Guitar Hero

Brand Identity

Identity and typography for the popular video game franchise.

Since its birth less than five years ago, the rise of Activision's Guitar Hero franchise has been nothing short of astonishing, vaulting Activision to the position of top US video game publisher with total revenues of $2.9 billion. The Guitar Hero series has sold over 25 million units worldwide, and is widely regarded as a genuine cultural phenomenon.

Today, Guitar Hero releases Guitar Hero 5, setting the stage for the next evolution of Activision's business growth: the introduction later this fall of Band Hero and DJ Hero. This required the company to reexamine its overall brand identity for the first time. Activision enlisted Pentagram to assist in this effort.

The original Guitar Hero logotype expressed the brand's heavy metal roots. Idiosyncratic with a vengeance, it became more and more complicated with the introduction of successive game versions. The extension of the "Hero" brand to new platforms, including Band Hero (a multiplayer game featuring a broader range of pop music) and DJ Hero (a new turntable-based experience where the player spins and scratches songs in unique mixes), called for a redrawn logotype that could consistently work across the range of product types.

After considering changes that ranged from imperceptible to unrecognizable, Pentagram redrew the original Guitar Hero logotype, adjusting some of its more aggressively odd features to enable accurate reproduction at a variety of scales and in media from digital animations to temporary (or permanent) tattoos. In addition, the new logotype serves as a basis of an extendable system, unifying the presentation of Guitar Hero, Band Hero, and DJ Hero in a consistent brand architecture. Creating the new brand language included the development of a custom font, Hero Bold, a heavyweight sans serif invested with the spiky attitude of the logotype family.

The new logotypes, simple and straightforward in black and white, are intended to serve as a starting point for an infinite range of visual expressions in the classic Guitar Hero tradition. To demonstrate the range of possibilities during the design exploration, Pentagram commissioned several designers to create variations using the same base artwork. Rick Valicenti of 3st took the new Guitar Hero logo, threw it into blast furnace, set it on fire, and then electrocuted it. Adam Larson of Adam & Company in Boston created variations of the Band Hero logo, including the "pop orgy" model with ultra-shiny chrome coating, laser light halo, fog machine and glitter highlights. Among the variations created by London's Steve Wilson for DJ Hero was a Boogie Nights Special, which uses the geometry of the letterforms as the circuit board for a neon extravaganza.

For the Guitar Hero rebranding project, Pentagram developed many more logo variations to demonstrate the concept of using graphic customization to create change within a consistent framework. Activision is working with its packaging designers, as well as in-house teams and other consultants, to create other variations, including those that will be on shelves when Guitar Hero launches today, and when DJ Hero launches at the end of October and Band Hero a week later.

New York
Michael Bierut
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