On Star Trek: TNG, there was no special effects budget to make chess look futuristic. Instead, art designers imagined a simple, three-level game board. And without holograms or phasers, chess looked infinitely more complicated.
When entrepreneur Andrew Paulson approached Pentagram to update the World Chess Championship, to give it all the international prestige of the Bobby Fischer era, the creative team responded with a similar trick–creating a 3-D logo constructed as much from enigma as geometric simplicity, a new look for a new era of competitive board gaming that they renamed, simply: World Chess.
“We felt that chess could be re-enabled around the ideas of intelligence of mind and intensity of contest. We looked for symbols of that intelligence and intensity, and that took us to all the intelligent permutations that a board offered, and the contest of black versus white, and those elements are what we based the identity around,” Pentagram partner Naresh Ramchandani tells Co.Design. “We wanted to create a chess world made out of a 3-D chessboard that could elevate the game rather than simply represent it–a symbol that asks people to re-evaluate chess and think about it.”
Their resulting –what I’m dubbing the inverted Q-bert–is one Pentagram hopes you become “lost in.” And their Escherian invention spills over to every other aspect of the World Chess brand. It’s pasted to the backs of chairs, engraved on the wooden chess stations and it’s even the heart of the winner’s “medal.”
But where it plays out most effectively is actually its least literal permutation. A pair of intricately illustrated knights complement the logo with a similarly confounding aesthetic, a suitable riff on a new brand that’s just beginning. Just as in competitive chess, you may have no way to dissect the intricacy of what you see. Of course, that’s all part of the fun.