Digital Thinkers Conference

identity system          typography          poster design          conference branding         

The Digital Thinkers Conference brings tech and design thinkers together to exchange inspiring, innovative, and provocative ideas. With attendees and speakers hailing from across the globe, the conference brings together people with unique experiences who share a passion for innovation. As a result, a shifting of perspectives occurs which nudges creators exactly where they need to be: outside of their comfort zone.

This type-heavy identity complements the conference’s idea of shifting perspectives. The identity revolves around the logotype, which is the conference title set in Maelstrom Sans, an experimental typeface with an unsettlingly-high contrast between thick strokes and barely-visible hairlines. Viewers are drawn into an active engagement with the identity due to the directional shifting of elements which prevents them glancing passively. The identity encourages interactivity and provocation in line with the impact of the conference itself on innovative, challenge-seeking thinkers.

The Mark
The identity is made up of three marks: the primary, the “chop”, and the secondary, all of which utilize the element of shifting directionality to complement the directional changes in the thick and thin strokes of the letterforms. “2020”, “DIGITAL” and “CONFERENCE” are all read horizontally and then vertically, while “THINKERS” is read vertically and then horizontally. In order to keep the logo structured amidst all of the shifting, all letterforms adhere to a strict grid.

The primary mark usually sits in the background and the individual letters can act as backgrounds for body copy or other elements. The secondary mark is much smaller, using “DTC” as an abbreviation for “Digital Thinkers Conference”, but only used in for scalability purposes. Finally, the “chop” mark simplifies all letterforms so that the thick strokes are represented by rectangular blocks. The geometry slightly resembles the geometric forms of a traditional Japanese chop signature.

Maelstrom Sans is an experimental and attention-grabbing typeface due to its extreme contrast and unusual weight distribution to the horizontal strokes of the letterforms, as opposed to the familiar thick verticals in more traditional typefaces. The hairline strokes are so thin that, from a distance, viewers won’t be able to make out the letters—or make out the fact that they are roman letters—which will invite them to come closer and interact.

Maelstrom makes up the logotype and is used almost exclusively as a display in this identity, save for a few instances where it is used for subtitles that submerge into the background of the body copy. Modifications were made to some letterforms in order to achieve square proportions in all cases except for the M and W. These square proportions allow the letterforms to sit more comfortably in the grid used throughout the identity to balance out the shifting directionality with an ordered system. Finally, the thick blocks of color slightly allude back to the “chops” or small woodblock stamps that Japanese artists have traditionally used to sign their artwork, an homage to the technological pioneer and host country of the conference.

Other subtitles, body copy, and captions are set in Founders Grotesk Mono. The slab serifs complement the strong horizontals of Maelstrom Sans while the no-contrast strokes balance the high-contrast strokes of its type pairing to create more legibility. The monospace is also reminiscent of technology and coding, which connects the analog feeling of Maelstrom back to the digital subject matter of the conference.

Conference Poster
Adding another layer to the shifting directionality, body copy is set vertically, running vertically down the right-hand side of a containing element. While the logotype and headings are never rotated, body copy is usually rotated 90 degrees.

The poster introduces one of the key points of the identity: an emphasis on “thinkers”. The “thinkers” portion of the wordmark is highlighted throughout the collateral as an element that bridges speakers and attendees, technology gurus and creative geniuses, under the unifying idea of group of people who are passionate about innovative ideas. In the poster, each of the eight letters are overlaid with copy about eight conference speakers, bringing the word to life.

Conference Lanyard
The lanyard and name tag for the conference serves as another point of interactivity with the audience. The front side highlights the “thinkers” from the mark with the attendee’s name and title layered on top at a 90 degree angle. The back side acts as a “stamp card” with eight opportunities for attendees to collect stamps that make up the block-version of “thinkers”. There are four spots for the four workshops offered, and four spots for the four coffee-networking breaks scheduled during the conference, and lanyard-holders have an opportunity to get stamped at each of those eight opportunities for participation.

The stamp alludes again back to the traditional Japanese artist chop signature, reconnecting this digital conference to the roots of the digital age and of creative thinkers in Japan.

The use of the Instagram grid supplies yet another layer to this idea of shifting perspectives or shifting directions. While the Instagram grid has three columns, coordinating posts will be grouped in fours. This allows each coordinated cluster of content to move together down the feed while shifting in the way they interact with one another. Like the rest of the identity, this system will challenge the strict grid system that is in place by allowing people to view it in an unexpected way. The content of each post aligns to a grid as well.

Last but not least, it’s not a conference without goodie bags! Each attendee leaves with an eco-friendly tote embellished with the primary conference logo on one side, and the block logo on the other. Each tote contains a stamp of the conference’s “chop” signature and a cardboard VR headset to encourage the thinkers to continue to explore the possibilities of new technologies. The headset is printed with “thinkers” wrapping from the top onto the side and with two Maelstrom O’s that mimic eyeballs on the front.