Designers who work with porn or sex education brands face a dilemma almost immediately. Do you dull down the crux of your brand – in this case, sex positivity – and risk less when it comes to social media and advertising restrictions? Or do you decide to go bold and walk the tightrope of celebrating sex, without being able to always show it? Berlin-based Plusminus Studio and the porn platform Cheex have gone down the second avenue in a new rebrand.
For those who haven’t come across the brand before, Cheex is an online platform that offers both porn and sex education which, as Plusminus art director Tomas Clarkson points out, is “quite a novel idea”. Accepting the idea that porn is often people’s first exposure to sex, the brand splits its offerings between entertainment and educational content on sexuality, such as ‘Sex 101’ workshops. It also has strict ethical criteria for the working conditions of its performers and type of entertainment content it publishes. When Plusminus joined with Cheex for a brand refresh, the studio’s first move was to survey the market.
“Mainstream porn websites tend to be dark, sleazy and clickbaity, then the counter to this was ‘feminist’ porn websites where everything is white and clean and set in classy serif type. Like the only options were naughty or nice,” says Tomas. “We wanted to push an identity that celebrated the differences and didn’t want to hide its horniness.”
So what does this look like in action? From first look, Cheex is unmistakably a sex brand. Plusminus has played into some popular visuals found in the crossover between graphic design and sex today, like peach symbols and fire gradients, which are a fun addition. But Cheex’s brand really sits apart for how it incorporates more bare-faced indications of the brand’s content into the branding. And primarily, this means real bodies.
For sex positive brands looking to show their content on billboards of socials, photography showing real bodies can be tough territory. “We knew that Cheex had issues with a lot of their social media postings, or they had to post images that were tamer,” explains Tomas. So Plusminus leaned into the idea. “We created a frosted glass effect which gives the impression of bodies but is distorted enough to get past most restrictions.”
Other elements of the new brand include a refined Cheex red – the previous iteration being more muted and stripped down – and illustrations in the style of fruit stickers, a nod to the “fairtrade” concepts at the heart of the brand. Plusminus also leans into more fun, loud copy and bold fonts “to distinguish ourselves from that notion” that feminine pleasure is soft – a common cliche found in many brands today.
While the rebrand launched in October 2022, Plusminus continues to work with Cheex on film posters as it continues to roll out content. For these, the studio is constantly looking for art house film posters, as well as vintage Playgirl or Playboy magazine layouts. Tomas adds: “But sometimes it just comes from the feeling that you want to express, and that can be cheesy (Play with me) or more serious (Chained to my body).”
GalleryPlusminus Studio: Cheex (Copyright © Plusminus Studio, 2023)
Plusminus Studio: Cheex (Copyright © Plusminus Studio, 2023)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.