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The Transformative Power Of Great 2-D Design

2-D design is our fancy way of saying traditional graphic design—everything from logos to branding to illustrations to typefaces, which can appear anywhere from in-print to on the web. It’s decided different from interactive designs that involve some sort of layered navigation. With those technicalities aside, let’s have a look at some past projects that we think exemplify innovation the discipline.

When it comes to logo design, we’ve learned that the old rules needn’t apply. A logos doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all emblem but can be a part of a dynamic, morphing visual language. Take, for instance, MIT Media Lab’s logo consisting of three intersecting spotlights that can be organized in 40,000 shapes and 12 color combinations using a custom algorithm—a tribute to the school’s tradition of cross-pollination, with each spotlight representing the individual.

So here, the designers have done some deep, precise thinking about who MIT is, what it represents, and how its ethos could be captured in something as simply as a graphic-design system. It is a tall order, but seeing projects like this one makes you realize how much you can accomplish with a deep understand of your subject.

The same could be said of many other great graphic designs—and for projects as seemingly boring as an annual report. The Munich-based agency Serviceplan took a truly inspirational approach to Austria’s solar trade association’s report, creating a pamphlet whose pages reveal a series of infographics only when exposed to the sun.

The point being that Serviceplan took a fairly simple assignment to prettify a bunch of charts and graphs, and elevated into a tactile, memorable impression about the organization behind the charts. What could have been a simply nice project becomes a memorable experience through the power of clever graphics.

Now it’s your turn, dear reader, to bring our attention to other examples of eye-catching or page-turning graphic design. We’re hoping that the comments below can become a springboard for the discussions that our judges venture into, as they evaluate entries in our Innovation By Design Award.

And if you’ve created one of your own, we encourage you to submit it by clicking below.

2-D design includes:

  • wayfinding systems
  • infographics
  • books and book covers
  • logo systems
  • illustrations
  • posters
  • packaging
  • typefaces
  • annual reports


David Butler

David is the Vice President of Innovation at The Coca-Cola Company. He is responsible for leading the company’s global design vision, strategy and capability. Since 2004, he has led the design thinking for some of the world’s most loved and valuable brands. Butler’s career experience includes leading brand, product and experience design with numerous Fortune 100 companies. He is a frequent lecturer and strong advocate for design education.

Nicholas Felton

Nicholas is a product designer at Facebook that helped shape the site’s Timeline, an infographics pioneer, and a co-founder of, a website for collecting and communicating daily data. Felton is fascinated with data as a shorthand for the routines and milestones of our lives and is the author of several Personal Annual Reports that weave numerous measurements into a tapestry of graphs, maps and statistics reflecting the year’s activities.

Lisa Strausfeld

Lisa Strausfeld is the Global Head of Data Visualization at Bloomberg and the CEO of Major League Politics (MLP), which she founded in April of 2011. Prior to founding MLP, Lisa was a partner at Pentagram where she and her team specialized in digital information projects including the design of large-scale media installations, software prototypes and user interfaces, signage and websites. Her clients included One Laptop per Child, GE, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, Bloomberg LP, MIT and the New York Times.