How Quake created a new brand identity for an iconic game

Toronto design agency Quake loves working on beloved brands with loyal fan followings. The challenge, said founder Barry Quinn, is figuring out how to update them in such a way that keeps existing fans happy while also connecting with potential newcomers to the brand

Such was the case with the iconic strategy board game Risk, in which players send tiny armies into battle with other players for control of the world.

“We love brands that are creating and facing change,” said Quinn. And Risk is one brand looking to change in an industry that is itself changing dramatically. “They offer this in-person, tactile, social sort of activity in a world that’s increasingly none of those things.”

Now more than 60-years old, Risk has amassed a huge fanbase over the decades, and while it has seen many different variations and adaptations in recent years, most people still associate it with the original.

“When people thought of Risk they thought of the Napoleonic Wars… cannons and that kind of thing,” said Quinn. “And while Risk can be that, it can be other things as well.”

For the launch of one of those new versions, Avalon Hill, the strategy game subsidiary of Hasbro, asked Quake to create a visual identity that could be simultaneously timeless and modern. (Quake has also created a new brand identity for Avalon Hill.)

“Our role was, can we create a brand world—can we produce an identity—that could live back in time and forward in time,” said Quinn.

The new identify will roll out with Risk: Shadow Forces, which takes place in 2050 and deals with rising seas, viruses, firestorms, extreme weather, misinformation, and nefarious factions vying to control the future of an incalculably powerful energy source.

In the past, the branding was mostly about flags, soldiers on horseback and lots of red; that’s all gone now, replaced with a clean sans serif logo in which the R and the K are cut off in a stylized and very intentional way.

“One of the things that we liked about Risk is, inherently, the game is about conflict,” said Quinn. “That was the first idea we wanted: How can we show a conflict within the logo?” he said. In the past, Risk used flags, a horse or similar iconography, but those become too specific and limiting if Avalon Hill wants to take Risk into other settings.

“What’s great about the identity is it almost feels like it’s in conflict, like the beginning and the ending of the identity are pushing into each other,” he said.

“Then the other thing is we had to strip it down so that it wasn’t so ornamental… When they first designed Risk, it only had to live in a board game, but now things have to be able to be read on a phone.”

Quake also wanted to design the new identity to be colour neutral. ”We wanted it to be strong enough that even if it was rendered in white, it would really stand out because [we] just wanted to own the shape,”  he said.

“We spent an inordinate amount of time making sure that it just had a unique silhouette, so that it almost read as a logo, not just as a word mark.”

Finally, they imagined the partial K as a chevron that could be used in other ways. ”We had something that felt like it wasn’t just the letters, it had to be a symbol so they can start to have its own little identity,” said Quinn.

It was a fun project for Quake, but also a little scary because there are so many devoted fans who already love the game and its historical legacy, he added. “Our job was to make sure that we could build a brand world that could get more and more players inside that world,” he said.

“You want a brand that can expand the technological universe—from swords and clubs, to lasers and spaceships… We needed an identity that can live there, because those are probably the worlds that gamers at some point are going to want to be able to be a part of.”



David Brown