IBM Design Thinking


Perception is honored to have collaborations with numerous talented teams within IBM. Most recently, it was with the team at IBM Design’s offices in Austin, TX. This simple exercise wound up sending ripples through the massive (and inspiring) initiative IBM was preparing: the publishing of their extensive process for developing through design, known as IBM Design Thinking.


Perception’s past work with IBM Design put an emphasis on motion to bring meaning and delight to various IBM products. This time around, IBM wanted a self contained animation to serve as an introduction to IBM’s Design Thinking documentation. Perception was asked to create a brief and simple animation that would transition a question mark into an exclamation point— a graphic metaphor for the creative process. 

This was particularly challenging due to the fact this animation was to set the tone for the entire design initiative, as seen on their website. More than a quick reference, IBM Design Thinking is an extremely detailed guide into the entire creative process used by the company. This extraordinary resource has been made accessible to anyone, and introduced by a simple animation.


Perception immediately began developing ideas on two separate tracks: design and animation. To explore animation, Perception began by iterating many different simple gestures with the basic Helvetica type question mark. A collage of the best of these tests is below:

In addition to exploring motion and gesture, the Perception team took a more aggressive approach at reimagining the concept through still designs. With tremendous inspiration from IBM’s history, Perception crafted a Paul Rand-Inspired array of geometric data and color to construct the Helvetica-based forms. This approach lead to many explorations and possibilities, several of which can be seen below.


As the IBM team was reviewing the various explorations, they began to share the work-in-progress manifesto for their Design Thinking documentation. Perception continued to develop the most relevant ideas, while incorporating new elements, like Design Thinking’s crucial “Loop”. The result was the following animation, which blends some of the character and gesture of the initial animations with the Rand-inspired aesthetic.
As Perception was placing finishing touches on the piece, there were many discussions about the different ways that it incorporated the themes and theories of IBM’s Design Thinking. It quickly became apparent that this introductory animation was going to impact many of the other visual themes seen throughout IBM’s literature. Below are some of the many ways the Rand-inspired aesthetic has been utilized by IBM’s own design team to visualize the concepts of Design Thinking.



Perception is honored to work with IBM on each new design challenge. Clients continually come back for the deep consideration the Perception team puts on creating work that has meaning. Whether it’s a pure animation exploration or a complex UX system, the team’s work is always built upon the solid foundation of a well thought out, innovative concept.




Perception focuses on 2 parallel and symbiotic paths: futuristic UI and HUD design for both feature films and global technology brands. The team’s highly specialized cinematic vision breaks new boundaries of UX for the most innovative technology brands in the world across all product categories. Learn More



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