Gamers first, designers second: Hudson-Powell uses the team's “misspent youths” to steer the Nuverse brand
The games publisher’s visual identity is inspired by the joy and community of gaming, featuring a set of 50 vibrantly coloured 3D shapes that represent players.
- Jenny Brewer
- 18 March 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Pentagram partner Jody Hudson-Powell says he grew up playing and “trying to make” games, so his team’s rebrand for games publisher and developer Nuverse is imbued with genuine personal passion. “Some of my earliest self-discovered ideas and interests in creativity and tech were formed sat at our Sinclair Spectrum 128k,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Throughout my life, computer games have been there as a source of escape, inspiration and community, and over the years I've been looking for ways to work gaming into my practice.” The designer and his brother, fellow partner Luke Powell, therefore bring an in-built knowledge of the gaming world to the brand’s visual identity, which centres around the joy and community of gaming.
Hudson-Powell set out to build on the “expressive and playful energy” of gaming’s graphic design history, but avoid leaning on the idea that a game publisher is “simply a tech company”. Computer game identities are “often really theatrical,” he says “whilst often trying to feel techy to reflect the latest console's power boost. Creating a reductive, human, trusted mark would have failed the opportunity for us.” Instead, he says he likes how “the system is simply overt and playful rather than demonstrative and logical. That energy plays throughout the elements but is definitely found in the mark and symbol”.
Core to the brand is a set of 50 vibrantly coloured 3D shapes, which Hudson-Powell refers to as player icons, and serve to represent the individuals coming together in games. The shapes are comprised of cubes and spheres of varying sizes, which connect to form irregular forms. These change colour according to the genre of game (eg. sports, sci-fi or adventure) meaning in total there are over 500 possible iterations of the player icons. This concept is also applied to the Nuverse logo, which depicts a chain of connected sphere-like forms, representing two players engaged in a game. This alludes to both science and play, by visually suggesting DNA structures and construction toys.
“An idea I had early on was around creating artefacts that could move between our worlds,” Hudson-Powell explains. “Images or things that could appear out here with us as graphic design, but then seamlessly move into gaming worlds and become part of the experience.” The Hudson-Powell team often designs through coding or just “building stuff”, so the idea of the player icons was borne out of experiments that generated thousands of 3D forms. The visual language for the shapes developed from bringing in parameters to those visual experiments, that allowed the forms to remain abstract but have personality. “We had some really crazy stuff going, but the more we developed, we kept coming back to the simple idea of community and the players.”
These 3D forms can be used in branding to show a range of stories, from a few gamers forming a team, to hundreds of thousands coming together on an MMO (massively multiplayer online game). In a series of animations, masses of these forms swirl in synchrony akin to a murmuration of starlings, to “emphasise the shared experience of gaming”. These are used in adverts and events, and in short clips for brand visuals.
Nuverse’s wordmark is bold and angled, accompanied by Florian Karsten’s FK Grotesk as the primary typeface and bold and black versions of Rui Abreu’s Azo Sans as the secondary typeface. These are used alongside an extended width sans serif Chinese type family. Yuri Suzuki’s team worked on the sound identity, exploring how the excitement and joy of the fantasy world Hudson-Powell has created could be explored sonically. The solution was modular, allowing the Nuverse team to extend, shorten or simplify the sounds depending on the application. Suzuki explains this uses a “granular synthesis” technique, essentially turning sound into “tiny grains” which can be reordered and combined in various ways.
Overall, Hudson-Powell wanted the identity to stand out among existing games labels, and for gamers to instantly grasp what Nuverse stands for – a sense of joy and companionship for individuals coming together through gaming. “A huge part of a game publisher's identity is defined by their games, their IP, and the characters that inhabit their game engines. Going into the project we didn't have a huge amount of insight into the games in the pipeline so we reverted to looking at competitors etc, to make sure we weren't retreading old ground,” says Hudson-Powell. “Ultimately we used our misspent youths to steer us. We have a ton of knowledge and passion so we were really motivated to create a brand or logo that we'd enjoy seeing on the boot screen of a game. We are the audience so we could trust our gut on this one.”