During 2020, as Chainlink Head of Design I was responsible for developing a branding strategy for SmartCon, Chainlink's flagship yearly event. The aim was to create a functional, consistent, effective and memorable brand system that captured the innovative spirit of the conference while conveying a sense of excitement and trust, while helping position SmartCon as the leading event of the blockchain industry.
SmartCon 2020 was the first edition of the conference and marked the first time that the brand was presented to the world. As such, it was crucial to establish a clear connection with Chainlink's overall brand identity. To achieve this, the branding strategy for the event was designed to be bi-tonal, with blue as the key color. This color choice was consistent with Chainlink's overall brand identity and helped to reinforce the connection between the conference and the company.
The use of binary code was a central element of the branding for SmartCon 2020, as it highlighted Chainlink's mission and the technical nature of the conference. It was also used to hide messages in promotional materials, creating engaging easter eggs for the highly technical Chainlink community.
Coding characters, such as brackets and curly braces, were also incorporated to make explicit the target audience and the technical subject matter of the conference, which was particularly important since this was the first edition of the event.
Chainlink's overall brand system was incorporated in a new and unique way through an modular system of layouts, which was innovative to Chainlink's brand. This helped to establish a visual identity that was distinct from Chainlink's main brand identity while still remaining consistent with its core values and messaging.
The SmartCon 2020 branding system was designed with scalability in mind, ensuring that it remained consistent and recognizable across all touchpoints. This included a wide range of assets, such as event signage and banners, promotional animations, and livestream assets.
The overall effect of the branding for SmartCon 2020 resulted in a clear and cohesive visual identity that accurately represented Chainlink's brand and the nature of the conference, and was a key contributor to the overwhelming success of the conference.
As the first edition of the conference, SmartCon 2020 set the tone for future iterations of the event and established a strong visual identity for the brand going forward.
SmartCon 2021, a cutting-edge virtual event held in early August 2021, centered around cross-chain technology, which informed and inspired the design elements of the brand. The creative direction emphasized a hybrid ecosystem, blending highly contrasted color schemes to symbolize different environments or chains, and fluid binary code to represent cross-chain communication. Additionally, the contrasted visual language was also a reflection of the diverse conference audience, with the light mode resonating with the general public and the dark mode engaging developers and technical attendees.
Beyond the binary code, a foundational aspect of the SmartCon brand, an interactive cube was utilized as a central visual motif. This dynamic cube offered an engaging method for presenting key conference details, enlivening various applications, such as the website and a plethora of captivating animations, and served as the foundation to establish the animation language.
For this virtual edition of SmartCon, animation played an essential role. Our team developed a visually compelling motion design system applicable to a wide range of use cases, from promotional materials to livestream assets. The system integrated glitch effects and dynamic movement, blending fluid background motion with bold typography and seamless glitchy transitions. The promotional video seamingly incorporated these brand elements.
The highly contrasting style of the art direction extended to static collateral, including banners, POAPs, and featured images. Utilizing versatile two-grid layouts with adjustable widths, our team achieved flexibility in organizing content tailored to specific use cases.
In targeted scenarios, we leveraged the individual components of the overarching art direction, either dark or light, enabling the visual language to optimize the output based on the distinct audience segments and content type.
To complement the marketing materials, the team devoted considerable effort to developing a comprehensive media package for the livestream experience, recognizing the critical role it played in a virtual conference setting. The focus on delivering high-quality livestream assets added substantial value to the overall experience, ensuring seamless and engaging touchpoints with attendees throughout the event.
The livestream media pack included dynamic openers that would set the tone for each of the days, unique closing loops, sponsor-highlighting branded intermissions to showcase and acknowledge key partners, seamless transitions, and multi-layout speaker frames that accommodated various presentation styles and panel configurations.
The event was a resounding success, drawing a global audience of over 15,000 attendees from more than 140 countries. Participants gained invaluable insights from 200+ industry-leading founders, researchers, and developers exploring groundbreaking innovations and collaborations in the blockchain ecosystem.
