UNKNOWN is a conference exploring the ethical implications of emerging technologies. Targeting New York City’s diverse creative communities, this hypothetical event would seek to foster dialogues across disciplines and practices through a series of discussion panels and workshops. I worked as part of a team of graduate students to conceptualize the event and create a cohesive brand experience across multiple channels.
Branding, Web Design, Marketing
Carolyn Berry, Poppy Chen, Vidya Keshavan
My team was given an open-ended brief: imagine every aspect of a conference focused on ethics and technology, and then design all the collateral that might accompany it.
We quickly settled on New York City as a location for the event, with the experimental Lowline space as our venue. We developed a list of speakers and topics that could be addressed, based on our own ethical concerns as design students. How can we create empathy within AI products? How can we expand digital access and literacy? How can the addictive aspects of digital products be mitigated, or harnessed for good?
Our name for the event, UNKNOWN, sought to capture the tension between anxiety and optimism that these questions invoke. There is no road map for the future of technology or the ways in which it will be implemented: the event would seek to propose an ethical path forward by bringing together brilliant minds for thoughtful discussion.
This bold mission, filled with inherent tension, became encapsulated in the brand identity. Multiple cuts of GT America created a varied yet cohesive typographic system. Black and white serve as primary palette, reinforcing this sense of dichotomy. The logo mark, designed by Poppy Chen, combines the energy of GT America’s strong diagonal forms with a sense of expansion or occlusion through the exaggerated “N.”
In order to promote the conference, we created a website containing information on the aims of the conference, logistics, a schedule, and a list of events. The design was purposefully streamlined to quickly introduce audiences to a new (property) and entice them with the most exciting set of speakers we could imagine. We developed a tagline, “Design an Ethical Future,” which summarized our goals and greets visitors at first impression. Calls to register are differentiated throughout the site through pink action buttons and contrasting black type on the gradient sidebar.
Our marketing strategy for the conference selectively utilized digital and physical channels to target our core audience of creative professionals in the New York City region. Instagram became our primary social media platform due to its ubiquity of use among design professionals, while digital banner ads on technology- and design-related sites would increase brand awareness and drive traffic to our site. Promotional e-mails were designed for key influencers we sought to bring to the event.
Our physical presence was imagined as a guerilla-style campaign that would place large advertisements at discreet or unexpected locations on street level, including trucks that circulate throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. We designed apparel for our physical collateral, minimizing our physical footprint to items that would entice attendees to wear them through a streetwear sensibility and prompt conversation through their bold messaging.
After the conference, our website changed to showcase photography, video, and other documentation of events to serve as both a reference and promotion for future conferences. Visitors are immediately greeted by an explanation of the event, which transitions into background text as other content is scrolled through. The predominant use of black background and white text is flipped on its head, to mark a change in function of the site. At the bottom of the page, this scheme transitions back to its original form for a call to sign up to receive updates about the 2018 conference.