Pentagram Unveils Smart Identity for The Wing

I’ve always been fascinated by unconventional branding; any identity that eschews the expected modern standards and pushes the envelope into less formulaic brand territory is inherently very interesting to me. So when I saw that the world-renowned rock-star agency Pentagram had recently created an identity with about 30 different brand marks, my interest was certainly piqued.

The Wing is a hip new women-only social club which opened in Manhattan’s Flatiron district at the close of 2016 and their brand was designed by Pentagram’s Emily Oberman along with an all-female team of designers. There are so many clever layers to this project that I really appreciate, starting first with the name. Like most good names, it is succinct yet rich with a number of possible interpretations and potential meanings. Similarly, the choice to use a single W monogram for the brand mark is subtly brilliant, since it reads instinctively as “woman” perhaps due to ubiquitous bathroom signage, yet clearly there’s no limit to the form that a W can take.

At first glance, my knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss the pastel pink and seafoam color palette as predictable, trendy and overused. However, when considered against the wide-ranging roster of varied and unique W marks, I see this color choice as a smart play on feminine clichés. Using ballerina pink as the backdrop upon which double U’s of all shapes, styles and attitudes are presented is an intriguing comment on gender stereotypes. While highlighting diversity is clearly the point being driven home by this set of nonconformist marks, some of the choices are also downright hilarious. Similarly, the retro typography recalling the 1960′s and 70′s, adds an interesting layer of tongue-in-cheek social commentary to the project by making reference to an era where women with professional ambitions in the workplace was still considered a controversial topic to some.

Beyond the identity, Oberman and her team at Pentagram did an amazing job creating a range of brand collateral that is in turn beautiful, fun and sassy. My favorite example of which probably being the “inspiring woman pencil set.” Throughout The Wing’s brand collateral, beautiful and understated typography appears alongside historical allusions to women’s suffrage as well as pop-culture references, creating a sharp brand experience that is at once reverent, modern and full of wit.

My hope is that smart designers continue to bend the rules of branding to explore conceptual identity systems beyond the tired old conventions of logos and logotypes which we’ve seen for generations now. I believe there is still room for good design to take branding beyond the logo without going full Naomi Klein. As evidenced by Pentagram’s progressive work on The Wing, a single monolithic icon isn’t always a necessary ingredient for good brand recognition or visual brand unity.

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