By prioritizing the livestream experience, our team successfully created a cohesive and immersive virtual environment, leaving a lasting impression on the attendees and setting a benchmark for future editions of SmartCon.
SmartCon 2022 took place at the end of September in New York City. The location played a crucial role in shaping the art direction for this edition and heavily inspired the “connection” concept that the team pursued throughout the creative explorations, and that greatly influenced the whole brand, primarily through its pattern and illustration style. The vibrant and dynamic color scheme was chosen to represent the energy of New York while maintaining the digital essence of the event. The theme for SmartCon 2022 was mainly designed in dark mode, serving as a reference to the city's lively nightlife and a deliberate decision to add elegance to both physical and virtual experiences.
A key component of the SmartCon 2022 brand was its pattern. In line with the primary principles of the overarching SmartCon brand, binary code remained a static element. However, for this edition, the binary code was creatively altered by extending certain elements to establish connections between them.
This resource allowed us to strengthen our key concept to highlight the nature of the conference, as well as create a visual analogy of New York City's complex subway network, which added a subtle touch of local flavor to the brand.
The pattern served as a fundamental component of the brand, consistently implemented across both digital and physical applications for a cohesive visual identity.
Illustration was a crucial component in conveying the overall art direction for the brand. The illustrated symbols, elements, or characters were creatively designed using overlapping multicolored lines. These lines not only captured the local essence of the conference through references to the NYC subway system but also alluded to computer chips and circuit boards, effectively connecting with the conference's core theme.
The illustrations were employed across various digital and physical applications, including signage, stationery, swag, web assets, POAPs, and animations, amongst others.
For digital collateral, we adapted some of the core elements of the brand to create an optimized sub-system for this particular application. Firstly, the pattern was segmented into smaller, irregular sections, helping the team balance compositions and guide the viewer's attention towards essential information. In addition, to prevent visual fatigue and enhance bold communication pieces, we introduced a multi-colored frame that replaced the pattern for key event communication pieces. Furthermore, the pattern was also adapted to be used as a large-scale, low-contrast background texture, which added depth to flat backgrounds.
This expansion of the brand elements enabled us to maintain variety while staying true to the brand and optimizing resources for specific outputs.
With these guiding principles, the team created a diverse range of banners and featured images, including speaker, sponsor, and quote cards, announcement and countdown banners, event promotions, thumbnails, blog post covers, and more.
The SmartCon 2022 motion design style, which was mainly used with promotional and editorial objectives, featured a rhythmic, lively style with seamless transitions. The pattern, visual elements, and typography served as key visuals and core graphics.
Animations evolved the pattern by connecting lines and squares while preserving the original structure of sequential zeros and ones. Basic transformation properties, such as opacity, rotation, position, and scale, facilitated smooth transitions for individual elements. Typography and copy were designed to be bold and highly contrasted for easy comprehension in a dynamic setting. The selected soundtracks were modern, percussive, and energetic, emphasizing action, fashion, and abstraction over a subdued corporate tone.
The website served as the central hub for conference information, prominently displaying all brand elements and design principles from the overarching system. Utilizing a 6-column grid, the pages featured unique and irregular layouts, with prominent imagery and bold typography. Open graphs and iconography incorporated the illustration style, while hero elements and background accents showcased the subdivided pattern. To draw attention to essential components, opaque drop shadows were applied, effectively spotlighting these elements.
The website was developed using Webflow, with the dynamic content database being managed directly through Airtable. This was seamlessly integrated with various Collections via Zapier, creating an efficient and streamlined content management system. These automations were meticulously documented, allowing the owning teams to have complete autonomy over content management and updates, ensuring they could operate at their preferred pace.
The conference featured an extensive program with over 150 speakers and 100 presentations, attracting more than 1,600 in-person attendees and an impressive 20,000+ virtual participants. The seamless integration of digital and physical experiences showcased the power of well-executed event branding, resulting in a memorable and impactful gathering for all involved.
