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A story behind identity and visual design of OnePlus smartphone brand.

by Michael Sharanda
Published on December 2015

OnePlus logo includes team I worked with, a bit of luck and business idea behind. All of that allied into a perfect piece of identity design, that I’m highly proud of and excited to share with you my personal insights.

Please, enjoy.

I was working in Shenzhen, China for smartphone manufacturer OPPO, when one day my management invited me to join a new technology company: a start-up with ambitions to disrupts the industry by creating a mainstream smartphone brand driven by it’s community. It’s been 7 months since I came to China from a small city in the far east of Russia, where I was creating UI and branding for small local companies.


Logo Challenge

Sense of brand identity is extremely important. It’s one of hardest design processes that nobody really appreciates. Everyone thinks they can come up with logo symbol. Right?

You have to explain in details the whole process behind. What your research and approach were focused on and why exactly this logo is the best option for this particular case.

The Beginning

It makes no sense to design random mediocrity. You need your passion, belief and inspiration to spread over your attitude and your work.

Here’s competitor logos. To me, these look like a parade of 1960–2000 trends, based on the same “corporative” patterns:

Competitor logos.

Symbol & Text

  1. If you look closer at the picture above, you’d notice that companies either write their name as a simple text: Lenovo, Nokia…
  2. Or design a symbol, when it’s clear what it is: Apple, HP, LG.
  3. Rarely a symbol+text — like huawei, which makes it hard to use separately and makes the symbol itself more complicated. You’d probably never see that flower without “huawei” text. In case of huawei it’s even worse, because there’s no connection between huawei word and the flower.

Decision: OnePlus easily reads as 1+, which makes perfect sense to design a single, solid symbol that would be looking simple and stylish on a smartphone’s back.


Inspiration

We needed something opposite to those venture capital, enterprise brands. My approach was simply make everything different from competitors: bright and aggressive colours, thin lines, fun and non-corporative.

People take IT-devices very personally these days. The logo on a smartphone should be a symbol people would love to wear, to own and care, with proud.

Would people love to wear Samsung, LG, HTC or Nokia logos? I don’t think so.
OnePlus logo has to be: very elegant, personal, stylish.
It should have a spirit.

Appreciate client’s idea

We all cherish our own ideas and wish them to be implemented. Listen carefully to what client wants, because you making it for him, for his company.

Designer will put an image in a portfolio, but the client will care that design for years.

Original logo idea of CEO of OnePlus was a combination of circle, one and plus. Most of my colleagues were making just different variations of his idea. But… If you take this symbol apart, you might see that these three shapes have different geometry base and would not fit one another in a beautiful, elegant way…

“You should find a way to combine these elements”

“OnePlus” name came from idea that good products get shared. And the company had plans to call their product’s like “one plus one”, “one plus two”, etc.

After dozens of drafts I got an idea that I believed will work perfectly:

Logo geometry based on a small pixel grid and the logo can be displayed from 14x14 pixel size with no smoothing.

I put the plus sign a bit outside the shape on purpose. To me, it was making a perfect sense to “connect” the company’s logo with product logo and place the plus in between:

“brand” + “product”

I suggested that main products could have simple, bold names, but accessories would be written as icons:

The logo was the pure inpiration and was approved almost immediately.

Pete Lau at first OnePlus press release.
What’ve happened is: CEO’S original idea combined with my branding strategy research and inspiration.

However, OnePlus was a new company no one heard about before, it was necessary to write “OnePlus” next to it. We agreed on these two primary variants with a goal to use only symbol in the future:

“Designed with careful attention down to the last detail”
The cool thing is that logo is still recognisable in any interpretation.
Posters, t-shirts, name cards, etc. Build the team’s spirit up!

“Never Settle”

This is one of my favourite things within this project. Quite special and very personal.

We had multiple version of this sign, but end up with the most simpliest variant, bold, direct and agressive, which is also resebles with the logo of 1+.

Within next several months we put together all the patterns and principles we came up with.

The website design

You might noticed some website layout guidelines above. Meanwhile I was polishing the brand identity materials, I’ve started working on the product website.

We wanted it to be extremely simple, sharp, agressive (as well as the product itself) and work responsively on any device out there.

OnePlus One product page

It was the biggest challange. Graphics, layouts, icons, typography, animation effects, polishing every detail... A huge amount of work for just one man. Not saying that I’ve did the coding as well, which had to support 15 languages.