You might not know Imaginary Forces' name, but you've seen its work —the bleeding-edge creative agency/production company has designed eye-exploding visuals for movie trailers like Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon and Minority Report, plus every awesome video game released in the past decade. So when I saw that my beloved Science Channel had hired Imaginary Forces to refresh the network's old-in-the-tooth visual branding, my heart leapt — especially when Imaginary Forces claimed it was "the future of logo design."
"Morph always reverts to an amoebic black symbol."
I'll admit that I was a bit taken aback at first. Apparently, "the future of logo design" is an ambiguous shape-changing blob with three letters inside? Someone at The Science Channel (or SCI, I guess?) apparently took a page from Aol's rebranding playbook. But much like the Aol strategy eventually won us over, the SCI rebranding made more sense after I spoke to Ronnie Koff, a director and art director at Imaginary Forces who was creative lead on the project.
According to Koff, the Science Channel approached Imaginary Forces after the new, vaguely egg-shaped graphic mark had already been settled on. "Our role was to give it life, make it a character," Koff tells Co.Design. This logo-avatar, codenamed "Morph," does, well, exactly that: "It's designed to take on different looks and be many things to represent the Science Channel's broader scope of programming genres, which include science documentaries, sci-fi entertainment, space stuff, even fantasy and how-it's-made shows," Koff continues. "But Morph always comes back to its original state, this amoebic black symbol that has its own look even in a static form."
For example, Koff's team designed a pillbug-like robot persona for Morph to take on in general branding spots for the network itself. "We had this idea of making him a little menacing-looking, but he gets scared of everything and rolls back into his shell when startled," Koff says. "That's rooted in science but could also be sci-fi, and it also has a distinct personality." In another form, Morph resembles a nautilus shell, "which is still mechanical-looking, but also references a classic shape in science and nature."
"We're not coming from a print foundation anymore."
Morph's mutability — highly controlled, but always moving and never predictable — is what Imaginary Forces is touting as "the future of logo design" in their press release. "We're not coming from a print foundation anymore," says Koff, who comes from a graphic design background and cut his teeth in Saul Bass's studio. "Now that technology has reached the point where everything is some moving form of media, logos are going to be designed for that kind of media first. There's no reason to make a logo static anymore."
That's not to say that more traditional "words-plus-mark" branding can't be extremely well-designed and effective — Comedy Central is living proof. And not every network or company is going to need or want a graphic identity that looks like a James Cameron fever dream. But Imaginary Forces takes the same basic strategy that Aol tried and raises the bar. Which bodes well for the future indeed.