Behind the Build of the FX Living Brand System
Our clients at FX are always pushing themselves to try to create something truly unique. Through years of working together, I've learned that when you're partnering with a brand that defines itself by taking risks, a simple design exploration can easily become a creative odyssey. So, when FX first reached out to work together on sculpting standout imagery to best represent its brand of artful, human stories, I was prepared for this to be an exercise unlike any other.
Our six-year journey to build an iconic identity for a truly fearless brand has challenged Create's creative team to take the guardrails off our own thinking—and literally reinvent the way we approach brand design.
Together, we created a one-of-a-kind graphic shoot that tapped into our wildest imagination and our deepest technical ambitions. We leveraged every tool in our creative stable to build the FX brand—both figuratively and physically. Along the way, we collaborated with a powerhouse team of artists, builders, 3-D printers, production teams, VR experts and visual technologists who worked in entirely new ways to deliver groundbreaking results and share their A-game with FX.
Credit: "Lacrimosa," performed by Apashe. Arranged by John Le Buck. Published by Disques Kannibalen. By arrangement with Friendly Fire Licensing. Sound Design Courtesy of Bravura Sync.
Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the process we undertook to create FX's living brand system:
Phase 1: Design
The original brief presented a unique design challenge. FX expressed to us that they wanted to design "a more physical, temporal identity by building an architectural logo"—without changing the outline of their existing mark.
"The only element of identity you can truly own is your name—ours needed to become a sculpture, to physically exist in real space, to achieve its full potential as a mark."
—Stephanie Gibbons, EVP marketing and on-air, FX Network
Our solution was to expose what was below the surface of the brand and design the internal framework of the logo. Over approximately six months, Create went through about 100 sketches and multiple 3-D designs to conceive an architecture that lived up to FX's vision.
Phase 2: Proof of Concept
What began like most modern-day brand systems—through graphic design and animation—took a sharp, innovative turn. Create and FX were aligned in our desire to make this brand identity decidedly more "real." To build the mark, we enlisted the 3-D printing company Stratasys to take the design and engineer a structurally sound physical logo that could support itself on the ground as well as be suspended in mid-air.
The overlay of the internal structural beams proved to be an intense engineering challenge, but through ingenuity and exploration, we produced two viable versions of the physical FX piece, one in black, one in white, with each structure occupying 60 cubic feet.
Phase 3: Production
Once we understood how best to work with the structure, we moved into production. Teaming up with production and cinematography team The Joelsons, we dove into an exploration of the interplay of footage and light projected onto the surfaces. Our goal was to bring the structure to life by maximizing the complexity of light and shadow over an intricate architecture—with the organic subtlety CG fails to realize. Over three iterative shoots, we honed our visual technique and created an innovative VR approach to capturing the logo in physical space.
Pushing the boundaries of VR production, we built physical environments of LED screens and used VR to respond to the cameras' positions in real-time. This early iteration of a volume stage enabled the viewers to experience the depth in play between the lens, the screens, the architecture of the mark, and the implied space that lies beyond.
Phase 4: The Living Brand System
Since those first shoots, we've continued working with FX's design team to raise the bar on the unique visual language that was created for the brand. Together, we developed an array of beautiful and graphically bold brand spots, as well as the foundation for a new brand logo that plays before every FX Original—which also features an iconic type system created by Trollbäck—and an anthology of programming promos, in which the logo is an adaptable design device that moves through a kaleidoscope of scenes from various FX series.
Phase 5: Present Brand Projects
Six years later, both our partnership with FX and our work with the FX brand continue to grow and evolve. Recently, we teamed up with FX again to take on one of our most technically sophisticated and creatively ambitious brand projects to date—The Walt Disney Company Investor Day. FX came to us for help solving a unique problem: How to help the FX brand take its place as a premium adult brand within the Disney ecosystem, and hold its own among the grand visuals of Disney giants like Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar?
Credit: "Demons" Composed by TONY LEE STAFFORD / MICHAEL DENNIS SMITH /NINEONEONE Courtesy of Extreme Music
We had less than two months to partner with FX, MOCEAN, The Joelsons, Method Studios and Elastic to build an immersive 10-minute piece from scratch. Moving at lightning speed, we designed a virtual landscape for FX chairman John Landgraf's keynote. Multiple genre-based architectural environments were seamlessly integrated with the masterbrand, giving the presentation an epic scope and impact.
"Although it's an elusive goal, we strive to create art in everything we do. Our brand is rooted in the real and the authentic. This dovetailed with our desire for more than a virtual world, more than computer generated graphics. To bring the brand to life, we gave our mark physical form and allowed it to interact organically with light and space." —Steve Viola, SVP design and visual effects, FX Networks
To be entrusted by our friends at FX with the thoughtful and meticulous build of their living brand system over this breadth of projects has given our work a meaning and pride of craftsmanship that we don't often get the chance to experience in our industry's urgent culture. The spirit of innovation and experimentation that is endemic to working with FX led us fearlessly into new creative territory.