In the Spring of 2013, I had the opportunity to evolve the visual identity for Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s global student technology program and competition. The goal was to bring the Imagine Cup identity system more in line with the new brand direction of Microsoft overall, while still retaining the spirit and equity of the existing identity beloved by millions of Imagine Cup fans, participants and partners.
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The star-man glyph (pre-evolution version shown above) is the signature element of the Imagine Cup brand, so my team and I explored ways to both honor its legacy and infuse it with a more modern, dynamic aesthetic.
The first exploration sought to bring the star-man glyph in line with the new Microsoft brand aesthetic framework.
We mapped variations on a theme to the perspective-plane used for the new logo system to add a sense of motion and dynamism.
We also played with lines vs shapes to explore how far the concept could stretch before visually disconnecting from the original glyph.
The second exploration pushes things even further, taking a reductionist approach to the star-man glyph. We experimented with how much of the star-man can be changed or lost before it becomes too far removed from the original glyph’s form.
This study revealed two interesting new elements: [a] the introduction of a “banner” shape raised above the glyph’s head in victory, and [b] the concept of twisted or folded ribbon elements to express dimensionality in an otherwise flat form.
The third exploration delved deeper into the twisted/folded ribbon concept, and allowed us to infuse a bit of geeky fun into the mix. We decided to use the Fibonacci Sequence as both a structural construct and a limiting parameter.
This is the most reductionist of all approaches using the bare mininimum of gestural shapes and curves to evoke the aspirational spirit of the star-man glyph.
Once we moved to digital vectors, it didn’t take long for us to land on a new glyph form that strongly resonated with everyone. We settled upon a version that blended the perspective approach of sketch study 1 with the layered and folded approach of sketch study 2.
We then explored a myriad of variances to strike the right balance of size, depth and symmetry.
Great care was also taken to define the new color palette for Imagine Cup.
Because of it’s strong association and deep affiliation with Microsoft’s developer brands, we sought to pay homage to those brands by aligning color choices accordingly and infuse additional depth into the visual layer through the deliberate use of subtle color blends.
The end-result was a new, modern take on Imagine Cup, a comprehensive set of guidelines for adoption, and bullet-proof assets ready for global use. The Imagine Cup star-man glyph and logo have since undergone further evolution — to align with the new Microsoft Imagine all-up visual identity — but it retains the essence of what we explored and delivered above.
It was a true honor to work on such a beloved property, and to have the work so widely embraced.
For the deeply curious, I’ve included the full style guide below.