Responses by Jody Hudson-Powell, partner, Pentagram.
Background: In 2021, AI research and development company Cohere came to us to do a new visual identity, wanting a brand that would support its mission to bring language AI out of the realm of the most hyped and current technology into today’s business needs. The new identity needed to appeal to developers and enterprises alike. For Cohere, we also designed a website, playground environment and a suite of bespoke digital tools for its marketing and design teams to use in its daily work.
Design thinking: We wanted to design an identity that could match up to Cohere’s offering: useful language AI that could help business enterprises with their day-to-day work. This led to the development of the concept of “new nature,” introducing the fluidity and imperfections of nature juxtaposed against the efficiency and rationality of computing.
Language is evolving. We wanted to create a visual representation of its new emerging form, one both fluid and dynamic.
Challenges: Over the course of the project, AI propelled from emerging tech to the top of the news cycle. It wasn’t a challenge as much as a bar that we knew we had to meet: the entire industry and beyond would be watching. So, the Cohere brand refresh had to be category-defining.
Favorite details: One of the key objectives for this work was to create and build innovative design tools. We believed that creating design tools would enable Cohere’s teams to craft their own design applications seamlessly and more efficiently. One such example is a bespoke plug-in for Figma that enables you to easily create your own Voronoi patterns. In addition, we also built two layout component libraries and a custom Cinema 4D tool.
The layout component libraries have two different functions: The first helps to create cells within containers and has different presets to demonstrate how the cell’s visual language appears. This is helpful to the design team to minimize time in routine tasks—for example, creating rounded corners. The second helps to create cells as words, such as the cells forming around the words as you type. Both could be used in Figma to create static visuals or After Effects to generate animated versions.
The Cinema 4D tool is customized using Python. It’s built to be very flexible and offers the possibility to create myriad configurations in the brand’s 3-D graphic language: the Voronoi pebbles. The interface and built-in presets mean the client doesn’t need extensive knowledge of Cinema 4D to create new compelling visuals for brand applications. They can render both stills and motion assets with ease, selecting from color palettes and motion behaviors.
Visual influences: The root of the “new nature” concept is the Voronoi pattern derived form the diagram named after mathematician Georgy Voronoy. The reason why we chose this pattern was because Voronoi diagrams basically have both practical and theoretical uses in science and technology, while its tessellations are found in many things such as foamy bubbles, cracked mud, a dragonfly’s wing and even on a giraffe’s coat. This pattern was applied to the entire visual identity for Cohere, down to the logo and visual typeface.
Time constraints: Cohere is a rare and wonderful case. It encouraged us to take the time we needed to create the work. We worked through a thorough strategic phase and, using that as our foundational brand idea, explored many territories for the visual identity as we had time to go in depth on each one. Our final chosen brand was crafted over a period of three-to-four months, and the guidelines took around four weeks. The project on a whole spanned just under a year from concept to delivery of the final digital design work.