Design Company Pentagram has teamed up with Map on an industrial design project for Graphcore, a Machine Learning tech startup. The company, which headquartered in Bristol and offices in the USA and Norway, builds products that offer a platform to advance AI applications. These include an IPU (Intelligence Processing Unit) that is optimized to work efficiently with Machine Learning systems.
The design team led by Pentagram partners Jody Hudson-Powell & Luke Powell and Map creative director Jon Marshall, who has also joined Pentagram as a partner, has formed the design of Graphcore’s IPU and Rack Mount Chassis. The team has drawn on the visual identity previously built by Hudson-Powell & Powell, which comprises a pattern generator, as the basis for the look of the industrial design. Each IPU has been given a discrete identity by applying nine injection-molded plastic tiles to it out of a selection of 50 that allows for 1000 different design combinations.
Pentagram has also built a software tool called Quadtree, which generates patterns, layouts, and colors for new tiles, based on the company’s visual identity, with future products in mind. The Chassis, which allows for eight IPUs to be connected, also draws on the existing identity in its front face, mainly focusing on the patterns which act as apertures for airflow. The design studios have worked closely with Graphcore to ensure the plastic tile system works smoothly with the technical aspects, which has involved creating custom sized heat sinks for the IPU chips which have offered space to fit the tiles. While the design team admitted that it is unusual to pay this much attention to the aesthetics of a product that sits inside a computing system, it justifies this by saying it is vital that the design reflects Graphcore’s unique breakthrough technology.