As part of a continuing series, we’re going to take a look at the identity process – starting through the lens of our own re-branding, moving from this:
We’ll begin by talking about color. In the identity work this is normally in the middle of the process but is a critical and, in this case, conceptually central role. For ourselves, we had arrived at an agreed-upon version of the logo lockup (we’ll discuss that in a forthcoming post) in pure black:
Why work this way? To separate decisions of color from those of form. To be certain these issues inform one another, but generally this mitigates risk by compartmentalizing choices in an often contentious process and promoting directed, clear focus. We are clearly going to integrate blue, but what blue? And in what combinations?
It’s frequently helpful to survey the landscape, which can help identify major players (and competitors) who have brand equity in the space we intend to live. It also gives us a first hint of the range of qualities available from a single color:
Arranged from Top-Left to Bottom-Right in terms of color saturation and value.
Clearly there are a variety of tones and moods – the extremes on one end lack in weight and impact, and tend toward too heavy on the other. We also look to expressions of blue from a range of mediums:
One of the larger goals of identity work is evoking an elusive, emotive and aspirational response. Researching Interior design, industrial design, fashion, the fine arts all help us to hone in on specific moods through more abstract means. We also get a sense of the mutability of color by way of medium – the cobalt colored-glass work of Dale Chihuly (bottom right) is a particular inspiration. The quality of his color is highly dependent on his materials, but the vibrance and intensity was an early signpost for the kind of essence we wanted to capture.
Klein was a pioneer of the french New Realism movement, as well as a leader of performance art, minimalism and Pop art. He famously painted monochromes (works in a single hue) following World War II but, frustrated with the misunderstanding with which his work was received, moved to focus on a single primary color: Blue.
Frustrated with problems of lightfastness and sustainable intensity, Klein struggled to find not simply a blue but the blue – one which contained the vibrance of the color idealized, that could simultaneously maintain its quality over time and exposure. After years of research, he found his solution in 1956. A combination of personally-developed chemical binding solution and a brilliant ultramarine pigment resulted in “the most perfect expression of blue,” a saturated, gently vibrant color whose effect on the eye was not unlike a double exposure. He sometimes referred to the effect as “a sensitized image,” “poetic energy,” or “pure energy.” His Blue Epoch followed, with applications on canvas, furniture, sculpture and eventually live performance. His process resulted in a color unofficially patented as IKB, or International Klein Blue.
We use this as a starting point. It aligns with our brand notions of energy, dynamism and most especially velocity. Of course the specificity of the color chemistry means that we approximate this color for reproduction on screen and different paper stocks, but the important conceptual link is there, to combine with the storytelling of the mark itself.
From here we arrive at a single-color version of the mark, and then branch out to analagous colors in sequence (again, reinforcing our mark’s narrative of transformation). We experiment with placement of the central blue in relation to the secondary colors, as well as variations on color treatment of the logotype:Color/sequence variations. These were exploratory.
We can see how the presence of surrounding colors impacts the perception of the original tone. Additionally, using Klein blue on the far right pushes us into a place where the leftmost color becomes by necessity too light. In our case, the mark speaks to process and methodology – each color should have the resonance to stand alone, conveying presence and impact. We arrive ultimately with IKB in the center, coordinating tones in the wordmark against the opposing panes.
The result is dynamic, engaging and rich. Its simplicity belies its underlying story, but that story is one we can carry forward to our work and clients in a unified, coherent message.