Pentagram was tapped to rebrand chess. What they presented was an enigma.

Their strategy started with this logo, a mind-bending, trompe-l’oeil take on a chessboard. Its enigmatic presence reminds me of a secret society--like we’re crashing a crafty villain’s party in a James Bond film.

The logo actually makes its way into the wooden boards, though you can’t see that here.

And rather than a gold medal…

…champs win their own take-home version of this Escherian puzzle.

…champs win their own take-home version of this Escherian puzzle.

…champs win their own take-home version of this Escherian puzzle.

Co.Design

Pentagram Rebrands Competitive Chess, With A Spiffy 3-D Logo

How do you give a new face to chess? By adding a whole other dimension.

On Star Trek: TNG, there was no special effects budget to make chess look futuristic. Instead, art designers imagined a simple, three-level game board. And without holograms or phasers, chess looked infinitely more complicated.

When entrepreneur Andrew Paulson approached Pentagram to update the World Chess Championship, to give it all the international prestige of the Bobby Fischer era, the creative team responded with a similar trick—creating a 3-D logo constructed as much from enigma as geometric simplicity, a new look for a new era of competitive board gaming that they renamed, simply: World Chess.

"We felt that chess could be re-enabled around the ideas of intelligence of mind and intensity of contest. We looked for symbols of that intelligence and intensity, and that took us to all the intelligent permutations that a board offered, and the contest of black versus white, and those elements are what we based the identity around," Pentagram partner Naresh Ramchandani tells Co.Design. "We wanted to create a chess world made out of a 3-D chessboard that could elevate the game rather than simply represent it—a symbol that asks people to re-evaluate chess and think about it."

Their resulting —what I’m dubbing the inverted Q-bert—is one Pentagram hopes you become "lost in." And their Escherian invention spills over to every other aspect of the World Chess brand. It’s pasted to the backs of chairs, engraved on the wooden chess stations and it’s even the heart of the winner’s "medal."

But where it plays out most effectively is actually its least literal permutation. A pair of intricately illustrated knights complement the logo with a similarly confounding aesthetic, a suitable riff on a new brand that’s just beginning. Just as in competitive chess, you may have no way to dissect the intricacy of what you see. Of course, that’s all part of the fun.

Click to enlarge.

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11 Comments

  • Newton King

    I'm a designer and played chess my whole life. I was excited to read this article but this logo just makes my eyes and mind hurt. No matter what designer spin you put on it, what you've created here just looks like kaleidoscope. I don't get it. The Chessboard is square. Always has been, always will be. Why turn the board into diamond shapes, diagonals, prisms, triangles and pentagrams?

    Your focus is on the board, yet that is just the battlefield. Chess is about the pieces and skillfully coordinating those pieces together to assassinate your opponents King. I think your brief is flawed and the result is you went off on the wrong tangent.

  • Don Chandler

    Just think about the pedestal, only one player advances. It's a logo for the Candidates. And there are 8 players ;)

  • Zagfish

    I think he meant...
    "On Star Trek: TNG, there was no special effects budget to make chess look futuristic."

    I think you meant what I had thought. ;)

  • The Gaf

    I love it. Chess is too often conflated with checkers by those who don't play it- it is not a "child's" game.

    What this does is takes a very serious and difficult game and visually depicts the depth of thinking required to master it.

    I could stare at it all day- just like you can stare at an in-progress middle game all day and not move.