Pentagram's Luke Hayman on How Multimedia Is Transforming Branding [UPDATED]

The design firm's logo for the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art forecasts a novel approach to branding in the digital age.

Pentagram unveiled a fresh logo for the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art recently, and it has that elusive quality brand designers are always trying to capture: movement. We mean that literally.

The logo is animated. Its letters, in Monotype Grotesque, drift back and forth along a horizontal axis, sometimes bumping into each other, then overlapping, before splitting in opposite directions. SECCA is a newly renovated space in lush Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and it doesn't have a permanent collection, which means that its galleries are constantly in flux. The logo is a clever expression of that identity. It also prompts the question: Is multimedia transforming branding?

The answer is yes, says Pentagram partner Luke Hayman. Hayman led the design of the SECCA logo, and he points out that non-static logos aren't new. "My favorite examples are MTV and the original Nickelodeon identity," he says. The difference now is that "more mainstream companies are starting to take advantage of the seductive quality of motion."

It makes sense. Branding is happening in the digital world. Companies want to appear forward-thinking, and exploiting the medium is a smart way to do that. Animated graphics, in particular, are a relatively easy and inexpensive strategy for making your name pop.

It could alter how designers approach branding, too. The decision to change "SECCA" from all lowercase to uppercase had a lot to do with the constraints of animation itself. 'We needed vertical letter forms to take advantage of the movement,' Hayman says. "It allowed for more white space between the letter forms while keeping the over all proportion at a practical width." So maybe this augurs the end of the bizarre trend in which companies articulate (usually false) folksiness through lowercase lettering? We hope?

[The old logo, static and boring]

Obviously, branding doesn't exist entirely online — not now, not ever — and anything designed for digital media has to translate to the page. Pentagram tried to replicate the dynamic quality of SECCA's logo by varying letter spacing in a raft of print versions. For example, each business card is slightly different from the next. The effect is a subtle one — perhaps too subtle set against the vitality of its Web sibling. "Of course the logo is at its best in motion," Hayman says. "We knew its online presence was key."

[Images via Pentagram]

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  • Amy

    I have to agree with Tom. It's nice. Clever maybe. And based on some of the comments below it solves some of the design/branding issues for the client. But still...innovative? So it moves-I get the connection between the movement and the "moving" exhibits... BFD. Specifically: what is innovative about this?

  • Tom Muller

    Sure, its a nice design — but the animation adds no extra value to the identity. To call this a an example of how "multimedia" (really? I thought we buried that term along with CD-Roms) is transforming brands is naive at best, ignorant at worst. This is (sadly) a perfect example of a traditional (read: print) agency dipping their toes in the digital pond, and getting it wrong, while its being hailed as innovative.

  • Mark Leach

    Mr. Muller is entitled to his opinion. It's grist for the mill. Not withstanding an unhelpful counterpoint, and speaking for my organization, Pentagram's design is a result that mirrors our organizational mission and culture. Quiet, cerebral, uncertain and reflective of the ever changing circumstances of the world in which we live, Luke Hayman's design provides a visual equivalent to the awkward and often uncertain process of making sense of the world around us. Innovative, I think so. Loud, possessing a crude, horror vaccui aesthetic, thankfully not. We are thankful for a poet's deft touch and a less is more design sense. From another perspective, it's not the museum architect as sculptor of nonfunctional space but rather a facilitator who plays a catalytic role in fashioning an enduring sign that shapes public perception effectively over time.

  • Reza Bassiri

    I clearly agree with Mr. Muller. When you look at the logo, it is defined by several things, such as its colour, the typeface design, and kerning. Typeface is beautiful and shows impact, colour is fresh, kerning is awkward and moving! The logo loses its power and timelessness by playing with typeface positioning reminiscent of the 50's in Switzerland (Muller Brockmann for instance)... not so innovative, rather retro, which brings a new and larger problem in the game.
    Print is not evolving anymore or very little, digital is constantly on the move, and as digital is maturing and taking on print principles (both in composition and style) Analog design is going more and more retro!!!
    going digital and creating motion in an identity that is strong when static is one thing (MTV is a great example), doing the contrary is more of challenge. Print Agencies, tend to do it upside down, as the shift from print to digital is a radical shift. (Designers Republic is a perfect example of this failure at shifting).
    A logo whether on print, or digital, remains the core identity of a brand, and MUST convey, stability, power, beauty, and soul.

  • Elliot Strunk

    James, have you tried SECCA's site on an iPad or an iPhone? No worries, the site is compliant. There are plenty of Macs, iPads and iPods all around our part of the country (and definitely within SECCA).

  • James Wu

    LOVE the execution on the print translation. Well done Pentagram! But, for online, a logo in Flash? *gasp*! Maybe there aren't many iPhones or iPads floating around Winston-Salem.