Imagine it’s 15 years in the future, and you’re wearing Google Glass 3.0. The spectacles have matured far beyond their awkward picture-in-picture beginnings, now offering something much closer to true augmented reality. It’s a strange new hybrid world. You glance at a subway station and see an overlay of how long until the next train arrives. You look at a dog, wonder what type it is, and a voice in your ear identifies it as a Thai Ridgeback. Of course, commerce has kept apace. A window display at Macy’s comes to life when you look in its direction; a virtual billboard on top of the Starbucks facade rotates through a half dozen drink specials.
This future, or one like it, isn’t hard to fathom. But here’s something that’s a bit harder to pin down: What does the logo on that Starbucks look like?
That’s one of the things Hendrix hopes this project will get his designers to start considering. “We haven’t had to think about responsive identities,” he says. “We haven’t had to think about time or space. And I think those will all become more important dimensions.”
“The complexity of this conversation to this point has been: ‘Do we animate or do we not animate?’” he continues. But augmented reality—or really any interactive digital space in which a brand tries to do something more than simply announce its presence—poses all sorts of challenges. “How do you express [a mark] physically and digitally? What kind of life does it have? How is it born in that moment, and how does it go away? How does it tell you why it’s there? Those are all really interesting questions.”
But to see it as simply a matter of whiz-bang animated logos is too shortsighted. What Ideo’s really searching for is a better way of communicating in general—an identity system flexible enough to work in countless new situations, across myriad channels. “It’s a complex idea, but I think it’s actually a more human idea,” Hendrix says. “And that’s what we’re trying to work towards; a more human way of expressing identity.”