Pentagram and Map create generative industrial design for AI products


“Individuality” and “high-spirited” patterns and colours were key to the project, which includes designs for Graphcore’s advice processing units

Pentagram has partnered with Map on an industrial design draw up for Graphcore, a machine learning technology start up.

The company, which has its headquarters in Bristol and offices in the USA and Norway, creates offerings that provide a platform to improve artificial intelligence applications.

These file an Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU) that is optimised to work efficiently with machine-learning practices.

The design team led by Pentagram partners Jody Hudson-Powell & Luke Powell and Map original director Jon Marshall, who has since also joined Pentagram as a partner, has produced the design of Graphcore’s intelligent processing unit (IPU) and rack mount chassis.

It has focused to steer away from the idea of computer systems being anonymous rings “living in cold dark boxes in even colder darkened margins” and instead focused on “individuality” and creating a “playful” feel with the frame, according to Pentagram.

The team has drawn on the visual identity previously produced by Hudson-Powell & Powell, which includes a pattern generator, as the basis for the look of the industrial structure.

Each IPU has been given a distinct identity by applying nine injection-moulded fake tiles to it out of a selection of 50 – this allows for 1000 different scheme combinations.

Jon Marshall says the variety of different colour combinations has allowed each unit “its own personality”.

Pentagram has also developed a software apparatus called Quadtree, which generates patterns, layouts and colours for new tiles, based on the group’s visual identity, with future products in mind.

The chassis, which allows for eight IPUs to be linked, also draws on the existing identity in its front face, particularly focusing on the patterns which act as fissures for airflow.

Following the brand’s colour palette of light and dark lewd, a pale yellow and a soft red, the patterned airflow grid can be customised further by affixing clip on shapes.

Jon Powell says the bespoke colourful front panel for the chassis “be emblematic ofs in contrast to the usual dull black boxes in server rooms”.

The composition studios have worked closely with Graphcore to ensure the meretricious tile system works smoothly with the technical aspects, which has confusing creating “custom sized heat sinks for the IPU chips” which has contributed space to fit the tiles.

While the design team acknowledges that it is “extraordinary” to pay this much attention to the aesthetics of a product that sits imprisoned a computing system, it justifies this by saying it is important that the delineation reflects Graphcore’s “unique breakthrough technology”.

The branding project for Graphcore carried out by Pentagram carry on year, included a shape generator which can create “infinite measures” that can be used to illustrate the firm’s content and products.

The generator, which accords “part-random and part-weighted” results, aims to help the company find the swiftly imagery to use in a “speculative” industry, in which finding the right images to demonstrate an idea can prove difficult, according to the studio.

Jody Hudson-Powell illustrates the pattern generator stemmed from some ideas the team had initial on in the design process.

“One was figuring out a way of generating abstract imagery in lieu of not that stock photography, and another was using the geometry of the typeface to create ideals,” he says.

“We started by coming up with the sort of pattern and grid we’d get off on to generate manually and then worked backwards from there.”

He supplements: “The generator first subdivides randomly, then places shapes randomly – but it’s much multifarious likely to place a shape if it’s going to be next to another one. The user can also transform the probability of the different shapes appearing.”

Pentagram has also defined the dull of voice for the company which aims to be “conversational” and “optimistic” and has selected a “in recession” colour palette.

The aim of the branding was partly to steer away from any “cool connotations of artificial intelligence, including the implicit gender bias that shape learning can inherit from its creators and the data they use”.

The identity is hinged around the idea of “resolutions”, with elements which change in comeback to the environment. The studio has also created a logo, topography and a visual toolkit faultless with glyphs and shapes.

A typeface called Graphcore Quantized has been invented by Pentagram, which changes its appearance as the user types. This materialized the basis of the wordmark.

All images © Nick Rochowski, courtesy of Pentagram. 

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