ILM: Trust, Magic, and Innovation

Industrial Light & Magic is a creative studio involved in making visual effects for motion pictures. The company has a rather legendary background as it was founded in 1975 by George Lucas specifically to provide inimitable effects for his Star Wars. Besides this iconic film franchise, ILM’s track record includes such hit movies as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, Transformers, and Men in Black. As of today, the studio won 15 Oscars for Best Visual Effects. Nearing its 50 years in the industry, ILM has presented a new visual identity.

The studio’s new branding was created by Hoodzpah, a design agency from Orange County, California. Rebuilding ILM’s identity, the design team tried to keep in mind the heritage of the company and demonstrate that it stays the leader in entertainment technology. At the same time, the new look is intended to have more boldness and iconicity on its own, unifying the signatures of the studio’s sub-brands.

The rebranding process was preceded by a survey Hoodzpah conducted among ILM employees, aiming to learn how they feel about the brand, how they interact with their partners, and what they think they are. The results allowed the design team to formulate three basic principles on which ILM builds its work: trust, magic, and innovation.

As Hoodzpah found out, the ILM team appreciated the company’s “magician logo” featuring a bulb and a cog. These elements have stayed constant symbols of the company through several iterations, representing lively imagination, shrewdness, and experience in technology that have always helped ILM specialists create unforgettable moments. According to ILM creative director John Knoll, the logo had lost some of its magic, and the studio “needed to bring back the magic”. So the designers reworked ILM’s symbolism and redrew the bulb, silhouetted by a cog, adding spark (as a new magic image) that soars around it.

Honoring the legacy of ILM, Hoodzpah also created new typography continuing the traditional serif aesthetics, but with a more bold and iconic presence. The wordmark is distinguished with subtle ligatures as well as a peculiar, flat-topped ampersand. While the bulb is a homage to the innovative spirit of ILM, the lettering pays tribute to its heritage.

In general, ILM’s new logo is essentially a balanced system where each element is harmoniously supported by the others. This is true equally for both the glyph and the wordmark. Plus, the design agency has done a great job, developing a common design language for all the divisions of the company.