Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 8 July 2015
Life or Death is a New York and LA based full-service public relations and management business with hip hop roots. It draws its name from the idea that, within the music industry, there is no middle ground, it is either life or death. This abstraction and dual notion manifests itself within the firm’s new brand identity system, designed by DIA, as a black and white colour palette and a contrast of dynamic script logo and a static sans-serif logotype across business cards, artist cards, brochure, tote bags and responsive website. DIA describe their intentions as wanting to create an artistic and fashionable identity that honours Life or Death’s hip hop origins, and marks the firm’s move into fashion, art, and writing.
The logo intentionally plays with ambiguity, blending waveform and heart rate with graffiti tag, and introduces a dynamic quality and variation into the mix. It looks to make a connection between life and music, death and silence, however, its hand drawn brush strokes and calligraphic qualities appear to favour an urban creative energy at the expense of imagery that is monolinear in nature. This finish also had me looking for letters. The ambition and intention is there, as is that conceptual detail you might expect from an arts based identity, but it might have been more interesting to have seen these things play out elsewhere.
The bold, robust, sans-serif logotype introduces contrast and appears, within the context of the name and identity concept, as an appropriate static counter point to the life of the logo. The weight and uppercase letterforms, and the lack of distinction made between logotype, headlines and business card info, emphasises contrast alongside logo through consistency and the absence of typographic variation. Where you frequently see a preference for sans-serif neutrality, here, there is a bit of character in the proportions of the letters and the high waist lines of the F and R, which avoids the corporate yet retains authority.
The approach to print is simple, leans on the contrast of colour, and the duality of type and mark to secure distinction, and references current trends of niche fashion, arts and culture magazines such as bold, black sans-serif typography, heavy white borders, plenty of unprinted space, and informal, quirky imagery.
Although the artist portraits do not appear to be part of a shared vision, one that would retain their individuality yet bring them on board with the Life or Death brand, these effectively punctuate a black and white identity with a colour and individuality in line with the dual nature of DIA’s concept. More from DIA on BP&O.