For all ways

Uber went from a startup connecting riders and drivers to a global mobility platform in eight short years. Having embraced new and future modes of transportation—from bikes, to tuk-tuks, to flying cars, it needed a holistic brand system to accommodate them all.

 

 

For all places

Uber operates in 660+ cities globally. The brand needed to work around the world. Its highest growth areas are in regions outside of the US, such as Latin America and India, where Wolff Olins has a considerable depth of experience. Instead of pursuing a complex identity system, localized through color and pattern, we moved towards a universal ‘beyond-simple’ global brand. Teams in diverse markets can make it relevant to their audiences with culturally specific content. 

 

 

For all people

With a new wave of leadership at Uber came a renewed commitment to safety. So far, that safety focus has been product-driven. We knew the brand needed to speak equally to riders, drivers, and employees, so we took a step back and asked, “What does safety mean for different people at different times?” We introduced Safety Blue to the color palette. It’s unique to Uber and meant to be used sparingly to indicate important moments of support, care, or connection between the user and the brand.

 

 

For all teams

The decentralized nature of Uber’s operations meant the company needed a system that could be easily implemented by a wide range of practitioners around the world in a broad spectrum of digital and physical applications. The system isn’t just for marketing designers, but for product teams, customer service, and beyond. Its success depends on how useful teams find it.

 

 

The brand launched in September 2018 and was covered by Fast Company and AdWeek. There are more details available on Uber’s own website too. We’re excited to see this out in the world!

Alibaba Cloud is the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group. It provides a comprehensive suite of global cloud computing services to power both international customers’ online businesses and Alibaba Group’s own e-commerce ecosystem.

At the heart of this ambition lies ET Brain, best described as an intelligent, adaptive technology platform for practical applications where data processing, machine learning and real-time processing are key.

It has the ability to revolutionise established systems, influencing everything from urban traffic flow and environment management, to healthcare practice. And as a highly technical and radically new proposition, it needed to establish its presence in the world.

Evolutionary technology
Whilst countries like China have embraced automation, the West tends to fear AI and robotics, perhaps because of extreme media portrayals and increasing concern over control.

Alibaba Cloud took a fresh approach to this challenge. It thinks of ET Brain as a partner rather than a tool.

Our task was to create a visual, audio and behavioural language that would feel natural, friendly and human, whilst still feeling future-facing and exciting. We called this ‘Evolutionary Technology’ – a technology that understands us, evolves with us and is for everybody.

Creating connection
From the start, it was clear ET Brain was more than a static visual mark. For people to be able to build affinity with what could otherwise be a ‘cold’ computing technology, it needed to feel like a living system – an intelligent, conscious entity, capable of emotion.

Using motion as the starting point, we focused on a core set of behaviours and built out subtle animations. These would give a sense of what the technology was doing, but also how it might be feeling.

Out of these motion studies came a library that could be used in ET Brain’s more dynamic applications. They also allowed us to refine its digital language, pairing behaviours with signature sounds to form the core brand.

The principle feature of the mark was the central dot, referencing how data might enter and leave the system. We also needed to convey the technology’s reliance on the power of the Alibaba cloud infrastructure. We gave it an amorphous, dynamic background to represent this, and act as a world it can live within. This design language helps create a conceptual understanding of the technology in an accessible and friendly way.

Beyond digital
The identity would be used to represent both the technology and the company on screen at conferences, and, in some applications, it would form a direct interface with users.

Beyond digital, ET Brain needed a representation in the physical world. It’s a common cultural expectation that technology products have a mascot, manifest in lines of merchandise, costumed characters at trade shows and even animated entertainment.

The central dot, as the key tool of expression, could be anthropomorphised into a face. The rest of the figure reflected the multi-faceted personality and application of the technology.

Hello ET Brain
ET Brain was launched to the world in January 2018, first at the Beijing Yunxi Conference and subsequently at CES in Las Vegas.

Alibaba Cloud became a worldwide services partner to the Olympic games at the beginning of 2018, and shortly after this Creative Director Emma Barratt shared her view with the Drum. The work was also given an honorable mention by Fast Company in their Innovation by Design awards.

