In the contemporary culture of graphic design, an identity is commonly understood to mean much more than a logo. An identity is in fact a system, often built in response to a form, generally a logo. Though a logo can be a powerful tool that can immediately convey meaning, it’s only one piece of the kit that makes up an identity. Identities can be established lacking this piece.
Graphic designers may accept this, but many outside of the discipline think of the logo as the whole identity. At the studio, we use this difference in understanding as a teachable moment, an opportunity to illustrate to a potential client how a holistic systems approach to branding through graphic design is key to strengthening an organization’s image.
Curious Perspectives, Unanticipated Discoveries
When and where appropriate, I explore these curious perspectives through what I do best: making things.
Our 7th annual Typeforce exhibition takes place on February 26; creating its identity offered a perfect opportunity to explore the idea of identity as a kit of parts. This wasn’t necessarily at the top of my mind when beginning the project, but I arrived to it in a manner that Cranbrook’s Elliott Earls might classify as post-facto rationalization. This is where the process, specifically the design making, is an act of research and yields unanticipated discoveries.
Lucky Number Seven
The work started in my usual manner: scouring semiotics for significant, dramatic meaning. Where better to look than a number with known recognition: seven. Beyond being the lucky number, it too symbolizes the deadly sins. These capital vices inspire a wealth of imagery and could make for a system with legs—here, toads represent greed, snakes depict envy. Lions portray wrath, snails illustrate sloth, pigs come to stand for gluttony. The goat constitutes lust, and the plumage perfect peacock personifies pride. Meaning, visual play, energy that has been around for nearly 1800 years, and who doesn’t want an opportunity to explore ‘wrath’ in their work?
I’m certain we can make a fantastic exhibition identity based on sin, (I’d love to), though this did not feel right for an event that historically has served as a welcoming and safe place for people’s creative expression.
So, it was back to the books and to sketching. Emerging near the same time in history as the sins, the seven virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. It is said that practicing the virtues protects against temptation from the seven deadly sins. Wow, full circle!? Where else did I go? All over the place. I’ll let you google the significance of the number seven in a tarot deck, because all of this dark, heavy meaning is really starting to be too much for me.
Making as Guilty Pleasure
What about making as exploration, as pure fun. Making not out of requirement, but because we have a mind, hands and tools? Making for the love of design and achieving something pure, something that elicits aesthetic pleasure?
Scrapping everything, pushing around shapes and colors, fun emerged and I had little idea where it was going. It felt guilty. Like how you feel after leaving school, entering the design profession, starting to make kick-ass work for friends and clients, telling your family—this is what I do. It’s a good guilty feeling, one I wanted to share with others, by way of shape play.
The Typeforce 7 identity doesn’t have many deliverables, but perhaps the responsive and interactive nature of the site could allow for this.
Creating a Kit of Parts
This idea began to put the first lines on the paper. With letters returning to their geometric roots; this geometry could shape the composition and then be defined digitally by viewport height, where the horizontal attributes are determined by a responsive expanding and anchoring of angular elements.
This build can translate across all devices, to mobile and just as easily to print. This idea takes the responsive nature and need for all things and puts it in the forefront, but rendering this graphically means there is no final form. It was this act that brought about this idea of our sans-logo identity as kit of parts. By designing variant styles and sizes for the shapes that represent consonants, the identity became something ever-changing, influenced by user interaction.
In this is a hyper post-internet framework for an identity, we built this with straight CSS, no assets (no SVG, JPG, PGN) other than two font files for a black and regular cuts of GT Haptic from Grilli Type, chosen for its mono-linear geometric build. Keeping it internet-ie, I went with light-based bright, bold colors taken directly from Adobe's default RGB palette. Seven colors allow us to show depth via gradient blends and serve an historical nod to Isaac Newton's defined rainbow spectrum.
Internal projects like this one must move quickly. With neither road map nor specific destination in mind, I’m particularly proud that we landed on an identity that has no logo, no final form and a minimal/manageable amount of parts. The kit of parts as they exist today includes:
• set shapes and variants that spell S E V E N • color palette that can mix and blend as desired • noise texture to add slight tactile qualities • GT Haptik for its geometric harmony
With a system like this, I think it's important for each deliverable to change and evolve. So what’s next with these works? I’m excited by the ability to bring physics into the system, be that gravity, increased depth and light. I think we can all see how it may turn towards Maholy-Nagy, Kasten, or El Lissitzky's constructivist compositions. Perhaps it shapes into something entirely different, is it time to look to tangrams again? What can I say, I'm excited by it all.
I believe success of Typeforce is due to the range + quality of work and the different backgrounds of our exhibitors. We're hoping to see your names in this round of Typeforce submissions. And if you spot any rising talents, let them know we want to see their work too.
Important dates: – Submit by Jan 15 – Doors open Feb 26
Important notes: – Group entries & international proposals are welcome – Awardees must be onsite to install the week prior to the opening
All submissions should be in the form of PDFs sent to Typeforce@FirebellyDesign.com