We were hired by Sanrun Mining Co., a manganese mine, to design a distinctive identity that would stand out in what is often portrayed as a strongly conservative industry. Surrounded by conventional, often grim imaging that takes the viewer back to the times of the Industrial Revolution, we decided to take advantage of a brief open for creativity, and developed an identity to both stand out visually and to reflect the future-oriented image of the company.
Bearing in mind the geological nature of our client’s industry and the fact that China holds one of the most spectacular land and rock formations in the world, we decided to explore two areas in search of inspiration. The rainbow coloured Zhangye Danxia landforms and the manganese ore mine itself both display varying bands of colours when exposed to different lengths of light. Both become fruitful subjects from which to base further creative work, perfectly coinciding with the colourful Chinese culture.
After exploring three separate design concepts we decided to focus on the manganese ore, excavation of which is the core of Sanrun’s enterprise. In similar way it has become the base for Sanrun’s visual identity. Focusing on the element’s complex features offered a wide range of creativity and allowed unique incorporation into the company’s identity. Colours and shape became more refined as the design process continued and eventually relating to both the distinctive shape of an opencast mine, and the manganese alloy’s colour-shine, visible in a cross section of a split ore block. One element, one theme. Varying essence depending on the source, focus and the direction of light.
Typeface and logo
The logo designed for Sanrun remained true to the rest of the visual identity — its focus on a single element. Here, however, the focus is shifted onto a more uniformed and descriptive level, and becomes “SR” — a symbol reminiscent of the periodic table of elements commonly recognisable across all continents in the geological and mining industry.
Choosing a coherent Chinese typeface was a task of equal bear as the colour composition. Designing a Mandarin typeface is not a common design practice. This has a great impact on font availability and price. We felt strongly that a typeface redesign was necessary to ensure coherence in an already clean and contemporary design. This stage required working closely with our friends from Beijing, eventually resulting in a business partnership in that region.
One of the biggest challenges was transferring the colours contained in the design onto print while maintaining their vibrance. For business cards, we were looking for a way to combine the unique holographic effect of the manganese ore with the corporate feel the business card ought to represent. To achieve the best result we had to laminate three layers of paper which then had to be cut and manually sanded before edge-foiling. It demanded cooperating with two of our trusted printers and at some stages drove both of them mad. However, the end result only proved it was a good choice to stick to the decisions undertaken in the design process.
The project is unique in many ways. A focus on clear vision, and incorporating it in various stages of identity design, is its strongest feature. But it also shows that a well designed, creative approach to visual identity for a business to business service company from a very conservative industry can result in cohesive communication.
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