It wasn’t long ago when graphic design was all most people thought of when they heard “design.” Design’s myriad other disciplines are roaring now. Yet graphic design hasn’t languished. It has bloomed.
The 2015 Innovation By Design finalists prove that graphic design has more opportunity for impact than ever, as institutional liveries now live not just on signs and letterhead, but in apps and physical installations that span landscapes, and typefaces can breathe and grow in response to their environments. Thanks to our judges Bobby Martin, cofounder of Original Champions of Design; Wyatt Mitchell, then of The New Yorker, now at Apple; and Rosanne Somerson, president of the Rhode Island School of Design. And finally, a sincere thank you to everyone who entered and supported Fast Company‘s commitment to elevating the design profession.
If you’re looking for more inspiring work, don’t forget to check out the finalists in our other categories: Winners, 3D-Printing, City Solutions, Data Viz, Experience, Experimental, Fashion, Graphic Design, Health, Mobile Apps, Product Design, Smart Home, Social Good, Students, Web Design.)
Creator: Michael Bierut
Client: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The MIT Media Lab identity, developed Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and Aron Fay, uses a flexible 7-by-7 grid as a baseline for creating myriad, cohesive marques across each of the Lab’s 23 research groups. It references Muriel Cooper’s minimalist 7-bar logo for MIT Press—in use since 1962—to create a field for 1-bit letterforms that can stand next to Helvetica, a typeface once integral to MIT’s identity.
Firm: Airbnb DesignStudio
Airbnb’s rebrand is centered around the idea “Belong Anywhere” and anchored by a logo that cleverly combined a heart with a map-pin icon. Despite grousing from a prurient minded tech press, Airbnb’s confidence has paid off in a new, coherent aesthetic that encompasses every detail of the brand, from it’s site to its apps to its photography.
Client: Cornell Tech
Cornell Tech’s new 1-year educational program is meant to tackle the intersection of technology and entrepreneurism. Sullivan’s instantly recognizable mark elegantly symbolizes the intertwining strands of knowledge required for today’s tech careers.
Creators: Hoefler & Co.
When it comes to picking the right typeface, sometimes you don’t know it until you see it. Hoefler & Co’s Discover.typography created 7 distinct, themed types and formatted them on their website so users can explore all the subtleties by zooming in and out. It’s beautiful enough to explore just for fun, and useful enough to help users orient themselves amid a potential infinity of choices.
IFC’s re-brand uses geometric stamps to reference old-school theater marquees, and flat washes of color to provide branding for its many original series. The system is recognizable from across the room, and easily scalable across myriad applications.
Creators: Sergio Gordilho
In a partnership with Amnesty International, branding company Africa created a font inspired by encryption techniques that prevents content from being tracked online. Each letterform is surrounded with dots or squiggles that are easy for human eyes to ignore, but still trip up computer vision (for the moment).
Client: The Central Bank of Norway
Norway’s new banknotes pay homage to clean Norwegian style and its culture, while at the same time taking visual cues from the country’s rolling coastal landscape. Traditional (and still lovely) cuts adorn the front of each bill, but the textured, cubist gradient blocks on the back of each note, with patterns denoting ocean winds, make them among the best-looking money in the world.
Firm: Hoefler & Co.
The Obsidian typeface pays homage to manual type history while re-imagining type in digital form: Hoefler & Co wanted to create an ornate, copperplate-engraved font like those that used to adorn maps. But they didn’t want to use old techniques. Thus, they created a digital prototyping tool that simulated rays of light falling across a 3-D version of each letterform. Then they tweaked each letter’s shading until it was readable and bold.
Creators: Natasha Jen et al
Client: Eva Franch i Gilabert
OfficeUs’s identity and typography system for the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale makes something beautiful out of the most mundane of sources: It uses only a palette or Times New Roman and Arial, for the love of Pete!
Creator: Paulo Barcelos
Firm: Håkon Stensholt
Sound Meets Type interprets a user’s sounds to shape new typefaces, leaving an exploded wireframe that visually captures how a letterform sounds—or should sound, if you can scream in vowels.
Creators: Jesper Robinell, Stefan Hattenbach, Mattias Svensson, Caroline Bystedt
Client: Business Sweden, Visit Sweden, Swedish Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
If you had to guess which country developed its own typeface, you might not guess Sweden. Oh, you would have? Sweden’s new global brand identity is inspired by classic Swedish street signs and uses sans-serif accents to reference its tidy Scandinavian design heritage.