Responses by Michael Bierut, art director, Pentagram
Background: Barwis is the holistic human performance company founded by Mike Barwis, one of the world’s top strength and conditioning coaches. Barwis works with athletes from nearly every sport, utilizing methods based on an understanding of the neuromuscular systems and biomechanics of the body. We were asked to create a brand identity and website for Barwis and his company as they expand into new initiatives, extending this same high-quality training to a wider audience.
Reasoning: The Barwis branding centers on a B monogram, with a dumbbell embedded in the letter to symbolize strength. The monogram is accompanied by a wordmark set in the brand typeface, Fort Middleweight, a custom version of the flexible, high-performance Grotesk Fort, designed by Jeremy Mickel. The B can be integrated with dynamic photography of athletes in motion, and the form of the monogram inspired a set of custom icons, built on a grid.
Challenges: Developing a comprehensive brand strategy that could take the essence of Mike Barwis’s charismatic personality and expand it to a larger audience. This meant simplifying the previous name, “Barwis Methods,” to the more flexible “Barwis” and establishing a cohesive system for sub-brands, each with its own color, so the identity can continue to grow along with the company.
Favorite details: In retrospect, the heart of the Barwis philosophy is to balance strength and flexibility. In building a larger brand around one man’s compelling personality, we were, in effect, being asked to do the same thing. The graphic system is on one hand, extremely rigorous, but on the other hand, very dynamic.
Visual influences: Because the Barwis brand is located at a place where sports, fitness, medicine and technology intersect, we were influenced by everything from Lance Wyman’s work for the 1968 Olympics to the rigorous packaging and promotion created for the Swiss pharmaceutical company Ciba-Geigy by designers Karl Gerstner, Gottfried Honegger, Nelly Rudin and Max Schmid.
Anything new: We learned that Mike’s attitude about strength and conditioning is based as much on mental discipline as on physical endurance. Everyone faces challenges. It was inspiring to see how the Barwis approach met everyone on her or his own level.