New Work: Platform
Platform is a new non-profit organization with the important mission to increase the interest and participation of underrepresented groups in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on African-Americans, Latinos and women. African-Americans and Latinos make up nearly 30 percent of the total U.S. population, and women represent more than half, yet these groups remain greatly underrepresented in the thriving innovation economy. Through its website and series of conferences, Platform seeks to establish a “platform” for increased visibility and access to current leaders and role models to help influence and inspire the next generation of innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs.
Pentagram’s Eddie Opara and team have designed the identity and website for the organization, as well as the graphics for the first Platform Summit, recently held at the MIT Media Lab. Platform has been conceived as a movement, not just a conference—think TED—and the identity and website have been designed as flexible elements that will adapt and grow with the organization.
Opara and his team worked closely on the project with Platform founder and CEO Hank Williams, as well as with Nicholas Negroponte, the MIT Media Lab founder who serves on Platform’s board of advisors. The inaugural Summit featured 30 influential speakers who shared their insights with an audience of 300 business and thought leaders from the fields of science, technology, finance, politics, education, media, design and the arts. Speakers included Quincy Jones, Tavis Smiley, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Majora Carter, Baratunde Thurston, Troy Carter, Esther Dyson, and Christopher Bevans, among others, and event sponsors included Google, Microsoft, the MIT Media Lab and Pentagram. Videos of the conference presentations will be posted soon on the Platform website.
“As a first time event, for a new organization, our design had to reflect a level of gravitas and credibility that we had not yet earned. Our website and event design elements delivered incredibly well on that goal,” says Hank Williams. “I think it’s fair to say the attendees at the Summit were stunned by the look and feel of the event. Part of that was the beauty of the MIT Media Lab. But the other part of that was the way the venue was transformed.”
The Platform identity establishes an iconic, memorable brand for the organization and its initiatives. The logo uses the font ThreeSix 11 (designed by MuirMcNeil), chosen for its futuristic, technological look. The wordmark has been extended with a distinctive line that can be customized for a series of transformations that reflect the dynamic nature of the organization. The line can appear in an endless variety of forms and shapes: lengthening to convey the idea of connection or inclusion, or taking the shape of stairs, an arrow cursor, or the peaks and valleys of a chart. The line was animated for motion graphics projected before the Summit presentations; in environmental graphics at the conference, the line extended from the logo to travel through the event space.
The designers used the structure of the ThreeSix 11 font to develop a system of unique, playful icons for the Summit collateral and environmental graphics. The icons appeared in patterns on the Summit Guide and in directional signage at the conference. Each Summit will have its own graphic look that is used in conjunction with the Platform identity, and for the first conference, the materials were produced in a strong, simple black and white, with typography set in the font New Rail.
While the Summit graphics are mostly designed in elemental black and white, the identity for Platform as a whole incorporates bright color to stand out. Bold color is a basic element of the website, the chief “platform” for the organization to share its ideas through videos of the Summit talks. Optimized for mobile use, the site design echoes the segmented forms of the logo in a modular format that places content in blocks. Different categories of information appear in different colors, creating bright patterns. The site will eventually host a large library of conference videos, blog posts and other content, and the designers will also be working with Platform to incorporate statistical info and data visualizations related to the topic of entrepreneurial diversity.
Platform founder and CEO Hank Williams says the identity and website will help his organization make an impact. “It just doesn’t look like anything else,” he says. “Our website, in particular looks more sophisticated and beautiful than sites operated by major media companies, and it does so with distinction.”
Project Team: Eddie Opara, partner-in-charge and designer; Ken Deegan, designer; Pedro Mendes, wayfinding design assistant; Mark Lindsay and Chan Young Park, developers. Stage design and construction by Kadan Productions. Event photography by Liz Linder, Ken Deegan and Pedro Mendes.