“Start in motion and work back to static.” DIA create a generative system for tech start-up smlXL
“The name lended itself to some fun visual concepts,” DIA’s Co-founder Mitch Paone tells us, discussing the NYC and Chamonix-based studio’s characterful identity for smlXL – a technology start-up aiming to make public computers more accessible and understandable. “Our typical process is to start in motion and work back to static,” he explains, “and we wanted to illustrate scale, exponential growth, and momentum in a playful way,” using only the company name’s five characters across an expansive, generative design system.
DIA developed a p5js-based custom tool for generating an unlimited quantity of kinetic and static outputs, with the ability to import live footage, video and imagery. “Most of the work is figuring out the system and general logic,” Designer at DIA, Daniel Wenzel, tells us. “The user should get to receive flexibility and consistency in the brand expression,” he continues, “the logic itself is quite simple, but to get there requires some understanding of time, data processing, or filters,” Wenzel adds, “and to implement it, you need to describe it all mathematically,” revealing the studious practicality behind the scenes of a brand so outwardly playful.
Onto the typography, Paone explains that they “chose Impact Nieuw 2019 from the Jung-Lee Type Foundry, paired with JHA Times Now,” noting the decision-making behind the type pairing. “Impact Nieuw 2019 has a powerful but inviting visual quality,” and is pushed to its limits by the unavoidable rigour of the motion system. “Ideas around open-source and collaboration were critical to our brand strategy,” he continues, “so it was important that the typographic voice felt inviting and idiosyncratic,” as opposed to the typically ‘techy-ness’ prevalent across the industry.
Likewise, Paone explains, “in our brand strategy discovery, it was very clear we didn’t want the smlXL brand to fall in line with trends associated with the metaverse,” nor the web3 scene, which is saturated with “neons, gradients and abstract CGI elements” alike. “Our approach was influenced by fashion and culture,” he remarks, “resulting in a muted combo of green, blue, orange, purple and white,” functioning as background hues to monochrome text. “The colours, combined with the typeface selection,” Paone concludes, “provide a soft and inviting counterpoint to the generative aspects of the brand identity,” setting a new, captivating standard subverting the tropes of the industry it inhabits.