The Companio: new book designed by Pentagram finds the human side to machine learning

Pentagram partners Jody Hudson-Powell, Luke Powell and Naresh Ramchandani have collaborated with semiconductor company Graphcore to create The Companio, an internal publication that aims to articulate its core values about machine learning.

If you've ever worked in a large corporation, then you'll know all about the importance they place on company values. You'll also probably be aware that even the most well-meaning and sincere of company values can end up becoming nothing more than empty slogans which fail to inspire workers as intended.

That was part of the challenge facing Pentagram partners Jody Hudson-Powell, Luke Powell and Naresh Ramchandani when designing The Companio for the design consultancy's longstanding collaborator Graphcore. Add to that the fact that they had to master the company's tools and principles, and you can quickly see how they had their work cut out.

Inspired by the Latin word for 'company' - derived from the words 'bread' and together' - The Companio is an 80-page book written by the Pentagram team to strengthen Graphcore's unique culture. Having grown from a startup with 40 workers working on one floor to a sprawling, global team, the company felt that the time was right to revisit its mission statement, give it a polish, and spread the word as it continues to grow.

Divided into chapters that cover Graphcore's story, brand, mission, tools and behaviours, The Companio is a shining example of making a brand-friendly and approachable while also staying confident and professional. Through a considerate use of design, it reflects the founder's determination to "deliver the world's best computing technology for machine intelligence that will allow innovators to expand human potential."

And as well as being inspiring, The Companio had to be actionable. This was achieved by outlining three behaviours that define the Graphcore spirit: tackling hard problems together, speaking up, and taking responsibility. A practical framework revealed to workers how these could all be executed, including insights into how even a simple word like 'yes' can be an enormously powerful tool. "Our behaviours can't be simplistic lines printed on mugs and coasters and then forgotten," The Companio explains. "They are a practice and discipline that need to be lived daily in order to help us do better work."

A Pentagram publication wouldn't be complete without killer design to drive home its message, though, and that's exactly what The Companio has been blessed with. Starting with a modular pattern embossed cover, which is embellished by a die-cut window that reveals the Graphcore logo, the publication translates the company's tools and working practices into visuals that can be enjoyed and appreciated by all. This is perhaps best exemplified by various colours that appear across the print run, which mirror the generative nature of the Quadtree pattern tool created by Pentagram for the brand.

Speaking of colour, the open-stitched book is split into sections of contrasting hues with a double-spread, central fold-out showcasing Graphcore's own intricate and colourful 'Poplar' AI visualisations. White space is used carefully to underline Graphcore's bold, geometric pattern-based identity, and an asymmetric combination of shapes and images helps to make this pop even more.

Layouts are printed with a duotone contrast of a single Graphcore brand colour alongside black to give an overall look a sense of cohesion. And throughout the book, the text is punctuated with photography by Nick Rochowski, capturing the Graphcore team, its founders, as well as chips and hardware.

A custom typeface designed by Pentagram and based on Caslon's Egyptian, called Graphcore Quantized, features heavily in The Companio to give it a unique look. Meanwhile, the layouts use visible grids and vertical columns inspired by mathematical structures. Scaled typographic spreads communicate key messages to drive home Graphcore's approach and vision.

Machine learning can seem alien to outsiders, but the Pentagram ream can make the approach work for all of us by bringing out the human side to Graphcore with their thoughtful, intuitive design work. Because as the technology company says:" 'We're optimistic for a future where people live healthier, more informed and more creative lives. The future is coming, and we're bringing it closer."


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