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Work / Graphic Design

“There is no value in change for change’s sake”: an exclusive look at Spin’s update of Mubi’s visual language

“I’ll tell you something,” says Efe Cakarel, the founder and CEO of Mubi as our conversation around Spin’s new visual language update to his company’s identity begins. “For me, the definition of a client is someone who, every time someone presents a piece of work, they say: ‘great, but can you make it a little worse,’” he continues, between laughing. “I try very hard not the be this person.” This attitude is one that has led Mubi’s subtle, but detailed visual update, unveiled today and designed by Spin.

Mubi, which founded in 2007 as an on-demand film subscription service, exists to “champion great cinema” Efe explains. “I founded Mubi because I thought the world needed this.” A constantly rotating film library of 30 films updating daily, Efe sees Mubi’s team more as curators choosing a selection of creatively inspiring work. And, in being “very opinionated about what great cinema is”, Mubi has garnered a devoted following of largely creative types, “artists, architects and literature students” for instance, who trust it. This has created a certain personality for the brand, an ethos “of not taking ourselves too seriously… but we take what we do very seriously” pinpoints the founder.

Yet, recently, the brand felt its current word mark and overall visual language didn’t reflect this attitude. Its identity was one that from the outside looks consistent, “it’s very precise and very sharp,” he describes. But, if you looked at its film posters, it didn’t communicate this language in a similar way, and when it came to the company’s business cards, they featured a different typeface altogether. It was only small details, design differences that not everyone would notice, but the people who work at Mubi – and the audience who it attracts – are the people who do. Its new identity, for which it worked with revered London-based design studio Spin, had one overall job: “to tighten things up”.

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Spin: Mubi

Efe’s chose Spin to work with on this project simply because he thought they were the best equipped to lead a typographical identity update. “The reason that I brought him [Spin’s co-founder Tony Brook] and his team in, is because they’ve seen all the type,” states Efe. “They’ve made books about type, they know everything.”

Having such trust in Spin allowed Tony and his team, led by himself and design director Claudia Klat, to be confident. As they would usually, when briefed about the project “we explored a number of routes”, drawing out versions of the logo says Tony. “But, from our conversations with Efe, and our impressions of Mubi and what it needed to be, we weren’t happy that they were right.” In turn, when the studio did find the apt typeface to represent Mubi – Riforma by Norm – it only actually presented the one option back to Efe and his team. “When it’s right, it’s right,” says Tony. Riforma, “has all the right qualities: elegance, sophistication and sharpness (the M is slightly reminiscent of the M on the original Metropolis poster) and, importantly, it works beautifully with the seven circles symbol,” Mubi is recognised by.

“That’s the kind of relationship we had,” Efe adds on the moment Spin presented just the one typography choice back to him. “I wanted them to really understand what Mubi is and let me know what they think is the type we should present our brand with. If that’s what they think is how we should present our brand, you know what, it’s perfect.”

Efe’s evident love for Spin and the work it does was equally met by admiration from the designers too. “We hadn’t (much to our shame, being keen moviegoers) heard of Mubi until late last year, but we were all signed up for the service pretty much immediately,” Tony admits on the beginnings of this project. “They have, and I apologise if this sounds like an ad, a fabulous selection really unusual and often extraordinary films. Mubi really takes you on a journey,” he says, even likening it to Spin’s sister publishing house, noting how “it reminds me a lot of Unit Editions in its ethos.”

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Spin: Mubi

In Spin’s respect for Mubi’s output and general ethos, the designers were careful to note an element to keep hold from the brand’s previous identity. “We all agreed that the dots should be kept, they are really distinctive and established, there is no value in change for change’s sake,” says Tony. However every other part of the identity is entirely new, even actually, though it “might not even be noticed by some people, a huge one in our, and Efe’s mind,” is that the circles have been redrawn too, “now facing forward.”

Another new edition to Mubi’s visual language is the introduction of a varied colour palette. It’s often that a brand will have at least one signature colour to represent itself and, at a push two, but not the collection Spin has created for Mubi. “We were like why can’t we have many colours!” Efe says excitedly on this point. “It’s one of these things, like what is really good cinema. It’s very difficult to explain but you have this feeling, and it’s often subjective.” The result is a wide selection of vibrant, joyful and, in parts, unexpected colour choices which Efe is quick to admit not everyone, everywhere will like: “If you want everyone to be happy, you’re going to end up with a very boring green, seriously!”

For Tony, the introduction of colour is one that will “set a mood and attitude of the brand,” he says, pointing out how colour can be used “to reflect the colour sometimes and stand separately on occasion too.” In turn, each of these colours will be used for alternate reasons, one may sit on Mubi’s YouTube channel, for instance, another on its Instagram. “We are breaking some rules here!” rounds off Efe.

Even though to the untrained eye many will ask what changes have been made to Mubi’s identity, its gradual, precise and thoughtful tweaks to an identity such as this which encourage a brand to grow. As Efe points out: “Having a clear identity actually gives you more flexibility and creativity.” And while their work together is now over, Spin only hopes to see Mubi “grow as a platform” says Tony. “Mubi is a wonderful idea."

Looking towards the future, it’s Efe’s hope for this identity to not change again, but become even more recognisable. “In terms of consumers, we’re not going to see any significant jump on our subscriber numbers when we announce this, but I think people will appreciate it, especially our audience,” he concludes. “I think emotionally they are going to have a stronger bond with Mubi overtime if we continue to do a really good job with our design.” Noting how his real dream is “in 20 years I want anyone, from Buenos Aires to Tokyo when they see those seven dots on anything, they think of Mubi and great cinema.”

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