Rocks are an unlikely source of inspiration, unless, of course, you’re in the mining business—or you happen to be designing a visual identity for that exact business. When Sanrun Mining Co., a Chinese company that drills for manganese, tapped graphic design studio Necon to design a corporate identity they had a simple ask: come up with something that didn’t look like it belonged to a mining company.
The industry is notoriously conservative, and the visuals reflect that. Picks and axes are “grim imaging that takes the viewer back to the times of the Industrial Revolution,” says Necon’s Michał Lewanowicz in an interview with ID. So instead of focusing on the tools to get the job done, Necon looked to the rocks themselves, drawing visual inspiration from the rainbow of colors found in manganese ore mines.
The visual identity is based around a core of color. Purples, blues, and pinks emanate from the center, forming an ambiguous shape much like what you might find if you cracked open a piece of peacock ore. For the logo itself, the designers reduced Sanrun into a clean-lined, sans-serif monograph of SR. Inside a black-and-white box, the SR looks almost looks like a new addition to the periodic table of elements.
It’s not just a clever conceptual idea; the logo’s compactness makes room for a greater focus on color and form. It reframes why we should care about mining (and by extension, Sanrun) from pure functionality to the notion of beauty–not an easy feat when you’re designing for a company whose job is tearing up land. Yet, despite Sunran’s inherently stodgy nature, the mining company ended up with an identity design that’s playful and stunning, something that straddles the line between business and visual irreverence. A far cry from being dull as rocks.