SmartCon 2023 is an event set to take place in Barcelona during October 2023. The visual style for this edition was directed to be exciting, welcoming, capturing the essence of the vibrant city. The chosen dark mode, featuring highly contrasted saturated colors, aimed to create a dynamic and trendy atmosphere, while also remaining accessible and immersive for attendees.
In order to subtly evolve while preserving brand continuity, we made a minor adjustment to the logo. Two corners of the squared container were rounded, and the binary codes within were inverted to align with the new overall shape, placing the zeroes on the rounded corners' side. This approach allowed for a refreshed look without the need for a complete reinvention, maintaining the recognizability and legacy of the SmartCon brand. Additionally, this visual element was echoed throughout the brand, such as in buttons, lending a unique touch that contributes to overall consistency.
The color palette for SmartCon 2023 strikes a balance between boldness and harmony, effectively capturing the event's exciting and welcoming atmosphere.
A range of blue-hued gray backgrounds serves as the foundation, allowing other colors to stand out and enhancing the dark mode theme. Blue remains the key color, which not only connects to Chainlink but also ensures consistency with previous editions. Green, red, and yellow accent colors are highly saturated and provide excellent contrast for both digital and print applications against the dark background. These vibrant accents convey a sense of warmth, energy, and innovation, while adding variety and visual interest to the design. Additionally, a selection of lighter grays offers softer contrast and can be used to create subtle highlights within the design.
To develop SmartCon 2023's visual style, we not only focused on the art direction of building an exciting and welcoming experience, but also followed the brand principles of scale, consistency, and memorability. The style was conceived with the physical experience in mind, ensuring that design elements could be seamlessly translated into a tangible setting, fostering brand cohesion across all touchpoints.
The isometric style, chosen for both abstract and figurative illustrations, complements SmartCon's color palette, creating a clean, modern aesthetic with a technical undertone. This aesthetic, commonly used in architectural drawings and blueprints, aimed to highlight the conference's mission to inspire and empower Web3 builders, while aligning with Chainlink's overarching visual style.
In addition, the system provided a rich set of creative resources. Floating 3D symbols, including coding characters and abstract shapes, ensured visual consistency across various digital and physical applications, acting as adaptable tools for achieving balanced compositions and infusing the visual language with fun and excitement. Moreover, these elements could be adapted to the physical world, establishing a unified brand experience across both digital and physical touchpoints.
Minimalistic stars, forming a plus sign, highlighted the collaborative and positive nature of the conference while offering designers a resource to balance compositions and color scales on any artboard. Background textures were also incorporated as a way to add depth and influence the focal point of images and artboards. The textures needed to be flat and match the isometric angle of the illustrations to avoid any perspective distortion.
The binary code, a static element in SmartCon's visual identity, was integrated into the isometric perspective for the 2023 edition. In some compositions, the isometric technique was used as flat flooring for the axonometric projection, particularly when using figurative illustrations. This approach offered an ornamental variation of the style, suitable for more formal applications, and could potentially be integrated into the physical conference space through elements like LED-lit tiled floors.
The SmartCon 2023 visual style and overall brand direction effectively scaled to accommodate a wide array of digital and print collateral, ensuring a unified and engaging experience across various platforms.
In the motion graphics system, space takes on a significant role. The dynamic animation style capitalizes on the isometric perspective, allowing elements to traverse the frame in a captivating manner. This approach reinforces the idea of bridging the gap between digital experiences and physical environments, further strengthening the brand's cohesive and immersive visual identity.
The web application seamlessly integrates all the principles and elements of the brand, acting as a crucial medium for disseminating information and showcasing the brand's visual language to a designer audience.
Buttons and iconography containers draw inspiration from the logo's overall shape, enhancing brand cohesion down to the details and creating a subtle visual easter egg. Moreover, the illustration style has been tailored to address web-specific use cases, such as the 404 page, ensuring the visual language remains consistent and engaging across all aspects of the user experience.