If Corke Wallis had produced brand guidelines for its new identity for Web of Things, a community of coders, developers and technologists, they might read as follows: “Purchase rolls of pink, yellow and green tape. Stamp ‘WEB’, ‘OF’ and ‘THINGS’ on lengths of tape. Decorate environment with tape.”
Tape is winding its way into the weighty world of corporate identity. It’s the medium of choice for today’s pop-up brand experience. It’s instant, (almost) infinite and infinitely flexible. It can go anywhere, brand anything. Immediate, maybe a little disruptive. As an antidote to identity governed by sacrosanct 3D symbology and brand bibles, it’s like punk after prog: flat, fast and fun. Never mind the bollocks, it’s the tape dispensers.
Such was the spirit of the Stone Twins’ identity for The Usual Suspects, a Dutch ‘event and brand activation agency’. Its trademark was bright pink adhesive tape carrying a typographic pattern in which the company logotype was disguised within rows of the initials U and S. Staff members had the pleasure of being gagged, bound and blindfolded with the tape for a series of portraits.
TwoPoints.Net in Barcelona solved the dilemma of MAIO, an architecture practice that does everything (art installations to fair stands) except architecture, with pink, blue and white tape, each printed with the MAIO logotype in degrees of deconstruction. Anything, from cards and letterheads to places and events, is now brandable.
“Our original concepts for Web of Things were quite conventional,” says Michael Wallis. “But tech guys don’t really want conventional. It was important that WoT didn’t look like it had been ‘branded’. It’s a community of enthusiasts, not a corporate thing.” WoT’s tech-heads want to connect everything to everything else, via WoT code and the internet. Wallis offers an example. “Imagine a wine bottle that knows who and where you are, and can suggest friends to drink with and places nearby to buy the right cheese.” At impromptu get togethers, or ‘Hackathings’, new ideas for WoT-enabled products are explored. Branded tape provides guerrilla-style, street-level signage on the pavement, on doors, up stairs and in the venue.
The playful, DIY vibe of tape is perfect for these events. “It’s an increasingly joined up, collaborative, networked world,” says Wallis; “tape is sort of perfect as a metaphor for all those things.” Tape – flat, low-tech and linear but inexhaustible and real – presents the ultimate counterpoint to complex, hard-to-grasp computer code. “The more virtual the ‘product’ the more tangible the identity needs to be,” says Wallis. “A big contrast is better than a bad match. Techy concepts are hard enough to work out, without adding to the brain ache with a metaphorical logo or witty, punny identity. It’s like how Einstein used to wear the same clothes every day, so he didn’t have to waste brainpower choosing an outfit. In high-tech branding, too, you should save the brainpower for the tech.”
If you’re trying to define the indefinable, just follow the tape.
Michael Evamy is the author of LOGO and Logotype (Laurence King). See evamy.co.uk