Next Steps by Studio Dumbar/DEPT
Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 9 February 2023
Tired of kinetic type and motion identities? No? Me neither. I remember the early work of DIA, way back, asking whether this was a flash in the pan. Seemed like the Swiss modernists had been well and truly brought back and given a digital energy. To designers, it may feel like a peak, but globally speaking, it’s still an emerging visual language. There are now web-based apps to move the tech from few to many hands. There’s a lot of experimentation but a lot less commercial applications. Understandably, it requires a bunch of new skills, alongside some well-understood and enduring design principles.
The most effective use-cases are tied to some decent brand strategy, an ability to systematise kinetic type and deliver a decent static visual language across conventional surfaces like a hoodie or a tote bag. Studio Dumbar are one of the few studios all in, going as far as setting up a motion exhibition throughout the Netherlands showcasing the work of international studios and the power and potential of motion to draw people in. This brings us to their latest project for Next Steps, an event from high-performance low-code platform OutSystems.
OutSystems provides ready-to-use code and a user-friendly interface to reduce the time and technical acumen required to develop business-focused apps. The tool is effectively a multiplier, giving individuals more power to bring their ideas to life quicker, at a lower cost and without the technical barriers. Next Steps, an annual event, would be an expression of the world of OutSystems, providing visitors with an opportunity to find out more through insights, top tips, hands-on sessions, and influential guest speakers. The visual language created by Studio Dumbar for Next Steps, which will be used for the next five years, sought to harness the innovative spirit and authority of a brand–savvy tech giant and the aspirational can-do attitude of a lifestyle brand.
Just like typesetting, there’s a craft to kinetic type. The quality of the work hinges on, not just a good sense for type and space (expanding into a third dimension), but motion behaviours and rhythm. As Mitch Paone might put it, there’s a musicality to the best stuff, even when there’s no music to be heard, and this separates the good from the not so good.
Studio Dumbar don’t mention the explicit origin or meaning of the ‘X’. Within the context of technology made simple this reads as a multiplier. It’s also the visual anchor from which a variety of motion gestures spring from, developed with the in-house design and motion team at OutSystem. It’s all very angular and the red and black lends the work an energy and borderline aggressiveness quite different from other tech events, and far removed from the Outsystem brand and product. It is perhaps less invitational than it might seek to be in this agressiveness, but it certainly differentiates itself and may be fully aware of its demographic. If Blade was into low-code Next Steps would be his event, minus the blood rave.
OutSystem speeds things up. A motion identity that is fluid and at times fast. There’s something of F1 in the colour, the use of italics and cuts and the rippling flag-like waves of type, or perhaps big screen esports. Its also somewhat hypnotic, and in some instances spiralling like a portal drawing in a broader rather than a full-code niche audience. This is an important distinction. It’s an exciting time for code, the appeal is bigger, and presented as a potential route to financial freedom. Platforms are functioning as worlds, made up of tech support, comradeship, technical insights and shared knowledge, events and merchandise. This is a world’s to get lost in, with its own unique logic and community, a spatial identity fits well with this notion.
Time also plays an roll here, not just in the length and looping nature of motion graphics, but in the cadence of an annual event. It’s important to acknowledge that this doesn’t need to hold up in twenty years time, events like this capture the zeitgeist, the energy and opportunity of the time. Rather than just a single event identity, the intention is to have this in place for five years. How will this feel after four more implementations? What variety might Studio Dumbar inject aside from the changing numerals each year? Let’s see. For now, the Next Steps identity appears to capture the potential of the OutSystem platform and give it the energy and spatial qualities fitting for a high energy event that seeks to catalyse the community’s creativity.