The Citrix identity by Athletics uses illustration to bring humanism to a corporate brand

Characterful line drawings by Matt Blease have injected personality into this formerly dry brand, while a subtle change to the logo marks a shift for the tech giant.

9 October 2020


Citrix is a digital workspace used by over 100 million people, but until recently – and perhaps expectedly – its branding sat at the dry end of corporate, business-facing visual identities. Making moves to adapt to a worldwide change in workplace culture and to keep up with competitors such as Slack, Salesforce and Dropbox, the tech giant has undergone a rebrand that sees it refocus on employee experience (i.e. humans not companies) and new ways of working. Enter Athletics, a Brooklyn-based design studio with clients including IBM and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, which has made both subtle tweaks and big artistic sweeping gestures to change the tech brand’s image to be more humanistic.

Amidst a huge project, the most notable ways Athletics has done so is through the logo, where the dot has moved to over the ‘x’ to transform the mark into a human-like form, and through illustration, working with Liverpool-born artist Matt Blease to bring his knack for personable line-drawn characters to the brand. Blease is just one of a host of great collaborators on this project, including Paul Worthington from brand consultancy Invencion, motion studio Colors and the Kids, sound designer Simon Pyke and animation studio Buck.

Athletics’ creative director Malcolm Buick says that, at the start, the logomark wasn’t up for discussion. “It was not on the table, having been set in stone for three decades. It was only once our new strategic platform was fully baked that it became apparent that the current mark did not have the ability to work in a digital-first environment. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity to touch this keystone component of the brand.” So ensued a process that saw the creative team soften the sharp edges of the letterforms, making the new version feel “friendlier and more modern,” and then the all-important slide of the dot of the ‘i’ to hover over the ‘x’ to create the subtle appearance of a simplified human figure.

To complement the new mark, Athletics also created a set of similar little human symbols with varying structures and characteristics, which pop up throughout the identity and Citrix’s different enterprises to represent different aspects of the company, each with their own sonic identities too.

It’s the illustrations, though, that really caught our eye. “Nobody sees the world like Matt Blease,” states Buick. “First, he offers a whimsical but remarkably incisive perspective on modern life (and work). That perspective felt right at home with Citrix’s new strategic platform and design system. Second, Blease’s skill at engaging people on a subtle, emotional level functions as a critical counterweight to the more technical aspects of the system. In so many ways, wit and humour are a universal language. Blease’s pen speaks that language fluently.”

Alongside this, the identity includes a slick brand film by Buck, which partnered with Antfood on the audio to bring what Buick describes as a “vibrant, colourful and – most importantly – human portrayal of Citrix’s vision for a better way to work”. Most footage included in the film was live action captured early in the pandemic, “in which everyone’s creativity and resilience in the workplace was tested in profound ways,” he adds.

The brief was the same to Buck as it was to Berlin-based collaborator Colors and the Kids, to convey Citrix’s new strategic statement, “the future of work is the space to succeed”. The studio therefore developed a set of 3D assets, static and motion, that depict the Citrix logomark “emerging organically from the background, symbolising the emergence of a new, more modern Citrix,” says Buick.

GalleryAthletics: Citrix brand identity (Copyright © Citrix, 2020)

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Athletics: Citrix brand identity (Copyright © Citrix, 2020)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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