Rethink’s playful identity for the 2023 RGD Branding Awards takes the ® symbol to another level
Designed by Canada and US-based creative agency Rethink, the identity for the 2023 Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) Branding Awards goes all in on the registered trademark symbol; revolving solely around the humble ® mark. Celebrating the best brands from across the world, Rethink sought to subvert something universal and familiar, using it as the basis to establish a strong supporting graphic structure, resulting in the creation of Registered Grotesk – a bespoke, one-of-a-kind typeface based on the ® symbol.
“We started by looking at the typographic forms used in things like LED neon signs and marquee lightbulb letterforms,” Creative Director & Designer Alex Bakker tells us, recalling the typeface’s influences. “Ultimately, the greatest source of inspiration came from studying the structure of bitmap fonts,” he explains, “and treating a single ® as if it were a pixel,” raising Power Type’s Offbitt and New Airport Dot by A2-TYPE as key inspirations.
“There is no supporting typeface!” Bakker adds, “we were able to craft Registered Grotesk to retain legibility digitally and at small sizes,” utilising only the single typeface and weight across the brand, befitted with over 160 unique characters and numerous OpenType features. The sharp, classically set type sits stoically alongside expressive, playful patterns constructed of an ®-only system, reacting kinetically and statically depending on the output; creating a powerful tension between forms.
“When we initially came up with the concept we assumed that black and white was the obvious choice,” Bakker recalls of the colour palette, “but while we wanted the design system to feel very restrained and almost reductive,” he adds, “there was a starkness in the black and white that didn’t feel quite right.” As a result, Rethink opted for a warmer, welcoming off-white alongside a softer charcoal hue, neatly balancing the rigour and brutality of the purely typographic systems.
Thematically, Rethink also softened the visual output through its image treatment, opting for judge portraits that embrace the ®-only system rather than contrast it. “The portraits were a big challenge,” he explains, “once we cracked the typeface and made the choice that the entire identity needed to be crafted out of ®’s,” Bakker details, “we looked to the art world for guidance,” turning to Ascii Art for inspiration. “We found a plug-in that allowed us to apply a non-destructive stipple effect onto the images of our judges,” he recalls, “and once we achieved our desired arrangements, we repeated the process,” using only the registered trademark symbol over a standard dot. “This gave us a solid base,” Bakker concludes, “but each image was then meticulously arranged manually as the final step in the process.”
Registered Grotesk (custom typeface)