Sawdust Explores for IBM
Communication requires context. Any designer will tell you that no element of a composition can be wasted. Color, form, layout, every piece comes together to tell a part of the story, to exemplify or strengthen the message. For typography, there are yet deeper levels, as they interact not just within the composition, but also with the meaning of the words they illustrate. For any company, especially one as large as IBM, choosing typefaces can be an enormous challenge. So why choose? IBM asked Sawdust to provide them with three different engaging typefaces, and Sawdust ran with the order.
Off the bat, IBM put very little constraint on the design studio, asking only that they worked progressively and engaged experimentation. IBM was interested in seeing how technology and innovation could come together in the word “Solutions,” as this was for IBM’s Solutions Magazine. Other than that basic creative architecture, Sawdust was free to explore. “This is both a blessing and a curse because you can literally do anything you like, so how do you settle on something?,” muses Rob Gonzalez who runs Sawdust with his partner Jonathan Quainton. “We tend to internally set parameters for ourselves, for instance, thinking about the word ‘Solutions’ and how you can communicate that through visually engaging aesthetics.” Those parameters gave them the structure to illustrate IBM’s goals while still exploring.
Sawdust, Rob explains, wanted to start in a conceptual space. “In our minds it was all about creating aesthetics that somehow felt controlled or resolved,” he says. This concept of containment and completion found itself through each of the three executions.
The first, made from lines created by dots, expresses the energy through the word. “The design slowly becomes more energized towards the end of the word, shedding its outer conformities, and instead reverberates wildly,” says Rob. For this design, the chaos enters the word, exploding out from the boundaries of the implied lettering.
In the 3D preparation, the impossible comes from chaos. The spatial execution should be impossible but Sawdust revolves the impossible by presenting a solution. The solution is their presentation of the word, which both asks the question and answers it. Rob explains the design saying, “Something that seems impossible becomes natural and fluid, forming the letterforms. It’s like the impossible has been resolved.”
Finally, they drew inspiration from IBM’s own logo for a series of horizontal lines distorted by the lettering. “Again, it’s about ordering chaos,” Rob reminds us. The word “solutions” literally contains all the chaos. Talk about a solution.
The freedom IBM gave Sawdust allowed them to explore solutions as artists, rather than be bound by a limiting brief. Concept was king and they found their way through the challenge they posed themselves. Even if every viewer doesn’t understand the story behind each utilization, the story is still there lurking in the background. And they all look pretty cool, too.