During the past few decades, brand identity has come to life, walked off the page, and danced. The days of the static logo are over, and on November 5th, some of the designers responsible for the liberation of identity gave presentations at the Brand New Conference in New York City.
Motion and animation emerged in identity during the 1980’s when brands like MTV and Nickelodeon adapted their identities for the television format. Those themes have only recently become dominant factors in the industry. Today, identity is adapting to a variety of emerging and evolving formats: 3D and the handheld web among them. Here’s a look at some of today’s advancements in identity design that have the potential to grow into major themes.
BFI Identity by johnson banks
The British Film Institute identity designed by johnson banks utilizes motion and animation – de rigeur qualities in identity these days– but its real innovation is its use of three-dimensionality and light. Discussing this identity at the Brand New Conference, Michael Johnson described his decision to avoid predictable and outdated concepts (film reels, clappers) in favor of an elemental signature of motion pictures: the lens flare. The result is a dazzling, illuminated identity that implies the distance between a light source and the viewer’s eye.
The MTV logo is often credited with being the first identity to adapt to the television medium. Now that television and cinema are going 3D, one can imagine identity systems that literally jump off the screen to expand and move in three dimensions. When asked about identity design’s potential in coming years, Johnson said, “I tend to think that it can only get better from here.”
The Brand Universe and the Anti-Logo
Universiteit Twente Identity by Studio Dumbar
The identity for this Dutch science University is a daring revision of the meaning of identity. Studio Dumbar partner Tom Dorresteijn explained that the “basic material of the identity” was not a logo or a color scheme, but “a world of exploration”: an array of colorful organic and geometric forms. The spare, minimal logo exists as a matter-of-fact typographic label that quietly identifies the “universe of form.”
Studio Dumbar’s approach to branding prioritizes artistic personality over conventional corporate identity. Bold concepts are used to dramatic, awe-inspiring affect; this feels like fine art as identity.
Much like the world of fine art, designers often seek to shatter the conventions of the previous generation. Now that identity has been liberated, where do we go from here? Someday, rebellious identity designers may return to that forbidden, shattered sacrilege: the logo.
PwC identity by Wolff Olins
Brand New founder Armin Vit cites the PwC identity by Wolff Olins as “the most encouraging sign in all of 2010 that interesting, daring work can be done with corporate clients.”
This is an identity that is flexible enough to expand or shrink in size depending on the media and format. Its scalability is its greatest strength, and it may be the first time that usability trumps symbolism in identity: its bright rectangles provide no representational meaning of their own, but rather canvases for text and image.
La Transat AG2R La Mondiale identity by Studio Dumbar
The visual identity for this international yacht race includes 26 different symbols in eight colors representing the style of maritime flags. This broad range of striking symbols comprises a visual language of its own. The next generation of identity designers may eschew a single mark or identifier in favor of the development of diverse ‘languages’ of communicative symbols.
Interactivity shows so much potential in identity design – and it’s virtually unexplored terrain. We talk about interactivity often – but few identities can actually be edited, customized, or played. Google’s PAC MAN doodle turned their logo playable, but as web and handheld platforms evolve, this will just be the tip of the iceberg for the individual user’s personal experience with interactive brands.
The Brand New Conference featured a wide variety of inspiring and daring work. However, it’s worth noting that just because something is new doesn’t make it good. Identity design will continue to adapt to mobile, 3D, and whatever newfangled contraptions disrupt the market next year. With studios like johnson banks and Wolff Olins at the helm of identities in those arenas, the results will surely be exciting – and likely, controversial. Despite the thrill of the new, these firms will continue to find their most powerful tools among design’s timeless sources of communication: concept, composition, color, and symbolism.