If you’re unfamiliar, Graphcore is a company based in the UK that essentially is a new processing type for machine intelligence to quicken machine and AI learning. Pentagram is the agency behind the design of the 80-page internal publication for the brand. Instead of creating a monotonous booklet, the design agency did what the design agency does best: make something worth talking about.
Following on from creating its brand identity and hardware, Pentagram has written and designed The Companio for its longstanding collaborator Graphcore. The 80-page printed internal publication was commissioned to help the machine learning manufacturer articulate and communicate its core values, with the aim of helping it to nurture and strengthen its unique culture.
It was very easy for Graphcore to communicate these behaviours when it was a startup with 40 people working on one floor. Since then, the company has grown and the world has changed, and where previously teams worked on different floors, now they work in different countries. Graphcore was keen to build on its people-centred company culture and felt that it was even more important to stay true to this as it continues to grow.
The name of the publication is inspired by the Latin word for ‘company’—combining the Latine ‘com’ (which means ‘together’) and ‘panis’ (which means ‘bread’), the word ‘company’ literally means ‘a group of people who come together to share bread. And ‘one who shares the bread’ is known as a ‘companio’.
Pentagram’s team of writers worked closely with Graphcore to define its culture, its story, its brand, its mission, its tools and its behaviours. Divided into chapters covering each of these elements, the tone of voice is friendly and approachable throughout, with a quiet confidence that reflects the determination of its founders to ‘deliver the world’s best computing technology for machine intelligence that will allow innovators to expand human potential.’
Central to The Companio, the ‘Culture’ section contains three central behaviours that define the Graphcore spirit: tackling hard problems together, speaking up, and taking responsibility. The ‘Tools’ section which follows gives team members a practical framework through which these can be actioned. This includes powerful insights such as ‘It may only be three letters, but the word ‘yes’ is an enormously powerful tool’ and ‘Our behaviours can’t be simplistic lines printed on mugs and coasters and then forgotten. They are a practice and discipline that need to be lived daily in order to help us do better work’.
The Companio builds on Pentagram’s brand identity, starting with a modular pattern embossed cover. This is embellished by a die-cut window in various positions revealing the Graphcore logo, printed in various colours across the print run to mirror the generative nature of Quadtree pattern tool created by Pentagram for the brand.
The book also features open stitch binding, contrasting stock and coloured sections, with a double-spread, central fold out showcasing Graphcore’s own intricate and colourful ‘Poplar’ AI visualisations.
Graphcore’s bold, geometric, patterned identity is refined with striking use of white space and asymmetric combination of shape and image. Layouts are printed with a duotone contrast of a single brand-colour alongside black, which changes section-to-section creating variability and tonal change throughout the book, rather than mixing the vibrant palette on all spreads. Throughout the book, punctuating the text content is photography by Nick Rochowski capturing the Graphcore team, its founders, as well as chips and hardware.
The design heavily features the custom brand typeface Graphcore Quantized, designed by Pentagram and based on Caslon’s Egyptian. The layout designs combine mathematic-like structure, with visible grids and vertical columns of type creating a distinct visual look in each section, alongside impactful, scaled typographic spreads communicating key messaging. All of which emphasises Graphcore’s unique approach and vision.
Company culture can be hard to define without resorting to meaningless cliches. With The Companio, Pentagram has helped Graphcore articulate and communicate its very human approach to machine learning and its ongoing commitment to using technology for good: ‘We’re optimistic for a future where people live healthier, more informed and more creative lives. The future is coming and we’re bringing it closer.‘