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Distilling The Visual Language Of Video Games Into A Clever Logo

From alien worlds to ancient landscapes, the identity for EA Motive had to work in just about any context.

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Perhaps even more than other kinds of identities, the logos of video game companies need to do a lot of heavy lifting. There are the usual requirements, of course. It must flexibly adapt to both print and digital, and remain reproducible at extremely small or large sizes. But it must also be playful, thematically fit with the types of games the developer makes, and dynamic enough to be animated . . . all while still remaining neutral enough that it doesn't look discordant sitting alongside the dozen or so other studio logos that pop up on the game's splash screen.

It's a tall order, but the identity for a new studio called Motive manages to tick off all those boxes, and more. Designed by Frontier, the Motive logo (and accompanying typeface) were designed to evoke the symbology and color language of video games—like the runes on an alien computer monitor or hieroglyphics on the walls of a buried temple.

Motive is the new action-adventure gaming studio from EA, one of the world's largest video game publishers. It's headed up by Jade Raymond, a more than 20-year veteran of video game development who, among her many other credits, helped give the world the Assassin's Creed series of games, which has sold more than 100 million copies since launching in 2007. "With Motive, we're looking to create open world games with something meaningful to say below the surface," Raymond tells me. "Our games have to have something enriching that you take away from them."

Raymond pegged Frontier to design Motive's identity based upon a casual connection. She had struck up a conversation with Paddy Harrington about design at a party, back when Harrington was still creative director of Bruce Mau's design studio. When EA green-lit her new studio, Raymond called up Harrington, who had since founded his own design and branding studio. Motive's parent company, EA, actually has a design department that often handles logos—but with Harrington, Raymond thought, "We'd not only get a good logo but get to see a design process firsthand that maybe we could apply to video game development."

When Frontier started work on the Motive identity, the team was only asked to follow two loose guidelines. First, Motive's logo had to reflect what the studio was trying to do, which was create more substantive, meaningful open world games that put an emphasis on player choice, like the Grand Theft Auto games, where you can go anywhere in the game at any point. The second was that while it needed to be flexible enough to work in any gaming context, special attention needed to be paid to whether or not it worked in the context of Motive's first project: the widely anticipated shooter sequel to Star Wars: Battlefront.

Early in the design process, Frontier settled on the idea of creating a typography-based logo that felt liked it was pieced together from the various arcane symbols prominent in gaming, like the etching on the head of a key you find, or an arcane ideogram discovered on a far-off alien base. "We wanted to come up with something that felt like it could just as easily have a historical context as it could be dropped from another planet," says Paul Kawai, Frontier's design director.

They also decided to adopt a color palette similar to one commonly found in gaming, where light blue is the color of your allies, and red is the color of the bad guys. (It's probably no coincidence that these are also the colors that define the blue and red lightsabers of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, respectively.)

Once Frontier came up with the idea for the Motive logo, it tested it, adapting the mark to all the gaming contexts it could think of to see if it would hold up. "We tried it in neon in the world of Tron, dropped it on ancient parchment paper, put it at the bottom of the ocean, and blasted it into space," Harrington says, not because Motive has plans to do any of those games, but because "it was really important to see how well the design would hold up if they did."

The first time Motive's identity will actually ship with a game will be on the splash screen of the next Star Wars: Battlefront game, which is due out next year. That means it could soon join the likes of iconic logos like 20th Century Fox or Lucasart's before the John Williams-scored Star Wars crawl, which shows up at the beginning of every Star Wars movie, show, or game.

That's a lot of pressure to put on a logo, but Frontier's identity can probably handle it. After all, it was designed with a galaxy far, far away in mind—among other things.

[All Images: via Frontier]

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