Since founding in 2012, Medium has gathered 170 million readers and become a global platform for sharing and discussing ideas. It was a mission of openness and democracy that the company set out with and has managed to stick to amid a wider internet culture design agency Collins describes as a “downward spiral of online discourse... with ad-fuelled clickbait on one side and echo chambers on the other”. Medium founder Ev Williams recently announced that the platform would be changing to support dialogue between readers and writers, to become a more “intentional and relational network of ideas exchange”. As part of a huge evolution of its approach, the platform decided a rebrand was in order to “better express the brand” and make it more flexible. So Collins has worked with Medium over the past year, and last week, it unveiled its new visual identity.
The rebrand features a new word mark and symbol, and set of illustrations using words to form imagery. In a Medium post about the redesign, VP of marketing Karene Tropen highlights the latter as the most fundamental aspect of its new identity. The former branding “didn’t have flexibility to build and evolve,” she explains, while its old collage illustrations were time-consuming to make. For the new identity, Collins has used typography as a “building block” and provided what it describes as “a blunt illustration system that gives movement and depth to the written word”.
This sees words grouped, collaged and piled up to make images; for instance, words such as science, design, justice, parenting, immigration, cooking and spirituality are congregated in bulk to create an image of the globe; and images such as currency, politics, race, reform and diplomacy are grouped to make an inverted comma. In other images, words are interlaced with photography: the string of a cat's cradle, for example, or the outline of a red cross overlaid on imagery of medication.
“Each image has a unique subtext tied to the concept it's representing,” Tropen writes, explaining that the illustrations demonstrate “exactly what happens on Medium: using language to clarify and expand ideas”.
“When I saw the initial concept for this direction, I immediately thought of how we started, and what, fundamentally, we still are for the writers on our platform: a blank page,” she adds. The illustration style also has capacity to be 3D or incorporate movement.
Collins has also reworked the brand's word mark, “seeking to create a stronger expression that balances the need to be vibrant, but not overpowering,” says the agency. The new mark therefore isn't too far removed from the old one, keeping visual ties with its literary roots, but with smoother lines, tighter spacing and customised letterforms to “feel more inviting” Tropen adds. “Overall it stands prouder.”
Alongside this new word mark is a symbol which, like the illustration set, is inspired by language. It appears as a circle and two ellipses, the second slimmer than the first, and is based on the three-dot ellipsis… symbolising “the anticipation of new ideas as well as the shift in perspective necessary to embrace them once they arrive,” says Collins. “Its geometry seeks to complement the more ornate nature of the new word mark.”
Tropen adds that, functionally, the symbol is again about the flexibility of the identity. The symbol can replace the word mark in articles and other instances, so the Medium branding can “take a backseat to let individual publications and writers shine”.
The word mark and symbol are complemented by new typography and an expanded colour palette, which was previously just black and white. Now the designers and Medium users have a broader spectrum to draw from, another way to adapt to the range of perspectives in Medium’s readers and writers. The Collins team summarises: “Building a brand that could serve as the foundation for [its] ambition required marrying both refreshed visuality and evolved language. Our new brand system was born out of the dynamic tensions in all new ideas – especially between those who shape them, share them, support them and challenge them.”
GalleryCollins: Medium rebrand (© Medium, 2020)
Collins: Medium rebrand (© Medium, 2020)
About the Author
After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.
Jenny is currently on maternity leave.