< back to homepage

Designing the next big technology company from scratch

A story behind OnePlus visual design.

by Michael Sharanda
Published on December 2015

OnePlus logo includes team I worked with, a bit of luck and business idea behind. All of that allied into a perfect piece of identity design, that I’m highly proud of and excited to share with you my personal insights.

Please, enjoy.

I was working in Shenzhen, China for smartphone manufacturer OPPO, when one day my manager Carl Pei approached me and asked if I’d like to join a new technology company, a start-up with ambitions to disrupts the industry by creating a mainstream smartphone brand driven by it’s community, that’s going to sell high-end smartphones online only for low price.

It’s been 7 months since I came to China from a small city in the far east of Russia, where I was creating UI and branding for small local companies. “Anything can happen”.

Logo Design Challenge

Sense of brand identity is extremely important, however logo design isn’t a favourite thing I like to do. It’s one of hardest design processes that nobody really appreciates: such a small, tiny symbol that anyone can draw in photoshop or on even on paper. Anyone can come up with logo symbol.

You have to explain in details the whole process behind. What your research and approach were focused on and why exactly this logo is the best option for this particular case.

The Beginning

There were many other designers this task was given to. That was such a big deal, but I didn’t take it seriously at first.

It makes no sense to design random mediocrity. You should participate in a design competition only when you believe you’ll win. You need your passion, belief and inspiration to spread over your attitude and your work.

Here’s competitor logos. To me, these look like a parade of 1960–2000 trends, based on the same “corporative” patterns:

Competitor logos.

Symbol or Text, or Symbol + Text?

  1. If you look closer at the picture above, you’d notice that companies either write their name as a simple text: Lenovo, Nokia…
  2. Or design a symbol, when it’s clear what it is: Apple, HP, LG.
  3. Rarely a symbol+text — like huawei, which makes it hard to use separately and makes the symbol itself more complicated. You’d probably never see that flower without “huawei” text. In case of huawei it’s even worse, because there’s no connection between huawei word and the flower.

Decision: OnePlus easily reads as 1+, which makes perfect sense to design a single, solid symbol that would be looking simple and stylish on a smartphone’s back.


Inspiration

We needed something opposite to those venture capital, enterprise brands. My approach was simply make everything different from competitors: bright and aggressive colours, thin lines, fun and non-corporative.

People take IT-devices very personally these days. The logo on a smartphone should be a symbol people would love to wear, to own and care, with proud.

Would people love to wear Samsung, LG, HTC or Nokia logos? I don’t think so.
OnePlus logo has to be: very elegant, personal, stylish.
It should have a spirit.

Appreciate client’s idea

We all cherish our own ideas and wish them to be implemented. I always tell myself to listen carefully to what client wants. “I make my design for him, for his company, not for myself.”

Pete Lau (CEO of OnePlus) original idea.

Most of my colleagues were making different variations of Pete’s idea. But… If you take this symbol apart, you might see that these three shapes have different geometry base and would not fit one another in a beautiful, elegant way…

“You should find a way to combine these elements”

“OnePlus” name came from idea that good products get shared. And the company had plans to call their product’s like “one plus one”, “one plus two”, etc.

Looking back it feels like there was some magic behind it:

I've closed my eyes and tried to imagine the logo like it's already exist, company got viral and everyone is absolutely insane about it.

And I got an idea. Just one idea. But it was enough, because I had a strong belief that it will work perfectly:

Hm. That could be something!

Logo geometry based on a small pixel grid and the logo can be displayed from 14x14 pixel size with no smoothing.

I put the plus sign a bit outside the shape on purpose. To me, it was making a perfect sense to “connect” the company’s logo with product logo and place the plus in between:

“brand” + “product”

I suggested that main products could have simple, bold names, but accessories would be written as icons:

The logo was the pure inpiration and was approved almost immediately.

Pete Lau at first OnePlus press release.
Do you see what’s happened? :-) Pete’s original idea combined with my inspiration and results of my branding strategy research.
Ah, the most efficient and pleasant logo design process ever.

However, OnePlus was a new company no one heard about before, it was necessary to write “OnePlus” next to it. We agreed on these two primary variants with a goal to use only symbol in the future:

“Designed with careful attention down to the last detail”

The cool thing is that logo is still recognisable in any interpretation.

Then we focused on corporate materials: posters, t-shirts, name cards, etc. Build the team’s spirit up!

The "Never Settle" moto

This is one of my favourite things within this project. Quite special and very personal.

We had multiple version of this sign, but end up with the most simpliest variant, bold, direct and agressive, which is also resebles with the logo of 1+.

Little by little brand book was born. Within next several months we put together all the patterns and principles we came up with.

The website design

You might noticed some website layout guidelines above. Meanwhile I was polishing the brand identity materials, I've started working on the product website.

We wanted it to be extremely simple, sharp, agressive (as well as the product itself) and work responsively on any device out there.

OnePlus One product page

It was the biggest challange. Graphics, layouts, icons, typography, animation effects, polishing every detail... A huge amount of work for just one man. Not saying that I've did the coding as well, which had to support 15 languages.