Brooklyn creative agency Franklyn has designed a new logo for internet start-up studio Betaworks based on drawings of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.
The Analytical Engine was the first proposed fully automatic calculating machine. It was conceived by Babbage in 1834 but only a trial part was completed before his death in 1871.
Betaworks first adopted a logo based on Babbage’s design in 2008 but by 2013, the symbol, below, had become dated. Franklyn was asked to develop a new marque while retaining a reference to the engine, which Betaworks says represents “a modern abstraction of machine components…with an underlying history”.
The new marque is a vast improvement on the old and features the brand name in a lowercase bespoke logotype alongside a complex geometric symbol.
Both the typeface and symbol are inspired by parts of Babbage’s diagrams and the overlapping shapes represent various elements of the business, from funding and housing start-ups to launching iPhone games and rebuilding apps.
As well as retaining the reference to the Analytical Engine, Franklyn was asked to work within the brand’s existing black, red, white and grey colour palette, while avoiding data visualisation, any references to the internet or a design that could overshadow the identity of other companies Betaworks works with.
Despite these requirements, Franklyn director Michael Freimuth says the project wasn’t particularly restrictive. “The biggest challenge was shifting the client away from a literal representation of this piece of tech history that they loved so much,” he says.
“When we first began it seemed they were totally on board to ‘get weird’, but when it came down to decision time we were very concerned that they were regressing back to cogs and gears,” he adds.
As Betaworks’ head of creative James Cooper explains in a blog post on the rebrand, the new logo went through several iterations. Franklyn developed an illustrated B based on parts of the engine:
And a logotype based on punch cards:
Before creating a serif typeface that mimicks its cogs and gears. The typeface comes in upper and lowercase versions and Betaworks says it will be soon be made available online.
Franklyn also worked on several variations of the accompanying geometric symbol, experimenting with simpler, circular designs before presenting the final result, made up of overlapping shapes derived from the logotype.
When he first saw the marque, Cooper says he didn’t like it. “I don’t think [co-founder John Borthwick] did either… it was not instantly likeable because it was complex,” he says.
As he later points out, however, this was the intention: the overlapping shapes are designed to represent people’s varying perceptions of Betaworks, while focusing on its central aim to build “companies, partnerships and communities.”
“Every person sees betaworks as something slightly different. Part studio, part incubator, part VC, part advertising or media agency. None of these things are absolutely right but none of them are particularly wrong. Rather than explain what we are, we focused on explaining what we do. What we do is simple. We build,” he adds.
The new design has so far been applied to business cards, GIFs and Betaworks’ website and social media channels. Franklyn is also developing clothing as well as signage, wallpaper and a logo-based hopscotch court for the Franklyn studio.
“Betaworks is expanding their studio, so hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to get crazy. A logo-inspired jungle gym may not be out of the question,” says Freimuth.
Franklyn’s marque defies the notion that logos should be as simple and reductive as possible, but it’s a distinctive and flexible design that’s much more suited to an innovative tech company than the previous Betaworks marque.
The bespoke typeface should give communications a more unified feel too, and the symbol has also been used to create some striking graphic patterns.