Responses by Daniel Edmundson, strategy director, Gretel
Background: National Instruments, now NI, is a global leader in test and measurement. With engineering and enterprise clients across a range of industries including aerospace, automotive, energy, semiconductor and electronics, the company powers groundbreaking technology and innovation globally. As it had remained largely unchanged for 40 years, the brand needed to evolve and reevaluated everything from purpose and values to the visual identity and the name.
Reasoning: Each component of the identity system reflects the balance between technical precision and human ingenuity at the heart of NI. In stark contrast to the tech and data focused category, the design language maintains an editorial feel. Photography plays a key role by featuring the people, partners and impact of the innovations powered by NI, not just the products. The brand purpose, the color palette, illustration and the logo reflects the connection of hard and soft, rationality and creativity, and the tech and people that sets NI apart.
Challenges: Many of the key stakeholders were engineers themselves and the company’s success is built on precision, data and quantitative metrics. So, getting everyone to feel comfortable changing how they present themselves to the world was a challenge. We fielded a global research study across three continents, and had group discussion sessions and conversations with NI’s clients, colleagues and partners to ensure that everything we created were steeped in reality and truth. Explaining the thinking behind each of the component pieces of the brand was critical. Every decision was thoroughly considered and rooted in the research, landscape, business and culture, which allowed us to create a broad range of brand expressions. The idea of a flexible system of interchangeable components was a concept equally relevant to engineering as it is to branding.
Favorite details: Strategically, we’re happy with the brand purpose: Engineer Ambitiously. We delivered a comprehensive voice and messaging guide along with this work, but those two words are a great summary of how NI empowers innovation. Visually, the color is one of our favorite aspects of the evolved brand. It’s a sector dominated by blue, as NI had been for 40 years. But marking a change for the brand was important, and green helped to signal that in a big way.
Time constraints: We had planned a few shoots to help build up the initial image libraries at launch. We were able to capture some of the faces and personalities behind the innovation at NI in a staff shoot, but subsequent shoots to showcase clients, partners and global impact had been postponed due to the pandemic. Luckily, we were able to supplement existing NI photography with licensed imagery, illustration and iconography to help fill the gaps that nicely complemented the rest of the identity.
Anything new: At first, the entire category was a learning curve for our teams. Although the test and measurement space is pervasive across industries, it’s still relatively unknown to the general public. It was helpful to simplify. We always referred to NI as a company that “makes the tech that makes everything work.” Once we had a base understanding of what NI did, getting up to speed on today’s biggest engineering challenges like 5G and AI advancements was enlightening for everyone involved.