Established in 2018, Think is an annual conference by IBM that, at the time, consolidated various smaller events into what is now a bigger business and technology conference experience showcasing the company’s latest innovations, insights, and expertise. The name of the event comes from IBM’s long-standing motto first used by Thomas J. Watson in 1911, who brought the slogan with him to the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) before it became IBM. After successful events in Las Vegas and San Francisco in 2018 and 2019, IBM Think 2020, which was set to happen again in San Francisco this May will now be a digital experience open to everyone. This year’s identity, designed as a collaboration between musician Imogen Heap and London, UK-based FIELD, builds on the event identity first created by Brooklyn, NY-based Athletics.
Before we get into this year’s look, we can spend some time on the main logo designed by Athletics, which is super extra nice and it’s as simple as typesetting “think” in IBM’s own Plex typeface — which is one of my favorite type families ever (and is free to use by anyone) — in its Mono style. When seen on its own, at large sizes, the wordmark looks as if it was a custom drawing.
Athletics also established a framework in which the simple wordmark is activated through cool motion pieces. The following are from the 2018 and 2019 events — the latter done by FIELD.
All excellent eye candy. Nothing else to add.
Unfortunately there won’t be event shots for 2020 so this year’s look will only live digitally but the images above show that no expenses would have been spared in bringing it to life.
To start her journey, Imogen visited the IBM Research labs in Yorktown, NY, to record the sounds of systems at work, including the IBM Q quantum computer. Some can be heard with the naked ear, and others only with the help of specialized recording equipment, but through Imogen’s unique process these simple sounds become extraordinary instruments in a signature musical score.
London-based design agency FIELD worked with Imogen and IBM to transform the layers of data within Imogen’s composition into a new visual language.
Synesthesia is a condition in which one sense, such as hearing, is simultaneously perceived by another, such as sight. The design team built a visual engine that is driven directly by Imogen’s musical data. The results are unique visual compositions that move and respond to the data within the song, creating a synesthetic visual effect.
While all of the animations and metaphors in the previous years have had a degree of abstraction they all made references to tangible things and concepts (magnetism, topography, etc.). The 2020 look is purely abstract and is a wonderful visualization of the equally abstract sounds captured by Imogen — you can listen to some of the individual sounds here — at IBM’s offices in New York. The compositions, as they react to sound, are hypnotic and engaging, all in a very pleasing color palette. It’s a shame this won’t get a full event roll-out as it would have been quite the sight… and sound.