IBM Think

For the Defiant

Our Role

Brand Identity, Physical Environments, Print


Zeitguised, foam Studio, IBM BXD, George P Johnson

Thinking together

The IBM Think 2018 conference held in Las Vegas in 2018, and San Francisco in 2019, brings together inspiring figures from disparate fields for a series of workshops, experiences, networking, talks, and education. It also communicates to the world IBM’s renewed focus on its longtime corporate mantra: Think. In late 2017, with this unprecedented event on the horizon, IBM came to Athletics with an unusual creative assignment: explore what Think means in this day and age.

Into the archives

Athletics set out to map the philosophical, visual, and experiential possibilities of this deceivingly simple term—think—in the context of an event experience. To start, we sought a firm foundation in the past, visiting the Lubalin Archive at Cooper Union to research the origins of the Think slogan. Leafing through archival event materials, documentation from world fairs, and corporate publications, we absorbed the optimism and excitement of IBM’s historical design and messaging, uncovering the following quote by IBM collaborator Paul Rand, which helped define our working definition of Think:

“Innovation is the enemy of trendiness, pretense, and timidity. It recognizes the genuine from the spurious. It tantalizes the viewer, stimulates the mind, intensifies meaning, generates interest, and is at the heart of both better design and better business.”

Anatomy of a thinker

Our designers and writers then explored ways to bring Think to life in 2018. Inspired by ideas like emotional intelligence and “time as currency,” we curated a theoretical set of people, experiences, and places to help crystallize how the upcoming conference might break the mold. We designed a grid system and language structure which creatively employ two versions of Plex—IBM’s new official font—to reflect the dichotomy between humanity and technology. And we penned the Think manifesto, as well as profiles of a “thinker” and a “thought.”


True innovation lies at that rich intersection between people and products, design and business, intelligence and emotion, art and science, humanity and technology.

Michelle Poluso, Chief Marketing Officer, IBM

Watching words move

After this exploratory phase, we partnered with Zeitguised, a Berlin-based 3D and motion graphics firm, to render a series of creative interpretations of the Think wordmark. The Think manifesto was translated into a script read by Michelle Peluso in a brief video announcement of the event. And with a series of visually rich motion studies and renderings, we formalized a new Think identity in guidelines that are currently being rolled out.


By manipulating different forms within the confines of the word ‘think’, we magnified the concepts of intelligent self-organizing systems.