Graphcore is a tech start-up based in Bristol (UK) and Palo Alto, California focused on developing machine learning hardware engineered as the building blocks for ever smarter and responsive artificial intelligence. By all expectations Graphcore branding and hardware should look like every other rack and server manufacturer. Boring. But one quick glance proves this is most certainly not the case.
Tapping the talents of design firm Pentagram and UK industrial design studio Map, Graphcore has been given a fresh and dynamic branding, one operating under the concept of resolution – individual components joining to form more complex solutions by sensing and responding to its environment.
The brand design began with Pentagram partners Jody Hudson-Powell and Luke Powell going against the grain of an industry traditionally characterized by the absence of any personality, let alone design. The identity toolkit features a soft color palette, geometric and glyph iconography, with its own bespoke typeface called Graphcore Quantized; Graphcore has been given an optimistic and holistic design language communicating the company’s desire to humanize an industry equated with cold and calculated progress.
Each Graphcore IPU (intelligent processing unit) is comprised of modular and colorful processor units, each pattern algorithmically generated using a proprietary software tool called Quadtree.
The colorful modular motifs characterizing the technology start-up is mirrored in Graphcore’s hardware, each module embellished with randomly generated modular patterns of shapes and colors.
Pentagram developed its own shape generator to create an infinite amount of patterns to populate any of Graphcore’s needs, whether it be for collateral, online content, or even cycling jerseys for Graphcore employees. The generator is “part-random and part-weighted” resulting in a cohesive collection of graphical compositions across the company’s designs.
The brand identity extends to Graphcore’s server racks and rackmount chassis, each containing the company’s IPU and stylishly covered in a patterned grill that allows for necessary ventilation while also imparting a colorful and distinct identity per unit.
The aesthetic considerations and efforts behind Graphcore’s products will most likely go unnoticed by users in day-to-day operations; most server racks are isolated in large ventilated rooms, and only seen during servicing or upgrading. But the results by Pentagram and Map are laudable, the computer equivalent of sewing a colorful pattern and stitched lining inside an otherwise normal coat, the complexity of artificial intelligence given a surprisingly colorful identity uniquely its own.