ET brain is an exemplar of intelligent identity – a future brand for the future of our digital lives.

“ET was launched at a conference, and was successful and powerful.

The character is welcomed, and has fascinated our audience. People love it!”

Xirui Zyl, Brand and Communications Manager

Nothing is more certain in American life than death, taxes and medical bills. And those bills are generally the biggest source of pain. Burgess is a health-tech pioneer producing the software that will address this.

Founder Greg Burgess is obsessed with improving the accurate payment of medical claims, and he called us as he was preparing the release of an ambitious new product – one that could become the industry standard across the USA.

Having the best product in this field, however, doesn’t guarantee success. The sales cycle is long, cloud based technologies risk being misunderstood and inaccurate comparisons can undermine true value. ‘Big players’ occupy a disproportionate amount of mindshare, and the industry’s beset by inertia, misinformation and mistrust. Buyers often stick with what they have, even if it performs poorly, because change has been hard in the past.

We were brought on board to overcome these barriers, create a new space and ultimately reduce the crippling administrative burden and billions of dollars wasted.

Keeping promises
Only by connecting deeply to people across the healthcare landscape, not just the purchasers of the software, would Burgess be able to cut through industry norms and establish a new standard. And only by redesigning the entire customer and employee experience could it occupy a unique position – as a partner and provider of a platform, rather than a vendor.

We started by developing a purpose that would set the agenda: to help healthcare keep its promises. Focussing on this idea, rather than product benefits, elevated the ambition and encouraged long-term thinking.

Building on this, we created a vibrant, adaptive, digital-first design system that unified product, sales, and marketing efforts. Among the elements was a new device which we called ‘the knot’. It’s a visual representation of a promise kept – the aspiration at the heart of the organization.

We designed a series of tools and experiences that embodied the purpose. With Sales & Marketing leaders, we built a new website, conference presence, content strategy and sales tools that were well received by clients.

With the product team, we collaborated on a user-friendly interface, product demos, the Burgess Source brand and materials to bring it to market. And with HR & Operations, we developed recruiting processes, internal rituals and training materials to energise and equip employees.

“The work was instrumental in our success over the past year – fuelling a high-impact product launch, getting us recognized as a unique player in healthcare, and inspiring our people internally.

It was the best experience I’ve had working with a partner. Their ambition and enthusiasm was contagious, and drove significant outcomes for our business.”

Greg Burgess, CEO and Head of Product

Driving progress
In less than one year, Burgess has already defined a new space in the industry. It’s attracting talent from top tech companies, and has a reinvigorated, entrepreneurial team.

Its Source platform has hit success hard and early. Sales are up in volume and value, there’s more conversation and conversion, and adoption is far faster than forecast.

Beyond sales, it’s attracting the attention of industry leaders, commentators and investors. With a clear story and supercharged experience, it’s one to watch, to work for and to buy. We’re excited to watch it grow and drive progress in the American healthcare industry.

A super-helpful services brand
Dixons Carphone was becoming established in the specialist technology support market through their Knowhow and Geek Squad brands, and there was growing consumer appetite for accredited expertise. Although a third of the UK population have purchased technology support, evidence showed the market was fragmented and mistrusted. People didn’t know where to turn when they needed hands-on help.

Dixons Carphone wanted to create a national network of local experts who could help across a range of needs. This would cover the lifecycle of a product, from install and set up, to repair and upgrade. They asked us to help integrate the two existing brands, bringing together the best of both, to create a new services brand.

An experience built on strategic foundations
We initially developed a purpose for the new brand, based on the Team Knowhow belief that everyone has the right to expert help for technology, delivered in a smart, convenient, affordable, and human way.

We went on to define the go-to-market proposition, launch offer and overarching brand strategy. Through rigorous consumer and colleague testing, we helped Team Knowhow move from the retail approach of packaging services by internal business unit or product type, to organising and focusing the offer around real customer needs. Four customer-facing service categories – Connect it, Fix it, Protect it, Improve it – simplified and connected this service-based offer.

With strategic foundations set, we defined the customer experience in-store, online, at home and over the phone. After creating a series of customer and colleague journeys, our experience designers created bespoke principles, stand out service moments, and prototypes based on a new collaborative operational approach. Team Knowhow will use this framework to develop and implement sustainable services ideas in the future.

