Collins Rebrands OpenWeb – Design Week


The identity of the online platform used by publishers around the world is inspired by 19th-century typography and eschews cues from tech companies.

Collins renamed the audience relations platform OpenWeb to help the company in its mission to “enhance online conversations.”

Founded in 2012, OpenWeb is a platform that can be used by publishers to host conversations and comments on their online content. Already used by Hearst, Yahoo! And News Corp, the company is particularly focused on “de-trolling” digital discourse to create “powerful and engaged communities.”

“A new strategic base”

Collins’ design director Megan Bowker said the studio was bought to lead a “complete reimagining” of the brand, starting in late 2019. This includes a new logo, tone of voice and even a interface design.

“We worked with their leadership team to invent a new identity, both verbal and visual – based on a new strategic foundation that we developed with them to meet their greater ambition,” she says.

“OpenWeb is not a ‘tech’ company”

The new look is inspired by the 19and century typography and newspaper headlines, says Bowker. The move was a deliberate rejection of the aesthetic that other internet brands are currently embracing, she explains.

“From the start of the project, we thought OpenWeb wasn’t a ‘tech’ company, it’s a conversation company,” says Bowker. “So not feeling or looking like a shiny, interchangeable ‘tech’ company is exactly where we needed to be.”

In addition to standing out from other digital-focused companies, Collins also hopes its nod to past print communications will help OpenWeb resonate with publishers.

“Plays with the tension between the digital and physical world”

A minimalist logo sits at the center of the project, consisting of seven Ws that form an O. The studio says the emblem “symbolizes harmony and exchange.”

On the OpenWeb site itself, the team adopted an editorial look and feel. An off-white background color evokes the color of the newspaper, and a serif typeface further accentuates the idea. Different crossheads also appear in different title-style typefaces, reminiscent of print media.

Using these visual references for a business that ultimately exists online “plays with the tension between the digital and physical world and this question of quality and trust,” says Bowker.

“We hope this will serve as a breath of fresh air”

Supporting the editorial aesthetic approach is a collage-like digital technique for displaying images. The studio says the approach marries “age-old visual styles with modern digital technology and motion design.”

The image approach uses a grid to interweave open source content libraries. The resulting mash-up “reflects various conversations.”

Underpinning the entire look is a new tone of voice that is designed to be clear and concise, to cut through ‘trolls, bickering, reactivity, misinformation, hostility, grudges, lies shamelessness and deceit,” which Bowker says has come to define our time online.

“OpenWeb needed a clear voice that would not only represent their ideal future, but also drive healthier conversations forward every day,” says Bowker. “We hope it’s something that brings a breath of fresh air into a noisy and mind-boggling digital landscape.”

What do you think of OpenWeb’s new look? Let us know in the comments below…


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