Redesigning an International Business Titan

Our relationship with IBM spans back to late 2015, when Todd Simmons, Director of Brand Experience and Design, approached Athletics with an unusual challenge.

Number of Projects
Length of Engagement (years)

Simmons and his newly-established design unit (then a team of three) had been charged with the colossal task of reimagining the way IBM communicates as a brand. The bar was set high: IBM once counted creative luminaries like Isamu Noguchi, Ray and Charles Eames, Paul Rand, and Eero Saarinen among its roster of talent. At this critical moment, Athletics was invited to work with Todd and his nascent team to redesign the brand for IBM Cloud. Implicit in this engagement was the need to establish a precedent for how design systems would be conceived, developed, and disseminated throughout IBM’s myriad divisions moving forward.

Four years and a dozen collaborations later, Athletics and IBM’s Brand and Experience Design group have worked together to fundamentally change the way IBM appears to the world, culminating in a new, company-wide Design Language that rolled out in 2019.

IBM TechXchange

Athletics worked with Blue Studio, IBM’s brand experience and design team, to develop the identity for IBM TechXchange, a client advocacy program for a technical audience addressing two fundamental needs: learning and community. The IBM TechXchange identity centers around a grid of elements: a space where different facets of the IBM Technologist community come together to create and connect.

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IBM Consulting

In 2021 IBM Global Business Services (GBS) approached Athletics with the challenge of casting off brand baggage and bringing their brand into the next phase as IBM Consulting. Today, IBM Consulting is at the forefront of modern business, working hand in hand with clients to develop solutions that drive impact, innovation and openness, and they needed a brand that could tell that story. Athletics, in partnership with Co:Collective, worked with IBM Consulting to develop an identity that reflects its unique superpowers: the company’s deep roots in transformative technologies, open ecosystem thinking and collaborative approach, and an enduring commitment to people – from teams to partners and communities.

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From my interactions with the Athletics team and working across a host of agency partners throughout my career, Athletics is best-in-class. They are great listeners, worked well with our other marketing partners and continued to stretch our imaginations for what the brand could be.

Stephen M. Mikolajczak — Brand & Content Marketing Leader, IBM Blockchain

IBM Cloud

Our first engagement with IBM visualized the otherwise invisible world of cloud computing. Bringing remarkable individuals—and their code—out from behind the curtain, we made heroes of those defining the hidden DNA of our digital world.

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IBM Watson

Blurring the line between man and machine, Watson is IBM’s pioneering cognitive computing system. Seeking to evoke the wonder of this world-changing technology, Athletics designed Watson’s now-iconic brand identity. Defined by its kinetic, orbital rings, the brand symbolizes the evolving impact of AI on the way we work, live, and learn.

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IBM Blockchain

Blockchain is everywhere, but few know what it means—let alone why it’s likely to upend the way the world does business. Athletics was enlisted to help demystify IBM’s Blockchain offering, crafting a visual and verbal system inspired by unyielding security and the free flow of commerce and information.

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IBM Photography

Corporate imagery tends to play it safe, conforming to an established rulebook. IBM asked Athletics to help transcend convention, and define a new, identifiable perspective on how the brand’s image assets are made, sourced, and displayed.


IBM Think

“THINK,” IBM’s corporate mantra, traces back to 1911. In 2018, to bring this historic mantra to the present day, IBM folded its existing events into one, vast Think conference in Las Vegas. Athletics drafted a manifesto for what Think means in the 21st century, and designed a fluid, experimental brand identity to mark this unprecedented occasion.

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IBM Garages

Today, the engine of innovation has shifted from major operations to small, nimble teams able to quickly respond to the challenges of the moment. To capture this new energy, IBM launched Garages, a localized network of business incubators distributed across some of the world’s great cities. Our design system celebrates the diversity of Garage locations, bringing the eccentricity and efficiency of startup culture to the international business authority. Keep an eye out for a full case study in 2019.

IBM Developer

It’s a fallacy that developers don’t like to be marketed to. They just don’t like to be marketed to badly. IBM sought to redefine its relationship with the coder community through a new set of services, resources, and experiences, inviting Athletics to craft a precise brand identity that puts code first.

IBM Global Elite

Global Elite represents the highest echelon of the IBM client experience. Providing access and orientation to the best and latest of the IBM offering, Global Elite guides members to the data, resources, expertise, networks, and contacts best suited to build momentum for their businesses. Athletics designed the new Global Elite identity to feel both premium and inclusive.

IBM Security

Considering the range of cyber threats facing modern businesses, it’s not surprising that most cyber security firms have employed a fear-based approach to branding. That created a huge opportunity for IBM to differentiate itself by shifting the narrative from fear to fearlessness. IBM enlisted us to bring their fearless approach to the world through a kinetic brand identity and targeted messaging system.