Pentagram’s identity for Covariant’s AI software is centred around the process of learning
An adaptable application that changes based on input is part of the well-thought out project.
- Charlie Filmer-Court
- 14 February 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Working on a project regarding artificial intelligence (AI) requires being as adaptable as the technology itself. Pentagram’s recent identity for Covariant, a revolutionary AI software that allows robots to reason and act on their surroundings, is the perfect example of this.
“When creating identities for tech and AI companies, we are often trying to compress big and potentially complex ideas into a single expression,” explain Jody Hudson Powell and Luke Powell, the two Partners leading the project. “In Covariant’s case, we wanted to convey adaptability, learning and robotic intelligence.”
Obviously most people don’t have endless knowledge they can just reel off regarding complex robotics at this level, and the Pentagram team was no different: “We start with research and trying to understand the subject as deeply as we can. This process invariably leads us towards various essential technical and theoretical aspects of the project that lend themselves to an aesthetic solution.”
Their investigations eventually led them far outside the realm of design: “For inspiration, our research took us to a wide selection of topics ranging from; kinematics (the geometry of motion), neural net graphs and connected data points, flexible design systems and ultimately to decision boundaries (a visualisation of the inner workings of the deep artificial neural net).”
It is clear that their extensive research informed the centrepiece of the identity, the “Covariant Flow”, which they describe as “an abstract visualisation that represents the process of learning through what’s known as the ‘decision boundary’.” Complementing the AI software itself, this unique application adapts and changes in response to different inputs, altering the output image’s form, speed, complexity and colour. The end product can then be exported and utilised on whichever platform Covariant sees fit.
“The dynamic nature of the static and animated output of the tool represents the continuous learning nature of Covariant’s AI,” explain Jody and Luke. “The curves and twists of the resulting generative animations are immediately recognisable to people working within AI, and to others, they have an emotive quality that expresses its adaptability and intelligence.”
The adaptability of this tool is clear, and it is also in use as an integral part of the website, sitting behind all content – ultimately this versatility echoes the Covariant brand’s software itself.
Alongside this, Pentagram also created the wordmark and symbol for Covariant, representing the curves, twists and flows that are in the decision boundary as well as “a high contrast geometric grotesque font family.”
The colour palette takes inspiration from humans, in a potential ode to the anthropomorphic skills that Covariant can perform. The human red, pink and light blue shades are also complemented by petrol blue in order to give an industrial feel. To accompany the more abstract visuals, Geoffrey de Crécy was also enlisted to provide a “more playful extension of the colour palette,” which he has done through looping animations in his typical realist style.
Managing to distil such a complex idea into an identity is no mean feat, and pays testament to the in-depth research that underpins it: “We really enjoy starting projects by exploring fields outside of our knowledge,” say Jody and Luke. “It’s an approach that enables us to find visual solutions that are not only deeply relevant to the project we are working on, but also create the opportunity for creative work that is inspired and derived from the world outside of design.”
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.