Digital Legal Exchange

The DLEX graphic device cut into its separate parts

What a fabulous project this was, in no small part because of the intellect and passion shown by our lead clients, Isabel Parker and Mark Cohen. Digital Legal Exchange have plans, big plans, and we were immediately enthused by how articulate they both were about the opportunity and the possibilities a rebrand could represent to, in their own words, a global institute of leading thinkers and doers from academia, business, government, technology and law, committed to applying digital transformation to the legal function. A non-profit community sharing practical and applied learnings to inspire general counsel and their teams to become digital leaders in their businesses to drive commercial value.

A montage showing a range of DLEX-branded items
The adaptable new visual identity works across a range of different applications, both print and digital.

“Working with the Within team was a genuine delight. They were quick to grasp the Digital Legal Exchange’s mission and helped us explore and articulate our unique purpose, with input from our members. The team then translated those inputs into a compelling brand, using imagery, colour and design to communicate the Exchange’s core value proposition of aligning legal more closely with the business. The refreshed brand is professional and classic – but also forward looking, a true reflection of the Digital Legal Exchange community. We are delighted with the results, which we could not have achieved without this talented team.”

Isabel Parker, DLEX Executive Director
The DLEX 3D graphic device rendered in green

We have worked with DLEX for over a year with their existing brand – which was tired and needed reinvention. We’ve become well known in professional services for creating brave brands with a punch and a strong narrative. If you have had the pleasure of Zooming with Mark Cohen, you’ll know from his taste in artwork that he certainly likes brave creative. The brand needed to be ‘digital first’ – not only because of the work that DLEX does, but also because Isabel is a published author and expert in the digital transformation field (I still patiently await my signed copy…). We also share a client in Schneider Electric, experts themselves in assisting global businesses to digitise, so the positioning in the digital space had to be just right.

First, we needed to urgently address the big red ‘X’ in the centre of DLEX’s communications. It was likely having the opposite effect to the positive psychology behind the big red tick so brilliantly executed in the Nike swoosh, albeit subconsciously. For this article, I will assume you know about the swoosh story, if not then Google the ‘Toblerone bear’ or ‘Amazon smile’ and gasp at the ‘clever’ we, branding agencies, bring to our clients.

So, how do you turn a big red cross into a positive? Easily. Well, actually, it was quite a challenge, but nobody wants to read about the hours of head-scratching. The answer was that whilst ‘X’ means wrong, negative or stop, it is also, mathematically at least, always the solution to the unsolved challenge. X to 𝑥, if you will.

A before and after of the DLEX brand mark
Although we had to work with the existing DLEX brand mark, we were able to elevate it by making small adjustments to the alignment and scale.

Our concept, The Known Unknown, plays into the very essence of DLEX’s reason for being. We all know we need to modernise and rely more heavily on technology, but very few of us have the bravery, background or expertise to make it happen, hence the catchy project name.

The DLEX 3D graphic device rendered in red

Now for the science bit.

In mathematics, and specifically in algebra, the ‘𝑥’ is used to represent an unknown variable. In equations or expressions, the unknown is the unique constant – and paired with other variables, the ‘𝑥’ forms an infinite number of combinations with the sole purpose of untangling, puzzling out or solving complex problems. Linear algebra also models our representations of the physical world. From three-dimensional graphs to GPS locations, it pushes the boundaries of our minds and powers human exploration.

At the heart of our concept, we isolated the ‘X’ from DLEX, representing both the essence of the unknown and the process to find the solution.

The brand narrative is one of curiosity, problem-solving, collective thinking and alignment of people, ideas and expertise to experiment, conjecture and decipher. Drawn from the roots of its meaning, algebra is first described in a book titled ‘’ilm al-jabr wa’l- muqābala’ that can be translated as “the science of restoring what is missing and equating like with like”. The new brand revolves around the mathematical sense of reuniting and restoring. Vividly suitable for DLEX, standing out as a community of minds with the collective purpose of figuring out the unknown – the revolutionary changes required to digitally transform the legal sector – with the ‘X’ being the answer, always.

An iMac screen showing the DLEX website homepage
The homepage of the rebranded website.

The colour palette is our interpretation of revealing the unknown or, in this case, the unseen. Whilst we are not able to perceive light past a certain spectrum, satellite technology allows us to process information beyond our reach, translating different wavelengths of light to colours our eyes can see, also known as true colours.

True colours become a collectively known vehicle to interpret information. Blue represents transition and exchange, green reflects equilibrium and sustainability, while red expresses growth and development. This hidden colour spectrum, revealed by satellites, opens an alternative reality, where the forest landscape in Latin America is rendered in red, not green.

3D rendered spheres showing the DLEX colour palette
The colour palette brings together four neutral shades and three accent colours which work both in 2D, and when applied to 3D renders.

The combination carries a unique proposition that contrasting the known and revealing the unknown (or unseen) leads to problem solving, idea generation and constant questioning, which is the essence of digital transformation.

An interior billboard showing the DLEX rebrand in action
The visual identity is flexible, scalable and impactful.

Returning to the brand mark and the big red ‘X’, we made some subtle but important changes to it in terms of use, structure, and placement. By removing the red from the X, we alleviated the negativity associated with it. We do not like arbitrary angles at Within International, so we made meaning of the 33-degree slant in the original ‘X’ and applied it to DLEX’s new image style – more about that below.

An explanation of how DLEX's bespoke image library is created
Following the 33-degree angle dictated by the ‘X’, we developed a bespoke visual treatment which forms a unique image with depth and the illusion of motion.

Having removed the less positive elements of the ‘X’ we needed to give it back some hero-status. After all, it has served DLEX well to date as the membership growth of late has demonstrated. DLEX are all about bringing people together around a central issue. This is demonstrated not only in their not-for-profit status but also in the calibre of experts on their panel. In 2020, we began using visual language to communicate closing the gaps in knowledge, building community, and the strength and structure they provide their members. For the rebrand, we amplified this further, finding a unique way of dissecting the ‘X’ in a meaningful fashion, whilst still playing into the mathematical Known Unknown concept.

A diagram explaining how the 'X' from the DLEX brand mark is used to create a 3D graphic device by dividing the shape up according to a grid system
We used the ‘X’ in the DLEX brand mark to create a graphic device which could act as a hero statement across DLEX’s rebrand.

Hidden in plain sight, the golden ratio is one of the most widespread mathematical expressions. Used in design, architecture and art, the perfect proportions allow for structured content and visually-appealing hierarchy. It is at the foundation of the cut-out system through which we deconstructed the ‘X’ device into well-balanced graphic elements that, used across DLEX’s brand collateral, make for a unique, intriguing and provoking look for the brand. The division of the ‘X’ provided the opportunity to use it as a flexible device, which adds interest throughout DLEX’s collateral and retains the key ideas of integration and alignment.

The result – a sophisticated rebrand which is up to the challenge of meeting DLEX’s leadership and members at their level.

“The Within team’s level of diligence, thought, creativity, and customer care was extraordinary from end-to-end. They are exceptional in their ability to extract the essence of the client’s business and to give it creative life. We at the Digital Legal Exchange would not hesitate to engage them on future projects and to recommend them to others.”

Mark Cohen, DLEX Executive Chairman
Pages from the new DLEX visual identity guidelines document
A tablet showing DLEX's LinkedIn page with new branding
An event stage showing a DLEX-branded backdrop
Two example pages from the rebranded DLEX website
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