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Pentagram designed an identity that never stops changing

Cytora, an AI-powered insurance company, tasked the firm with creating a brand that could communicate what its machine learning does.

Machine learning can be nearly impossible to understand–even for people who consider themselves to be relatively tech-savvy. So when a business is built on this kind of technology, communicating what it actually does is a serious challenge. The U.K.-based AI insurance company Cytora, which uses machine learning to assess the risks that individual businesses have on a granular level in real time, turned to branding to help explain how its tech works–and enlisted Pentagram partners Luke Powell and Jody Hudson-Powell to help.

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[Image: courtesy Pentagram]
Cytora was founded in 2014 by graduates of Cambridge University who wanted to use vast amounts of data to predict worldwide events with greater accuracy. “They actually didn’t come at it from the angle to being interested in insurance,” Hudson-Powell says. “They were more interested in understanding large data sets to create a better predictive understanding of the world.” Its original logo had been designed in-house, with a “y” in the shape of a butterfly–a reference to the butterfly effect.

But with the company firmly focused on applying its tech to the insurance space, it needed a new brand that could help explain that tech–and even help Cytora attract talent, which is difficult to do for AI companies given the growing demand for machine learning, Hudson-Powell says. The company’s primary software, called the Risk Engine, uses machine learning to create risk profiles for whatever it happens to be insuring–its AI processes “thousands of unique data inputs to compute a real-time risk profile for every insurable business and property,” Pentagram explains in a release.

“It’s this deep tech thing, a technological solution that does something purposeful and real, but it’s very intangible,” Hudson-Powell says. “We needed a way to make the intangible thing they’re doing illustrative and communicative.”

[Image: courtesy Pentagram]

To make it tangible, Powell, Hudson-Powell, and their team created a visual system of blocks that constantly move and shift. These blocks supplement the company’s simple typographic logo on their website, and are used as a visual anchor for their online presence, infographics, and business cards.

The shape and color of each unique block change to represent the fluctuation in particular kinds of risks, like those from natural disasters or severe storms, for businesses that need insurance. The exterior of the blocks are color-coded based on these types of risk. As the blocks move, influenced by new data points, they reveal different colors on their interior. Each mark is like a visualization of all the risk factors–like the chance of flooding or fires–that make up an individual company’s overall risk. While Cytora’s clients are insurance companies themselves, the blocks are meant to help potential clients understand how Cytora’s software can give them a more accurate assessment of a business’s risk so the insurance companies can price their coverage accordingly. “The patterns and colors within the blocks represent Cytora’s ability to differentiate risk to the sharpest degree as a function of the massive amount of data we ingest,” writes the company’s cofounder and CEO Richard Hartley on the Cytora website.

[Image: courtesy Pentagram]

At its most ambitious, the identity could act almost like a mini data visualization, becoming part of Cytora’s Risk Engine to give insurers a graphical emblem for every company that Cytora’s tech has assessed. But as the company is still a new startup, that level of personalization is off the table for now.

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Writing on the company website, Hartley says that he hopes the branding will help bring the startup into the next stage of its growth. Pentagram’s branding is meant to do just that: give Cytora sophistication and distinction while helping to elucidate what, exactly, its AI does.

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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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