Outline’s new sightline: brand identity (pt. I)

In our quest to an alternative celebration of our 51st anniversary, Outline’s new sightline activities have triggered a comprehensive redesign of our brand identity.

It all started with the visual logo, which – although lightly retouched in different occasions at non-regular intervals – had kept faithful to its original gestalt and shape for the past fifty-one years, linked as it was to the incorporation dating back to 1973.

In its different iterations, the (now) old Outline logo had previously changed from portraying the shape of the pinna, i.e. the outer structure of human ear made of cartilage and skin, to later enclosing it at the edge of a (loudspeaker) box, morphed with Outline’s patented DPRWG profile (as in Dual Paraboloid Reflective Wave Guide).

None of this, literally, appears any longer within the new Outline visual logo, in which a point and a line now are horizontally aligned, carefully placed off the vertical axis center in a square-shaped surface – a geometric form of utmost simplicity, and a radical departure from the original, historical graphic construct.

Marketing (with capital M) has as many rules and credos as there are specialists and evangelists of the discipline, of course; at its most basic, all of them agree to the diktat of never (ever) diluting the accrued visual memory of a brand that’s retained by its stakeholders and general public – and, when point-gun forced into a redesign, only add the smallest dollop of change that does it nice and easy.

¿In this light, why on (Mother) Earth has Outline dared to go straight against this doctrine, starting off again from scratch, at an entirely new concept?

Let’s hear it straight from Luca Botturi, the creative mind at work behind Outline’s visual communication for the past eight years – who pushed the re-design process task as a most interplay-ed teamwork exercise, four-handed with Daniele Tebaldi, Outline’s CTO and General Manager.

“We ran a small panel survey on visual memory retention for the Outline logo of the last 13 years”, starts Luca Botturi, “and the results have been singularly revealing, albeit not comforting: we haven’t found one interviewee who could draw it, despite being asked not even five minutes after having sighted it, after having been told that the interview dealt with the perception of such logo”.

“It means that the old logo was kept hostage of an inherent complexity that the onlooker(s) can’t justify, can’t really find a meaning to… nor memorize, either: they may know it was Outline’s, of course, but being unable to sketch it, no matter how rough and unrefined, simply means logo wasn’t invested in them, literally speaking”, continues Botturi.

“I’ve enjoyed much quality time as a child in the company of my blind maternal grandfather, from whom I grew and finessed my listening culture”, offers Daniele Tebaldi.

“There’s a way with words, and with names, of both things and people, and products and organisations, that triggers aural markers, informing how words sound when spoken… it often reaches across different languages, and cultures, it’s a potent identification…”, says Tebaldi.

“As such, the word ‘OUTLINE’ is no exception, composed as it is by two distinct elements, hence sounds: ‘OUT’, short, starts with the letter O – and ‘LINE’, longer, which can be noted by a horizontal line, or hyphen… it resonates with Morse code, where point is the short signal, line the long one… it’s a full match!”, extends Tebaldi.

“While wandering with Daniele, at one point we got to a square, onto which a line was resting flat, carefully placed off-center – it harks back to visual art of previous century, to modernist design of late ’20s or early ’30s”, continues Botturi.

“It delivers Outline’s commitment to responsibly and accurately drive its engineering of systems and solutions for spaces – because Space is where listeners gather, Space is what Architecture shapes, and what history treasures of a culture, of a people and their social interactions… it felt so natural that we couldn’t ignore it, we just had to adopt it – and it stuck, solid!”, closes Tebaldi.

It comes as no surprise that ‘Architecture‘ and ‘Space‘ come into play more and more often, in line with Outline’s new sightline – when talking future, about where the company envisions its expansion: “There is an upper order at play, at which Arts and Architecture provide awareness, and purpose,” says Tebaldi. “It’s so commonplace in Italy, a wealth that many of our country-pals often don’t even notice, used as they are to our skyline – it’s in our cities, and gardens, and buildings, and churches”.

“More than a heritage, it’s a driving force, raw material at work for designing quality of living in private-, and public-, and working spaces – with which sound is deeply connected, what aural-driven people are naturally well-versed into, many of them actually part of Outline’s driving force themselves”, concludes Tebaldi.

“There’s more than one key to the new Outline logo, even strictly keeping within the visual realm: some saw a reminiscence of the old 8″ and 5¼” floppy disks from the early Flintstones’ age of computing, while others saw a parallel with blood types’ universal donor, as it’s called ‘O negative‘ and commonly abbreviated to 0-… someone saw a hint to a timpani or vibraphone mallet lying flat on a surface, too… all sightings are fully legit, and relevant – that’s exactly why logos are often called symbols!”, closes Botturi.

Soon after forms were matched to Outline lettering, Botturi and Tebaldi saw that its essence can be referenced by (and obtained from) standard ASCII characters, too – big dot and n-hyphen enclosed between square brackets can be quickly typed on your computer keyboard as [•-], which proves itself as effective as its graphically engineered counterpart, while within anyone’s reach onto any computer or hand-held device – which opens up one further level of possibilities in communication, what’s definitely not a small additional benefit per se.

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