XXIX flips classic insurance “disaster” scenes on their head for an illustrated brokerage identity

Drawing from historic insurance policy documents and ads, XXIX and Vincent Mahé go down a surprisingly illustrative route for Modern Life.

23 August 2022

XXIX, a branding studio based between New York City and Berlin, knew that “reputation and longevity” would be crucial to creating the new identity for Modern Life, a tech-enabled life insurance brokerage. “Life insurance is unique in that it’s a product you ideally buy once and that lasts the rest of your life,” the team explains. However, XXIX also had to signal innovation. As Modern Life uses technology to advance the insurance space, “the challenge was finding the edge between familiar and fresh”, XXIX adds. The solution lay in looking back at early insurance branding techniques and collaborating with illustrator Vincent Mahé.

“We had to learn a lot about how different aspects of insurance work in order to do this project, especially when designing the digital product,” the studio says. In the process, the studio stumbled across a selection of historic insurance documents, which also happened to be curious artefacts of graphic design. Often these documents advertised insurance policies – “or, in some cases, were the actual policy itself,” says XXIX. Many featured elaborate typography and remarkable printing processes. One motif, in particular, reappeared across several documents: illustrated scenes showing the kind of disaster the company insured against framed in a “classically ornamental cutaway”.

Modern Life’s new identity inverses this concept. Rather than showcasing disasters, XXIX reintroduces these frames as “windows” or “portals” offering a glimpse into “aspirational (but attainable)” depictions of modern life. Vincent Mahé is the illustrator behind the city vignettes, adding an editorial, humanistic touch to the project.

With illustrations being an essential element of the work, the studio “developed the rest of the design system with the future illustration brief in mind”, XXIX states. The seasonal colour system, for example, was fed into the illustrations through spring and autumn palettes. Meanwhile, the “fun, quirky vignettes we imagined led us on a search for typefaces that also had some quirkiness”, the studio adds. In particular, the clean line work used across the illustrations mirrors the looping letterforms that appear within the wordmark, monogram logo and the alternate character set of the brand typeface Noi Grotesk.

GalleryXXIX: Modern Life (Copyright © Modern Life, 2022)

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XXIX: Modern Life (Copyright © Modern Life, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.

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