Feature

Going iconic: how NB Studio created The Drum’s new visual identity

The Drum has unveiled its new brand – a clean, minimal design from NB Studio that stays true to the brand's heritage colours of red and white but positions the visual of the publication's namesake front and centre.

Unusually, The Drum's rebrand sparked from a trophy design brief.

The brand presents hundreds of trophies recognising excellence in everything from graphic design to digital trading each year. These items adorn workplaces the world over. There’s just one problem – you’d have trouble picking one out in a line up.

Up until now, each of the 25 award schemes had their own trophy style and while sitting side by side with other accolades, The Drum brand could get lost in all the polished metal and cut glass.

Having won a few Drum awards themselves, London design firm NB Studio saw an opportunity. The agency approached The Drum’s founder Gordon Young and convinced him to let it take a swing at a new design for these physical manifestations of The Drum brand.

The brief was simple: create an iconic trophy that you can spot from across the room.

“We wanted to create something that we would want to win. It’s the perfect brief for ourselves,” says NB co-founder Nick Finney.

The project kicked off in January this year, once NB had immersed themselves in the world of gongs. As a tonic to the over-abstraction and garishness at large in the world of awards, NB committed to Dieter Rams’ edict: ‘good design is as little design as possible’.

After testing several ideas one stood alone: a drum.

“You own the word ‘drum’. You own the image in my mind when you say the word ‘drum’. This is the idea you have to run with,” Finney insisted during one of the early meetings. The simplest solution was favoured: a short cylinder with lines suggestive of tension strings.

Once the physical design was agreed upon, attention was focused back on the graphics. It was decided that the incumbent branding was not strong enough. The solution came when Finney came into the office one day and said “everyone, quick, draw a drum”. Jamie’s sketch of four adjacent triangles with a line hovering just above caught everyone’s attention. “We all thought – that’s it”.

This five second sketch would go on to have dramatic implications for The Drum brand as a whole. While the new trophy design was being established, Young was beginning to feel like The Drum had outgrown its overarching branding.

"The Drum brand has grown rapidly over the last year," he says. "If it was a city it would be like the Old Town of Edinburgh – full on charming nooks and crannies, but very much a product of organic and ad hoc development. A bit of central planning was required to streamline our services and simplify our offering.

"Really, it was time to build the equivalent of Edinburgh’s New Town."

Inspired by the simple lines of the trophy, the new masthead branding also favours minimalism: two flat colours and sentence case type accompanied by the triangular logo of a drum.

"The words The Drum themselves are inherently satisfying," says Young. "There is something reassuring, but also powerful, about how the letters come together, and I think NB Studio has really shown this natural advantage off to best effect.

"The Drum appears across so many mediums, from giant billboard, to iPhone screens to small trophies, and for a long time we felt it really required a classic logo. – something that would prove instantly recognisable no matter where it was seen. That is actually quite a hard brief to crack. But the idea of using a simplified drum graphic is brilliant, and certainly gives us something we will be able to develop for years to come."

The new branding will perhaps feature most starkly on the front cover of the magazine. Now, with its bold lines and colours, the mag's title stands out even more.

"We’ve retained The Drum red, of course, but the uppercase lettering, varied weights and bar code styling of the previous iteration are all gone – and all for the better in my opinion," says Thomas O'Neill, deputy editor of The Drum.

"What’s left is a stripped-back word mark, using Laurenz Brunner’s beautiful geometric sans serif typeface Circular, and a pared-down drum icon that simultaneously suggests a four-pronged crown and razor-sharp teeth, and provides a graphic system that we think is an instant classic."

He adds: "I love it. NB has done an amazing job. It is all at once simpler, bolder and more confident, and it does everything we wanted it to do and more."

Throughout the entire project, which spanned six months, Finney’s key refrain was that simplicity serves effective communication. “There’s a line between you as the recipient and the idea. We remove any ambiguity, any cognitive dissonance to get you to the idea as quickly as possible, says Finney.

“My worry is that people are going to see this and think – it's just a drum – what have they done? Well, that’s the point – we weren’t here!”.

The resulting icon, wordmark and graphic system will now be rolled out across all of The Drum’s properties over the next few months.

The Drum Design Awards took place on 7 June at the Emirates Stadium, London. All of the award winners were presented with the new trophies. For a full list of the winners, click here. Sponsors of the awards were: Tomorrow London, NB Studio and Identity.