“Their work with us has rightfully become the business’ overall commercial framework, which tells you everything about how well they understood us, our ambitions, and the future of our industry”

Louise EnglishMD of Services, Dixons Carphone

An identity that combines instruction with magic
We created a visual expression that explained the new services, based around the idea of ‘experts in action’. Inspired by instruction manuals, four multi-talented Team Knowhow characters bring user stories to life across platforms. They’re practical and helpful, yet playful. They’re individuals that work as part of a team, just like the real experts.

To craft unique gestures and movements, we partnered with animation experts Animade. We developed charmingly human motion behaviours to live seamlessly alongside the graphic language and come to life on digital touchpoints.

“Wolff Olins did everything they could, working desk-to-desk with our designers and partnering with the best specialists out there to create something visually unique, digital first, and intrinsic to the actual delivery of our services”

Louise English, MD of Services, Dixons Carphone

Our thinking acted as a north star for the newly combined services business, and engaged colleagues from the incumbent brands in the new ‘Team Knowhow way’. Using insights gained from their work with us, the internal team delivered immersion sessions for all 30,000 Dixons Carphone people.

The service was piloted and rolled out to over a thousand Curry’s PC World and Carphone Warehouse stores as of July 2017. And that’s just the start.

Every child has the right to be happy and curious, but for victims of abuse across the world, this right is shattered. Thorn – a visionary force in the non-profit space – focuses the sharpest minds in the tech and NGO worlds to fight against this. It stands up to traffickers and helps stop the spread of child pornography.

Time to act
Thorn gained national attention in early 2017 following Co-Founder Ashton Kutcher’s impassioned testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It partners with the world’s most prominent tech companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Yahoo and Intel to help keep platforms safer.

To harness momentum and with a 5-year anniversary approaching, CEO Julie Cordua recognized the opportunity to accelerate the mission and supercharge the organization. She set out to engage more people to join the fight by sharing Thorn’s ambition.

“The work we do is often hard to talk about – whether it’s the pain of child sexual abuse or the complexity of the technology we build.

To make as big of an impact as possible, we needed to find a better way to share our mission, engage partners and create hope for the future we’re trying to build.”

Julie Cordua, CEO, Thorn

Setting the tone
Child sex abuse is a tragic and difficult subject to broach. Our challenge was to set the right tone, inspiring partners to stay engaged and getting new audiences to listen.

After 6 months of in-depth research with law enforcement, donors, government officials, and partners in close collaboration with Thorn’s team, we captured the purpose in the distilled statement: “Until every child can be a kid”.

The new visual identity system celebrates the role of the expanded network, inspired by the idea that it takes more than one thorn to protect the rose. The system can be applied in a singular way or in a dynamic group to express working together as a force. Accompanied by a warmer, more vibrant color palette and a thoughtful approach to photography, it shows the strength of a united front, and offers optimism.

With the production requirements of a non-profit in mind, we produced a hardworking toolkit that allows Thorn’s team to create materials themselves. It includes in-depth digital templates that make it easy for non-designers to produce beautiful content consistently. It also contains communication principles that provide clarity and pave the way for pragmatic action.

The work launched earlier this year, and there’s more about it here in Design Week. We’re excited to see where this organization will go next.

 

Established in 2002, the zigbee alliance is a global membership organisation developing universal, open standards for the connectivity of the products now shaping our lives.

With over 400 member businesses, the alliance pooled their expertise to create the world’s first open IoT language, which would work across all protocols. We were asked to give it a brand.

Translating technical
We helped zigbee alliance executives articulate their role in the world and from this strategic foundation, developed a visual language. It was inspired by emoticons as well as the grammar of Morse code. It made the complexities of the IoT feel simple, and we called it dotdot.

“The emoticon language references the way language is evolving today”

Forest Young, Head of Design, Wolff Olins

By moving away from the technical and towards the emotional, we created a system that resonates with manufacturers, retailers, influencers, users and developers.

“The logo makes perfect sense and is remarkably effective in answering a complicated brief.”

