September 28, 2015

Crossword’s Yello by Hyphen Brands

by Anusha Narayanan

Since its launch in the 90s, Crossword has become one of the go-to bookstores that most of us retreat to, knowing that we will find something to take home. Over the years, Crossword has expanded beyond books and publications to stock games, toys and more, and more recently have forayed into selling branded merchandise. Yello is a new range of stationery created by Hyphen, a brand engagement product agency started in 2011 by Prasanna Sankhe and Alok Nanda.

Hyphen works with brands on end-to-end design and manufacturing of the products, as well as brand planning and development on a long-term basis. Crossword has worked with Alok Nanda & Company for a long time, and they decided to take it beyond books.


“There was a need for an elegant, understated brand of stationery which a modern Indian could carry unashamedly into a boardroom meeting or even a coffee shop. It had to be as much at home in either of these places,” said Prasanna. While developing the product line, Hyphen felt it had to be more functional and minimal than loud or teeny bopper.

A stationery brand as a brand extension for a bookstore made sense, but Crossword already sells quite a few different brands in their stores. So what makes one stand out from the other? To connect to the consumers of Crossword in particular, Hyphen suggested a stationery line which didn’t have loud graphics.

“Till date all stationery brands tried to go bold, kitsch or used clichéd Indian iconography. We thought there was enough space for an elegant stationery brand to exist. We have gone completely the other direction by concentrating on the kind of papers we use for the insides; the cover page texture; the designer typography on covers; the tiny details like the yellow stitch on the spine. Or the witty, vibrant copy written on all the products to create a brand personality that’s very distinct,” explained Prasanna.



The starting point for Yello was to reference Crossword brand subtly, such that customers are able to discover this connection on their own, instead of being too in-your-face. The colour yellow, also Crossword’s brand colour, makes that connect, and hence the name Yello. The Y in the logo draws from the image of an open book.

“If you see an open book in the hand of a reader, to you it will form the shape of a Y,” explained Prasanna. “If you see the product, the branding of Yello itself is quite tiny, but the logo – just the Y – is embossed or pressed on the surface of the book.” Such subtle gestures keep the soul of the brand “understated”, as Prasanna emphasizes repeatedly. A signature feature of all the Yello stationery is that the first and the last inside pages are always yellow.



The palette is neutral except for the yellow: it’s black, grey, off-white or brown paper, in keeping with the entire theme. There is also an intentional wittiness and intelligence in the writing, like the pen-case called “case in point” or the coffee mug called “the write mug”, which introduces the product to a consumer in a charming and rewarding manner. The first range includes notebooks, diaries, pen cases, mugs and a few more products. And with the welcoming response they’ve received, they’re ready to churn out a second collection soon.

There is no intent to push the product down a consumer’s throat, and Hyphen is going to maintain this tone of voice. The finesse flows through across the product, copy, website and the whole brand. The labour that’s gone into the finish of the products was their major challenge, or let’s say the main emphasis, and that comes through well.


So the next time someone demands for good stationery that’s been made in India – there is the option to go Yello.

YELLO is currently available in select Crossword stores across India. The products are priced starting at Rs. 179 right upto Rs. 799. The brand has plans to expand to all of Crossword stores and quickly to expand into ShoppersStop outlets as well. Find more on Hyphen here.

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