Launched in June of 2013, Divvy is the bike sharing system of the city of Chicago, owned by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and operated by Alta Bicycle Share (who also operate New York’s Citi Bike). Originally launched with 750 bikes at 75 stations, Divvy has expanded to 3,000 bikes and 300 stations and expanded its territory. As of this month Divvy has over 23,000 members who have collectively made over 2.2 million trips in 2014. The naming and strategy of the program were led by IDEO and the identity was designed by Firebelly.
While this project breaks my rule of not posting anything older than six months, the increased presence of Divvy in Chicago over the last six months serves as a kind of loop hole and it also coincides with Firebelly having put together a comprehensive case study about the project. You can, and should, read it here as it covers a lot of the process. You can also get (Firebelly chieftain) Dawn Hancock’s 15-minute presentation of Divvy at the Brand New Conference.
In the beginning the project was called Chicago’s Bicycle Share Program. Our brief was to create a brand, that needed to be named, trademarked, developed into a visual identity and rolled out across a standards guide in less than three months. Much more than brand standards, the guide was to include 40-plus touchpoints (bikes, stations, vans, stationery, event environments, clothing, website, etc.) each to be designed, rationalized, revised and set up for production. This would allow for two months of production and installation to meet the five month deadline of having the system operational with 750 bikes on the street.
We wanted this project to honor the great civic pride in the people of Chicago. In the identity we do this with the row of four six-pointed stars found on the bike’s chain lay and through Divvy’s primary color. These elements are derived from Chicago’s iconic flag. Here the stars have been updated to match the geometry and roundness of the system. While Chicago’s usage of light blue seems to vary quite a bit, we found Pantone 298c to be the perfect color to provide a visual connection to the flag while greatly increasing cyclist presence to the passing cars in our busy urban environment.
Once the bicycle-share program would be in operation across the city, the Divvy brand would appear on top of thousands of bicycles and tens of thousands of items in the context of cycling. We felt it was important not to be redundant with our brand. We worked to avoid literal bicycle references.
The double-V ligature, is based on the guillemet or angled quotes. In typography this glyph is traditionally used to indicate direction and motion. Marked onto streets across the world, this double arrow symbolizes the shared use bicyclists and motorists have of roads. In transportation vernacular, this marking goes by the name sharrow. Our custom logotype was inspired by monospaced alphabets where letters and space share a common width to define themselves. This is akin to people defining themselves through the mode of transportation they choose on the shared space of the road.
The name, chosen from a variety of contenders, wasn’t anyone’s first choice but it was the easiest to own and trademark. Given the popularity of the system I doubt anyone regrets the choice now. Divvy. It’s a simple, short name that captures in an informal and colloquial way the notion of dividing responsibilities and rewards. For our non-English-as-first-language readers: Divvy is shorthand for divide, and is usually used as “Let’s divvy up the candy from Halloween”. It’s not used that often but it should!
The logo is deceptively effective. The double-“v” not only indicates movement and alludes to road signage but it also solves the problem of kerning two “v”s without leaving giant counterspace cracks in the wordmark. Paired with the extended, monoweight letters, the wide-format logo is perfect for placing on the long stretch the bike’s frame. It’s a sturdy, hard-working logo that has a bit of a huggable nature to it.
In application, the identity uses Grilli Type’s GT Pressura as an extension of the logo’s thick slabs and monospace aesthetic, giving Divvy a slightly futuristic aesthetic without being obnoxious about it. The station signage and kiosk look pretty great in the black and blue color palette with the monospace titles. I also really like the flexibility of the double-“v” to rotate 90 degrees and serve as its own signage marker. Divvy’s baby blue color, just like New York’s Citi Bike, has transformed Chicago into a sea of blue bikes and easily identifiable stations while establishing a brand that has become as ubiquitous as the yellow taxi or the black Uber. Overall, this is a great, unique identity that perfectly matches the personality of Chicago.