BrandNew

The mark itself is a visual abstraction of the technology stack and exists dynamically in several forms. It can be rendered in code through a GitHub repository and can be typed as :|| in SMS. Through its accessibility and usability, dotdot is open to everyone, truly democratising the design language of the IoT.

Not just a pretty face
The new identity was launched at CES in January 2017. zigbee alliance members reported record numbers of new orders and positive interest from a range of businesses across the IoT spectrum. The work received a Fast Company Innovation by Design Award, and made the Cannes Lions shortlist. It has also appeared on hardware, like the recently launched Amazon Echo Plus.

Dotdot creates a new vocabulary for the IoT that simply did not exist before—a language that connects devices, dissolves barriers into the IoT, and ultimately just works.

By providing a viable alternative to piracy, as a start up Spotify achieved a cult-like status in its native Sweden and much of Europe. Since it entered the U.S. market in July 2011, it has made a splash in the U.S. But like many music acts, if Spotify is going to have a significant impact on the music landscape, they need to grow the American audience and educate the market about what’s on offer beyond Apple.

“We want to bring music to every single person and bring it to every moment of their life”

Daniel Ek - Founder, Spotify

Getting to the heart of it
To continue their rapid growth and efforts to win the hearts, minds and ears of the American mainstream, our task was to help Spotify define how music played a defining role in people’s lives.

Building on existing segmentation work, we designed qualitative research with our partners, customer insight agency C Space. We studied the music habits and preferences of two user groups in four typical markets.

In parallel, we mapped the user experience: from a search on Google, to landing at the website, signing up, downloading and using Spotify, and through ongoing product experience and customer service interfaces. We identified the points that could be improved along the way.

Lastly, we spoke with employees and industry experts to precisely define Spotify’s unique position in its category. Why was it different from competitors, and what was its real reason for being?

Based on our insight, we redefined Spotify’s position around the idea of ‘the right music for every moment’. This created a clear a sense of their audiences and echoed the central part music plays in all aspects of their lives.

Branching out without selling out
We worked with the leadership team and over 100 stakeholders to build the brand and its supporting experience principles. In less than six months, we galvanised key teams in the business, ensuring buy-in and understanding of the strategy from the outset. We ignited a wave of people-centric innovation across product and marketing.

The brand now serves as a strategic lens. Every internal team – from the Leadership Group and User Insights to HR and Operations – is using it as a starting point for their thinking.

In March 2013, Spotify confirmed they had acquired over 4 million new users and 1 million subscribers, keeping it on track to bring in more than $684 million in 2013 from subscribers alone. Having also recently confirmed over 6 million global subscribers and over 24 million global active users, the brand has grown up. It’s become accessible to a huge new audience, without ever losing its cool.

When Virgin Media approached us, there was no overall visual system in place so the experience lacked coherence. We set up sessions with agency partners and internal brand, marketing, and HR teams and audited around 6,000 pieces of print and digital output. These sessions helped Virgin Media’s people to air their concerns, which in turn helped us to form a stronger picture of exactly what needed fixing. Our thoughts grew into a brief that asked three questions:

1) what was the attitude that ran through Virgin Media?
2) how could we enable them to respond quicker and in the right way?
3) how could we bring that to life in VM’s applications?

The Virgin Media attitude needed to be present in everything it did, and we worked to articulate it as open-minded, fun and generous, or ‘OMFG’. This playful acronym identified the ingredients for future briefs. They’d all be present in varying degrees, and brought the brand closer to the identity of Virgin Group, which hangs on the idea: “don’t just play the game, change it for good”.
A bit of us, a bit of you
To express the attitude, we created a flexible visual identity system. We described it as, “a little bit of us and a little bit of you”. Some direct marketing situations called for more focus on the customer, and less on Virgin Media (“more of you, less of us”); at other times, with billboard advertising for example, this balance would be reversed. We tested thinking against live, incoming briefs. This helped us keep budgets lean and refine based on real proof points.

