Founded in 2004, First Round Capital has backed some of the hottest American tech and fashion companies today, such as Square, Uber, Fab.com, and Warby Parker. But the venture capital firm hardly looked the part, with a logo that resembled the sign of a regional savings bank. Quietly unveiled last week, First Round’s new identity, courtesy of Pentagram, is a big step up.
“The old logo looked like clip art,” laughs Pentagram partner Natasha Jen, who led the rebrand. “It was a design cliché of what a financial company logo usually looks like, and just not an accurate representation of what they stood for. It was just totally obvious they needed a new identity.”
Venture capital firms haven’t always needed good logos, but that is changing, as design has become a distinguishing factor of many of Silicon Valley’s brightest companies. VC firms have had to become increasingly design-savvy. For First Round, a new logo wasn’t just a matter of getting a face lift. As a firm that specializes in providing seed-stage funding to technology companies, First Round needed an identity that was every bit as sophisticated as the companies it was trying to attract.
For the new logo, Jen and her team were tasked to create a new logo that was both bold and incredibly simple–the VC equivalent of the Nike swoosh. The old logo used a halo-effect to evoke the idea of a round of funding. Pentagram decided that the new logo should instead emphasize the inclusiveness and openness of First Round’s model, as well as it being a firm dedicated to providing the first seed money to new companies.
“We played around with a lot of different ideas, including this idea of modules connecting with each other, to capture the idea of community,” Jen explains to Co.Design. “Eventually, though, we kept on coming back to this idea of the outline of the number one.”
Originally Pentagram experimented with a numerical “1” that was entirely closed, to denote a space–almost like an open courtyard or park seen from above–where many different people come to coordinate. But it seemed claustrophobic. The closed geometry of these early experiments proved less effective in the end than dropping the right line from the edge of the 1, implying an “open plan” where no one was ever truly shut out, or shut in: a VC firm that really did have an open-door policy, where everyone was welcome.
Once the shape of the logo was determined, Pentagram ran a series of tests to determine the optimal weight, size, height, and volume. It was then paired with a sans serif typeface, Gibson, which emphasized the logo’s square, geometric lines.
“When you design an identity, you can never disassociate the typeface of a logo from the shape of the logo itself,” explains Jen. “The font and the logo are like a brother and sister.” Not only was Gibson perfect for the First Round logo, but because the typeface has a robust range of weights and styles, it performs well across a lot of scenarios. In fact, the new First Round website uses Gibson exclusively for all of the page elements–a relative rarity in a world where most websites use a handful or more of different typefaces for different elements.
More details of Pentagram’s work on the new First Round identity can be found here.