Pentagram’s Emily Oberman creates serif-inspired identity for an LGBTQIA+ virtual space

Serif – designed with its typographic namesake in mind – is an online space connecting LGBTQIA+ communities in a new setting and with refreshing aims.

6 October 2021


Fluidity and individuality: they’re not only traits that define the LGBTQIA+ community, but also the new branding for a start-up that hopes to represent and provide for this community with connection and creativity. The multidisciplinary designer and partner at design studio Pentagram, Emily Oberman, has taken her creative cue from the flourish of a serif typeface to create a strategy, brand identity and digital design for Serif. The platform aims to be a place where its members can share and collaborate with other users across different industries and experiences, participate in online discussions and events, and build professional, personal and creative networks.

Serif holds that, previously, LGBTQIA+ communities mainly connected in physical spaces like centres, bars and clubs, or relied on apps for sex and dating for digital experiences. It wanted to offer something new – what it calls an “affinity space”. An essential part of the brand is acknowledging the lofty history of LGBTQIA+ movements – Serif is aware it is able to be what it is because of these pioneers.

Oberman collaborated closely with Serif founder and CEO Brian Tran to develop the framework and mission of the brand. The visual language followed, centring on a logo with custom typography that morphs and transforms in fluid shapes: such shapes hope to convey actions of convergence which are also highlighted in messaging that describes Serif as “Made for all of us”.

GalleryPentagram: Serif Identity (Copyright © Serif, 2021)

The logo uses the sans serif GT America, from Grilli Type, and Nib (from Colophon) which has idiosyncratic serifs of its own. Pentagram designers extended the logotype to an alphabet with alternates for every letter, in order to express fluidity and individuality. The glyphs are repurposed with dual functionality – as personal icons on the platform, whilst being deployed throughout the brand as typographic accents.

The dot of the “i” is used as a simple graphic device that comes from the wordmark itself and is carried throughout the identity to frame members in their profiles with its unique shape. Users can either upload a photo for their member icon, or the system will generate a custom glyph monogram from the Serif alphabet using their initials. The team did all this whilst trying “to avoid clichés,” claims Oberman.

Oberman hopes that the transformative logo for Serif reflects the infinite identities within LGBTQIA+ communities, and she and her designers wanted to take a similar approach to colour. Whilst a black and white palette forms the base for the identity, soft pastel gradients flow through moments of branding to evoke subtle and fluid auras. The spectrum of colour refers back to the familiar idea of the rainbow used to represent the LGBTQIA+ community, but in understated hues which aim to offset the sharp and clean minimalism of the identity. The colours can also be used to personalise user glyphs and highlight different themes around the platform. “The LGBTQIA+ community is a vast and varied group of people, so it was important for us to be able to highlight the collective and the individuals at the same time,” says Oberman.

Pentagram: Serif Identity (Copyright © Serif, 2021)

GalleryPentagram: Serif Identity (Copyright © Serif, 2021)

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Pentagram: Serif Identity (Copyright © Serif, 2021)

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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