Responses by Play.
Background: Cy, an emerging leader in the pharmaceutical industry, focuses on researching and developing psilocybin-derived drug therapies for treating chronic pain as a safer, more effective alternative to opioids. The company approached our studio to develop its brand identity and website to attract future investors, but also to establish its presence as a player in the rapidly growing world of psychedelic research. We knew that whatever we did, the work had to speak to an audience that’s at home in the highly technical world of biochemistry and other hard sciences. But, as with any complex product, we knew the way to win was to appeal to the emotional part of the brain as much as the rational. Not unlike Cy‘s products, we knew we had to make the audience feel something profoundly positive.
Design thinking: This is a brand that’s experimenting with molecules derived from psilocybin mushrooms. We knew we needed to embrace that but in a smartly elegant way that would give the brand a healthy dose of gravitas. Obviously, we avoided learning too much into imagery that reads as straight-up, hippy-dippy-trippy tie dye. We wanted to balance the mystical and the scientific. We played with that for some time and eventually arrived at a world of vibrantly fuzzy, neon-tinged, amorphous shapes grounded by Swiss design grids and sharp, clean typography.
Challenges: Reminding ourselves that although these are magic mushrooms we’re talking about, they’re a very misunderstood product. Cy has the world’s top molecular engineers involved, engages in very serious, very scientific clinical research. So, while we knew we needed to veer away from following the white rabbit down a hole into the iconic world of rainbow psychedelia, we couldn’t completely ignore that either. The challenge lay in finding the perfect balance between honoring the rigor and intention of the research with the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word psilocybin.
New lessons: We always learn a lot of new things on every project. When Cy came to us, the company wasn’t called Cy—it was called Skye, which is a fantastic name. But we quickly discovered numerous other bioscience companies using it. We went back to our client with this discovery and offered our brand naming services; it wasn’t too many meetings later that Skye became Cy.
Visual influences: We were inspired by the idea of auras. That became the basis for the gradient color system, which provided the hook for the whole identity. The aura gradients feel transformative, fluid and healing, much like the journey toward treating chronic pain. Cy’s pharmaceuticals come from the natural world, so we derived the Cy color palette from sea, sky and land. But we made them even more dynamic as a nod to the heightened lens of the psychedelic experience.
We were also inspired by the utilitarian visual language of scientific journals and lab reports. That’s how we landed on the simplicity of the Univers typeface and the underlying grids across the whole design system.
Specific project demands: The client was very trusting of our process and ideas. That always makes the collaboration more fluid and, quite honestly, a joy. With a trusting client, you’re really blessed. You’re free to spend more time focusing on creating the best possible work and less time educating them on why the work is right.