Category interactive branding

A Cooper Union mark variant in HTML5

I’ve always made a distinction between client-work and personal-work. Sometimes we make choices which prevents us from using a particular technology or an effect in favor of accommodating for the largest viewing audience. I chose to do it in HTML5 instead of flash not because of any particular argument over which technology is better. I’ve worked in flash for years and there wouldn’t be anything relatively new to learn. 3D in HTML5 and was something new to me and one of the best ways to learn new things is to force-ably throw yourself into a project.

If Murphy’s Law came into effect, I can always revert to a flash solution. As it turned out, browser compatibility issues prevented it from looking correct and the HTML5 version was scrapped for an entirely flash based solution.

Once the project was completed, I didn’t want to loose all that effort I spent on the HTML5 iteration so I slowly reformatted the original code using the latest version of Three.js and dat.gui, a framework that easily allowed you to modify parameters contained within a panel.

On a logistical note, I’m hesitant about naming it as the cooper union mark because of the alterations I’ve made to the original design, like the reintroduction of perspective and the addition of cube geometry. So for now, I’d like to call it a variant. Below are a few more randomly generated variants.

Case Study: An interactive brand for the Cooper Union

Created in flash using PV3D. Roll over to change the logo.
 

DESIGN SYSTEM

I’ve done a few dynamic logos in the past and have always had a bit of fun making them. So when my friends over at Behavior asked me to help out with creating one for the Cooper Union to coincide with their new site, it was impossible to say no. The logo itself (created by Doyle Partners) was a series of planes that were organized in an isometric-looking view that had so much potential for 3D motion.

The mark centers around an abstracted ‘C’ and ‘U’ intertwined in orthogonal space. We wanted the mark to deconstruct itself to it’s basic form of 2D planes which then form to create a composition. We wanted the composition to be randomly generated so what we needed to do was isolate specific parameters (like rotation and distance) that radically changes its look and feel. To do that we need to create a generative design system.

Once we found the parameters, it took a matter of trial and error to clamp which values looked good. For anything rotation related, we choose angles incremented to 45° while position based parameters are numbers divisible by 20. The Cooper Union mark is actually a variation generated using these parameters. After that, it was just a matter of animating these parameters from one set to another using tweening equations. The last thing we did was extend the animation back to the original mark by adding delays between each tweened parameter. On a side note, I do remember having fun changing the speeds to sync up with the tranformers’s transforming sound.

 

HTML vs FLASH

I’ve had some minor success with learning canvas recently and thought this would be a great way to dive into Three.js, Mr. doob’s 3D framework. For compatibility’s sake I ditched the WegGLRenderer in favor of the CanvasRenderer so it would work in all modern browsers and devices. For the most part, most of my preliminary tests work and so i moved forward with building it it in HTML.


Preliminary test done in Canvas using Three.js

Design system in Canvas using Three.js and jQueryUI

Everything was going splendidly until I hit a nasty roadblock that completely derailed the use of HTML, layer effects compatibility. It wasn’t supported in IE or Firefox and every hack I tried didn’t work or suffered massive performance issues. Removing the multiple/subtractive effects wasn’t an option because it was integral to the branding so there was no other recourse but to sandbag HTML in favor of Flash’s ubiquity among browsers. If i had to sacrifice anything it would be the user experience on mobile devices (who are already accustomed to it and won’t think much of it) than over half of all modern browsers. The final interactive brand was built with flash 10, using PaperVision3D.

A nice outcome of this was learning about perspective nomenclature. The Cooper Union mark is a non foreshortened, oblique projection with a 45 degree rotation. PaperVision3D nor Three.js had that particular angle configuration so I had to hack it by using an orthogonal camera position and using trial and error. I believe the closest approximation to the brand required squeezing the stage/canvas width a by 15%.