Designing Data Rights

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It’s not every day that a legal firm’s identity draws inspiration from George Orwell—but when said firm is focused on defending and extending human rights in the brave new world of dystopian data mishandling, it’s apropos.

The agency, focused on shaping, applying and enforcing data rights, commissioned the creative studio Accept & Proceed to develop its name and identity.

They found their initial inspiration in a less-than-likely source: poetry. David Johnston, founder of Accept & Proceed, met the poet Tom Sharp after inviting him to donate a piece to an auction. They discussed how the creative industry could meaningfully address issues around the world and pondered a potential collaboration some day—and when Johnston began work on this project, he knew it was the right one.

For their concept, they seized upon Richard Brautigan’s 1967 poem “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace,” which explores the relationship between tech and society—and the ways it can go right, or intensely wrong.

And in “All Watched Over …” they found a name: AWO.

“What power knows and what power wants to do with what it knows is a defining issue of our time,” Sharp says. “The founders of AWO are at the vanguard of thinking and acting about this issue, so it was a very easy decision for us to collaborate on building something new. Brautigan’s poem perfectly embodies the complexity of AWO’s mission, capturing both the positive and negative manner data rights can be seen and used.”

While drawing inspiration for the branding from historical radicals like Ben Bradlee and George Orwell and their writings on power, data and accountability, Accept & Proceed focused on carefully aligning the brand within the norms of the legal world so that it could fit the mold—and then effect change once inside.

Case in point: the use of an acronym in the agency’s name, a common practice in the British legal community (AWO has offices in London, Brussels and Paris), as well as the brand’s typography. Accept & Proceed used the law-firm friendly Baskerville, alongside Univers to imply notions of code.

For the logo, they went a bit more subversive, utilizing the negative space of the namesake acronym spelled out to connote redaction, and the agency’s commitment to the responsible use of data.

While ruminating on the dry term “data rights,” Sharp wanted to give people a way to connect with the concept on a deeper level, which the team did with the brand’s ads and posters.

“Taking a cue from the origins of the brand name, the ads are a mix of darkly poetic folklorish metaphors about ‘data rights,’ and concrete-poetry typography with bits of computer programming stylings,” he says. “We want people to read them and think more about just how protected they feel their personal data is.”

Here’s a look at the work.