The AI robots getting a retro Saul Bass twist

The end of June saw San Francisco-based brand strategy and design studio Landscape unveil a brand identity and site for Vicarious, an intelligent robotics start-up backed by $150m in funding from Elon Musk, Samsung and ABB.

Thanks to AI and machine learning, robots are becoming more versatile and affordable than ever, and after 10 years of advanced AI research, Vicarious is now commercialising its offering as the world's first provider of Robots-as-a-Service. 

Landscape worked with the company to overhaul its brand strategy as it evolved from research leader to automation expert. Because automation is not the same for small businesses as it is for large enterprises, Vicarious needed an evolved brand that could signal different benefits to different audiences. To articulate this effectively, Landscape updated the positioning and messaging site wide, in tandem with a new Saul Bass-influenced design direction, and a new site architecture. 

"As part of this evolution, the brand had to signal serious business value to companies of all sizes, from small companies to global enterprises," explain Mackenzie Brookshire, associate creative director at Landscape and its strategy director Frank H Vial. "The visual system reflects the role of manufacturing in relation to human progress — a balance of future technology and human potential, looking forward and inward. The brand feels purposeful, intentional, and powerful while remaining connected to craft and warmth."

That warmth can be seen in lead illustrations on the company website which nod to the 1950s and '60s when, as Mackenzie and Frank put it, "our culture began to idealise the concept of robots and 'the future'."

"The intention was to make the vision of intelligent automation relatable in an accessible and non-polarising way. What was once a daydream is now gradually becoming our reality, so we liked this light-hearted way of showing a complex subject."

Landscape also provided more minimal technical illustrations based on the actual CAD data of the modular robotic units.

"These convey the high precision and performance of AI-powered robots in handling complex tasks and varying objects. While being slightly abstract, the illustrations remained true to the actual engineering details."

Overall, the Landscape team found it an interesting challenge to articulate and illustrate an entirely novel and technologically complex business offering in the simplest, most compelling way. 

"Through research, interviews, exploration, and experimentation in collaboration with our client, we were able to dial in a unique way of signalling a complex new technology with an evolved offering."

Landscape also produced a full content library of visual assets, including animations to showcase the AI-powered robotics in a variety of applications from picking and palletising, to sorting and packaging. Still photography and video capture the advanced robotic applications in action.

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