How do you build a brand for a new breed of incubator?

Traditional venture capital gravitates toward startup investments that show returns in three to five years. But creating an advanced molten salt reactor to generate clean, safe, low-cost nuclear power takes a little longer than launching the next takeout delivery app. That’s why Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to start a new accelerator to support emerging ventures in tough tech—fields like energy, manufacturing, robotics, biotech, and medical devices—backed by a $150-million-dollar fund and access to Boston’s innovation network and lab spaces.

MIT asked BSD to help bring the accelerator to life. We created a brand identity and website rooted in the hard technologies produced at MIT and flexible enough to accommodate future services.

Building an identity

We named the new accelerator The Engine, a nod to MIT’s engineering expertise that positions the organization as a driver of scientific and economic progress. The structure of the name provides a flexible scaffold for building out a suite of other sub-brands (some yet to be defined), like EngineRoom, a tool to book lab space on campus and among Boston-area partners.

MIT | Higher Education Case Study

In creating the new identity, we sought to design a logo that could sit comfortably next to the rest of the MIT brand ecosystem (e.g. MIT Press, MIT Media Lab), but also hold its own in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The simple black and white color palette (with a new energetic yet muted green) and the typeface Helvetica are borrowed from the MIT system to make the two feel connected. The non-traditional gear icon was inspired by shapes and notations on mechanical drawings of combustion and jet engines—a reference to the importance of each individual piece of an engine in making the larger machinery sing.

MIT | Higher Education Case Study

Creating flexibility

When setting out to create a website for The Engine, MIT had two main requirements: the site had to be flexible enough to scale with The Engine’s business operations and programming, and it needed to showcase the technologies and entrepreneurs The Engine supports. Designed to connect the Boston area to tech hubs across the globe and grow into a billion-dollar incubator, there is no limit for the potential growth and future adaptations of The Engine brand.

MIT | Higher Education Case Study

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