EMPEX Branding

Creating a brand identity for a new Elixir language conference in New York City.

EMPEX Branding
The official logo of EMPEX.

The Elixir-Phoenix stack caused a ton of hype in the development community in early 2016. Roughly 5 years before, Brazilian programmer Jose Valim built a new general-purpose programming language, called Elixir, on top of Erlang - an old, yet incredibly productive language.

The archaic Erlang language is by no means programmer-friendly, making its full potential difficult to access before Valim’s innovation. So when Elixir paired up with the Phoenix Framework, it opened up a door for building and maintaining web applications programmers had yet walk through.

With news like this, it was only a matter of time Crevalle CEO Desmond Bowe contacted Thought Merchants for a potential project. His plan to spearhead the NYC Elixir movement by creating a fun and leading-edge environment where young programmers could come together and share learning, methodologies, and problems associated with this popular, new language.

At the time, only one annual conference was held in Florida. It was conventional, boring, and focused on enterprise instead of technical innovation. This was where the concept for EMPEX was born, and how we brought the brand to life before their first one-day conference in New York.

The Elixir-Phoenix stack gained popularity because of it’s similarity to Ruby-on-Rails. Elixir serves as the coding language, while Phoenix makes developing API’s and web apps easy. Where they differ is in Elixir’s improved scalability, thanks to Erlang’s functional and fast infrastructure. What it all really means is that this new partnership was capable to handle massive amounts of users at one time without slowing down.

Think of the popular social network site Reddit. When a post goes viral and receives a million hits at once, their team needs excess servers and resources to maintain the explosion of traffic. Because Elixir-Phoenix can handle all the hits simultaneously, companies can bring a team of 30 programmers down to 4, all while increasing productivity. Where better to showcase this new discovery in all it’s beauty than the city of new technology itself… New York.

The only problem was the lack of brand identity for EMPEX. So with that, we set out to develop an image around the Elixir conference that would capture the essence of this exciting new piece of technology.

Since NYC is packed with tech conference after tech conference, we needed to showcase a symbol that Elixir programmers could rally behind. One that looked as serious as the problems these scaling ecosystems would solve, but fresh and progressive because that’s what Elixir truly is.

Our first part of the brand image - a flag. Why? Imagine the feeling Neil Armstrong had when he planted the first American flag on the moon. A flag represents the spirit of new discovery and exploration. It sends a unifying message to bystanders that this is who we are. Exactly why every country is represented by a flag.

We chose to incorporate the Elixir pipeline symbol into the flag. This simple, yet defying aspect of the language is how information is passed throughout the ecosystem and is only used in this programming language. The pipeline serves as a natural mark for these specialized programmers, so we knew it would hit home as part of the EMPEX identity.

As a new conference in NYC, it was crucial to adopt an established look. We coined the event/brand “Empire City Elixir Conference”, but shortly discovered it was too lengthy and didn’t make for a cool logo. We ended on the acronym EMPEX.

What followed was the seal for EMPEX. We aimed for something understated but stand out, with subtle New York flair if possible. Since the city is known for their massive skyscrapers, I pulled inspiration from the iconic Chrysler building. Notice the spiking line work around the EMPEX type. Its resilience made lovely circular pins and stickers for a take away from the conference.

To tie it all together was an image that represents this discovery. The programmers using Elixir are just figuring out how it works - meaning plenty of core issues, debugging, and submissions to maintenance teams. Digital pioneering at it’s finest. We went with the space imagery (thanks again, Neil) to express the explorative nature of EMPEX.

Overall the conference ended up being a hit. It was so successful EMPEX went on to have a second Halloween-themed mini-conference that opened the stage for more speakers, some pretty dope costumes, and a pumpkin with the EMPEX logo on it.

Initial posters used to help pitch the new brand design to internal stakeholders.
EMPEX conference badge and lanyard concept.
A simple splash page to raise conference awareness and collection email addresses.

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