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See Blockchain Rendered As A Mysterious Typeface

It’s part of the identity for 21st-century blockchain detective agency, Elliptic.

Among blockchain’s much-hyped promises is that it’s fully encrypted and anonymous. While that could, in theory, lead to a decentralized banking system and build more privacy and security into technology products, blockchain and cryptocurrencies like bitcoin also help criminals do illegal things without getting caught.

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A new brand identity for Elliptic, a company that hunts down those who use blockchain to mask their crimes, highlights the difficulty of playing policeman in blockchain-land. One element of the company’s new identity is a negative space typeface, one that’s overwhelming to look at initially but slowly starts to resolve into words. Created by the global agency Superunion, it’s a clever way to make Elliptic’s cryptic value proposition more visceral.

[Photo: courtesy Superunion]
As businesses embrace complex blockchain technology, they face the challenge of explaining both what it is, and how they’re using it. Branding will be one key to helping people understand every company’s take on blockchain and how it fits into the new technology’s ecosystem.

For Elliptic, which was founded in 2013 and primarily works with law enforcement and financial institutions, the core relationship to blockchain is hunting through it to find criminal activity–and so Superunion tried to emulate that experience in the branding.

Mark Wood, a design director at Superunion who worked on the project, even calls the process of deciphering the typography the agency created for Elliptic’s branding “a bit uncomfortable.” But that’s the point. “There’s something rewarding when you can start to read something that at first appears too baffling to comprehend,” he says.

[Photo: courtesy Superunion]
The idea behind the typeface is to cast Elliptic as truth hunters in a black-and-white crypto world. One poster the firm created for Elliptic highlights this point by including words like “fraud,” “extortion,” and “terrorists” in the typeface, with the word “truth” hidden in the middle in a slightly lighter gray.

Superunion took inspiration from data blocks–the foundation of the blockchain–to create a chunky, three-dimensional white typeface, designed to sit against a black backdrop. Because Elliptic works in a cyber world of numbers and hashes, the typeface is black and white. “Data and bitcoin addresses become lines that become typography that become words that you have to look for,” Wood says. “The idea of it being black and white was very important. It’s stripping data back to its ultimate simplicity of white lines.”

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For the company’s logo, Wood and his team created the visual inverse of the typeface–casting Elliptic’s “E” as a positive counterforce. The Philip Marlowe to blockchain’s Eddie Mars.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture.

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