• 08.18.10

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


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]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.