“Wolff Olins are a hugely valuable partner. Passionate, smart, warm and committed to change for good. I enjoy working with them. No matter what challenge we face, we deliver”

Adrian Spooner, Head of Brand, Virgin Media
Communicating with focus
Virgin Media are already using their new system to communicate with more focus. They’re able to talk about themselves and what they stand for when required, and can allow their identity to be more responsive when talking directly to the customer. The business is also now able to take communications to market in a quicker and more efficient way.

In 2007, USA Today ranked AOL 4th in a list of 25 things that shaped the internet. An early tech pioneer, they had provided premium internet service to millions in the late 90’s and early 00’s. For many, AOL was their first gateway to the World Wide Web.

But the media world had changed – from one-way broadcast to conversations that were fragmented, non-linear and niche. Stuck in an outdated model, AOL found itself suffering from a decline in subscriptions, revenue, morale and brand image. Following an unsuccessful eight-year merger with Time Warner, they planned to spin-off and become a separate public company.

Recognising its inflection point, AOL hired new management. Their goal was to create a company with a strong strategy and mission: to inform, entertain and connect the world with extraordinary content experiences.

“AOL is in a turnaround situation. It will take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears to make it successful.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
Identity as a platform
AOL asked us to help them become a ‘media company for the 21st century’. First, it needed to signal that it was more than an access provider. It was a future-forward, creative and cultural force that delivered extraordinary content. It needed an identity that could act as a platform, so we created a simple, confident logotype revealed by ever-changing imagery.

“Our new identity is uniquely dynamic. We plan on standing behind the brand as we take the company into the next decade.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
An internal and external reboot
Working closely with the leadership team, we helped define and translate their vision for the business. We developed a brand architecture with a clear sense of how past and future acquisitions connected to AOL. Internally, we helped build confidence in creativity and originality, and externally, we activated brand-led initiatives. These included MAKERS: Women Who Make America and AOLartists.com (930,000 unique visitors in the first 6 months), as well as the AOL Originals with Chuck Close and 25 for 25 grants programs.

“The Internet needs better quality content. This is an ambitious mission but we are hiring, developing and encouraging the best creative talent in the world.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
Brand-led reinvention
Within the first year of the spinoff announcement, 40% of users described the AOL brand as ‘creative’. By the end of 2010, AOL was the only major brand to have a better ‘buzz’ score than major online brands such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo!, according to Brand Index. In 2012, AOL was dubbed by some “the hottest tech stock in 2012”.
The identity won prestigious awards from both AIGA and the Cannes Lions and was named ‘Best Identity of 2010’ by influential identity blog Under Consideration.

Today, AOL has successfully reinvented itself as a brand-led company that invests in experiences that align with its mission. Home to a world-class collection of premium brands, it creates original content that engages audiences on a local and global scale.

Microsoft were a siloed organization, communications were inconsistent, experiences felt disconnected and the masterbrand was under-leveraged. There was a a massive opportunity to breathe new life into the expression.

One Microsoft
To live up to this ambition to be “One Microsoft”, we renewed the propositions and purposes for the key players in the portfolio.

Windows was the obvious place to start, since for its billions of users, it’s synonymous with Microsoft. Windows 8 represented a bold change to the ubiquitous operating system. Its modern aesthetic and fierce reduction of elements serve up a surprising perspective. It was confident and completely engineered around what mattered to users, so we reflected this in the identity.

“Wolff Olins disrupted the status quo, reimagined us as a user-focused organisation and empowered all of us”

Tony Bates, CEO Skype & EVP Microsoft

After Windows, we explored Office, Skype (a long-term partner of ours), and the Microsoft store experience. We created and launched the Surface brand, taking the company successfully into hardware.

We brought each brand to life through a set of robust identity systems we called the Brand OS. Working across product and store experience simultaneously, we developed expressions that were unique, but closely related to one another.

Full experience for full effect 
Our work spanned every possible touchpoint. We developed the end-to-end experience, including naming, architecture, digital, print, packaging, retail, non-traditional, motion, sonic and product.

In the process, we created tools that saved money and time, and ultimately delivered more brand consistency around the world. Immersive training brought the new brand to life for key stakeholders within each business unit.

“One Microsoft” is now recognizable no matter the product and has laid the groundwork for generations of products to come. It’s also had a significant impact on the value of the brand.