Baraja is a 3D machine vision systems manufacturer based in Australia. That’s the boring way of saying they make amazing technology for self-driving cars. They invented a new type of LiDAR called Spectrum-Scan which opens up a whole new way to perceive the world, offering unmatched performance and control, helping you create AI perception that is superhuman.
Nick from Baraja reached out to us with the idea of designing a self-driving car startup that really stands out from the crowd. After being in stealth mode for two years and having raised from Blackbird and Sequoia, it was time for the company to step into the limelight. We’d be there to back them up all the way.
We started working with Baraja in late 2017. In just 8 months, we completely overhauled the brand, designed a brilliant new site, produced two videos, directed a photoshoot, designed the packaging, 3D modelled their products and helped the Australian stealth startup launch in Silicon Valley.
Baraja is a Spanish word that, as a noun, means “a deck of cards”. As a verb, Baraja means “to shuffle”. Baraja’s LiDAR technology works by shooting beams of light into the environment, creating a visualisation of the world around the vehicle. The light can be steered by changing it’s colour… “shuffling” the colour spectrum, so to speak.
To start the branding project, we came up with 2 initial directions based on a slew of sketches:
- Is this your card? Sticking with the existing brand thesis (shuffling a deck of cards) but with a different execution.
- Getting physical. Turning our attention from the name to the technology (physics, wavelengths, etc) to find symbolism.
The logo we eventually chose was inspired by a 3D Sine Wave sculpture out the front of the CSIRO facility, combined with the physics behind the spectrum (wavelength-based) scanning technology. We created a 3D model of a sine wave and captured a cross-section from a particular perspective, where it looked auspiciously like a Capital “B”… for Baraja.
The original Baraja logo was only used with the team and their investors and resembled a deck of cards being shuffled... or an Armadillo shell... or something. The team were all on board with this new direction which gave us the motivation we needed to push the new brand throughout the entire company.
While this was happening, Baraja hired a freelance photographer they had previously worked with for a photoshoot. The photos were going to be front-and-center on the new site, so we thought we’d help out with a bit of photographic direction. We aimed for "clear and distinct", drawing attention to the delicate nature of the craft and the people behind the pointclouds.
The Baraja colour palette was inspired by pointclouds – a set of data points in space produced by 3D scanners to visualise for humans what the scanner sees (more on this later). The primary purple was used as a throwback to the original logo with the regal tone selected based on a combination of team preference and competitor brand analysis, with a single variant tone lighter and darker for times when the regular purple just won't cut it. Pointclouds are best viewed on a black background, so we gave the brand a dark theme with rich and eerie blacks that seems to make the palette glow. Talk about ultra-violet!
We selected Averta as the primary typeface for headings and long-form text. It is a new geometric sans serif family with a simplistic yet appealing personality, bringing together features from early European grotesques and American gothics. In Greek, it means “to act or speak openly, bluntly or without moderation, without hiding”. This was particularly relevant to Baraja as they didn't want to be seen as "another R&D project" in the self-driving car space. The purely geometric rounds, open apertures, and its low contrast strokes manage to express an unmoderated, straightforward tone resulting in a modernist, neutral and friendly typeface.
The simple, straightforward styleguide of one font and 3 primary colours makes it easy for the manufacturing and engineering startup to quickly and easily release beautifully branded content.
The new Baraja website is sleek and straight to the point. LiDAR technology can be rather tricky to explain, so a few sections rely heavily on videos and interaction to draw you in and create a feeling of immersion. The website fits neatly on any device so you can learn about their products, watch the videos or even play with the product configurator! Go on, take Baraja with you.
Right before publishing the website, we realised the hero background was a bit boring. So, we quickly directed and produced a short looping video that demonstrates a dark and mysterious Baraja LiDAR system booting up.
Once the website was sorted, we created a bunch of marketing collateral and mockups so the team could see the new brand in action. We didn't actually expect them to print these business cards for the whole company AND hang the printed poster in their hallway!
Now, let's talk about pointclouds. The Baraja brand is centred around their use of pointclouds — a set of data points in space produced by 3D scanners to visualise for humans what the scanner sees. They produce these using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensorheads, mounted inside or on the roof of a vehicle, which send laser pulses out. Once the laser returns back to the sensor, the LiDAR system will record data based on information received.
LiDAR is a foundational tool being used to pioneer autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. But, its current implementation is expensive, unreliable and beset by burdensome adoption cycles.
When it comes down to it, LiDAR is actually pretty simple - it's light refraction through a prism, like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon". Okay that’s BS, but we did make a short video that explains how Baraja’s LiDAR connects a wavelength-tunable laser to prism-like optics using optical fibre cables and deflecting light based on wavelengths… or you know, whatever.
In an attempt to visualise these pointclouds in an aesthetic way and surface them as a branding element, we busted out After Effects and started off with a new HD composition. We created a new solid with Trapcode Form and increased the size of the grid to larger than the composition size, giving us a cool dotgrid-style canvas to start.
Since LiDAR scans in rows (or columns depending on how you’re looking at it), we increased the particles along the X plane to form horizontal lines to simulate an increased particle counter. Dispersing the particles and adding randomly generated opacity helps give it a less structured feeling, while still maintaining the horizontal lines.
Pointclouds typically use the visible wavelength of colour to convey distance so we created a colour map with a noise pattern with a half-transparent, colour-blended solid purple layer overlay so it’s on-brand. Changing the opacity and size variation of the fractal field by a small values increased the randomness of the particle grid. The faded particles give the illusion of shadows.
LiDAR is typically used to scan an environment, so we needed the pointcloud to show that. By changing the disperse values we were able to get the look of terrain. The displacement mode is XYZ Linked by default but can be changed to XYZ Individual for better control. We created a camera and moved in closer to get a more interesting angle. If you’re trying to create something similar at home, we recommend changing the Form Render Mode to “Motion Preview” to save processing time when trying to find the right angle.
Finally, after finding the camera angle we liked the most, we turned on Depth of Field to give the particle grid a macro look. What’s awesome is that adding a random value expression to the rotation values of the camera or any other values means that you can generate hundreds of variants in seconds.
The Jellypepper team were tightly coordinated and key in our journey from stealth to launch. They excelled at embedding themselves in the team and creating a tight feedback loop, which helped push the new design ethos throughout the company.