stores across the U.S.
As a cooperative, REI operates uniquely, with members receiving a share of the profits through an annual dividend. This structure has fostered a strong community of outdoor enthusiasts who share a commitment to enjoying and preserving the natural world.
In line with its environmental ethos, REI has been an advocate for conservation, contributing to various projects and initiatives aimed at protecting the great outdoors. Education has also been a focal point, with the company offering classes and workshops to empower individuals to explore nature safely and responsibly.
Through its journey from a humble cooperative to a leading outdoor retailer, REI has remained true to its roots, continuing to deliver quality products and exceptional service while championing sustainability and community involvement.
1960s – 1975
The design is predominantly monochromatic, encapsulated within an elliptical frame. Its simplicity is its strength. A pair of mountains, sharp and contrasting, rise against the backdrop of the frame, with one appearing closer and more dominant. The silhouette of an evergreen tree stands to the left, serving as a gentle reminder of alpine terrains and dense forests. Within the mountains and overlapping their contours, are bold letters “REI”. The composition of the elements creates a harmonious balance, evoking feelings of adventure, wilderness, and nature’s serene beauty. The logo seems to resonate with outdoor enthusiasts and those who seek the thrill of exploring untouched terrains.
1975 – 1982
This design, striking in its boldness and contrast, embodies the spirit of the outdoors. Dominated by strong black tones, the logo foregrounds a stylized mountain range with sharp, jagged peaks, reminiscent of great outdoor adventures and challenging hikes. Adjacent to the mountains, a towering conifer tree silhouette stands tall, evoking dense forest landscapes. The central part of the logo proudly displays the capitalized letters “REI”, which are cleverly integrated into the mountain design. The entire design exudes a sense of unity, strength, and a shared love for nature. It appeals to adventurers, hikers, and everyone with a passion for the great outdoors. The logo stands as a beacon for community, exploration, and the indomitable spirit of nature.
1983 – 2015
Between 1983 and 2015, Recreational Equipment, Inc., or REI, downplayed its cooperative structure in its promotional materials and branding. This aspect of its identity was absent from advertising campaigns and the company’s logo, which showcased the initials “R,” “E,” and “I” prominently. Adjacent to the abbreviation, a stylized Christmas tree was depicted, consisting of four differently sized triangular shapes stacked upon one another. Above this, a zigzag line was drawn to emulate the silhouette of distant mountain peaks. The design was rendered in a striking black-and-white color scheme, with black used for the graphic elements and white for the background, creating a clear and effective visual contrast.
This choice to minimize the cooperative aspect of the business was strategic in appealing to a broader consumer base while maintaining its core values. The logo, with its mountain and tree imagery, still subtly communicated REI’s dedication to nature and outdoor adventure. Over the years, the company has continued to evolve, adapting its branding and marketing efforts to reflect the changing landscape of the retail industry and the preferences of its customers. As REI has grown and expanded its product offerings, it has also strengthened its commitment to environmental stewardship and community engagement, solidifying its reputation as a leader in the outdoor retail space.
2015 – Today
In October 2015, REI underwent a significant rebranding, prominently featuring the term “co-op” in its logo to underscore its identity as a consumer cooperative, a facet of the business it had previously downplayed. This new term was strategically placed directly beneath the abbreviation, which itself underwent notable changes. The designers enhanced the internal spacing of the letter “R” and softened some of its corners to give it a more modern and approachable feel. Additionally, the zigzag element was refined, with its ascending lines tapering towards the bottom to create a sense of movement and dynamism. The Christmas tree graphic was also revamped, with the bottom left side now appearing as if it has been sliced off, adding an asymmetrical and contemporary touch to the design.
This redesign was not just a visual refresh; it represented a significant shift in the company’s approach to its brand identity. By embracing its cooperative structure, REI was making a statement about its values and commitments to its members and the broader community. This move was reflective of a growing trend in the retail industry towards greater transparency and authenticity, with companies seeking to foster a deeper connection with their customers by being more open and honest about their operations and ethos. In this way, REI’s new logo serves as both a symbol of its rich history and a testament to its ongoing evolution as a company dedicated to serving the needs of outdoor enthusiasts and promoting a love of nature and adventure.