CUCAI 2020

Designing the brand behind 400+ curious minds


Brand Designer


2019 Fall, 4 weeks


Cathy Yan, Samantha Dunn


Canadian Undergraduate Conference on Artificial Intelligence (CUCAI) 2019 was very successfull. CUCAI 2020 is greatly expanded and going to Toronto, with 400+ delegrates, indestry professionals, and 28 sponsors/partners.

Working with 2 marketing coordinators, I directed the visual branding, website design, and my impact spanned the other materials as well. Together we powered the looking, feeling, and experience of CUCAI 2020.

Problem Space

Strategy first. Listening to the people who created, organized, attended CUCAI 2019 and some simialr conferences helped us define a direction for what would become the new brand. The keywords: energy, simplicity, future.

It revealed the major challenge, too - visualization of the concepts of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Both of them are abstract topics that do not reference to physical, real world objects. It is hard to find or define their visual symbols.

The Heritage

Back in CUCAI 2019, the marketing team established the foundation of CUCAI brand recognition. We decided to carry part of it forward. It best suits our budget, workload of marketing team, and most importantly, aligns with CUCAI 2020's goal of continuing the previous success.

With CUCAI 2019 experience, I updated the logo and color palette to optimize for readbility. In result, the 2020 version adapts to wider uses thanks to the color safety and simplicity, while maintaining young and energetic. 


Deconstruction and Abstraction

Next, I began looking for a symbol of AI and ML that CUCAI could attach to. There are two goals, (1) positioning: better position CUCAI as a premium conference about cutting-edge technologies through refined imagery, (2) differentiation: create a more memorable brand to differentiate CUCAI from other conferences.

With Apple's Siri as the first inspiration, I extracted the familiar elements from people's imagery of advanced technology, AI, ML, data science, and so on. With help from them, I created an abstract symbol of CUCAI.


To align with our principles of being young and simplistic, I used bright and clean lighting. The material has acrylic and glass characteristics. It is crystal, sharp, and clear, echoing our futuristic theme. The structure creates complex internal reflections. Besides immersive and enjoying to watch, they are also implying our impressions about AI and ML: they are easy to operate from outside, taking inputs and providing outputs but has deep and complicated network layers inside.


Elements of Style

Then I expanded the idea to create more elements based on the cubes, making the symbol accessible from various channels.


Consistency Across Materials

In order to guide the other team members to use the assets in a consistent way to the brand direction determined, I put together a style guide to share to best communicate how the visual identity should be carried. 


In Action

At the end, the new branding was implemented well and you can find examples of work that were made into production for marketing assets and the day-of materials.



Now that CUCAI 2020 has come to a close, I reflect this experience as an opportunity to own a creative process and enhance a brand with ideas from scratch. I learned how to communicate effectively, from sharing initial ideas to quality control final delivery. I got the experience of applying design thinking to seemingly different segments such as outreach and logistics through implementing the brand overhaul.

More project while you are here? 👀

© 2021 Ricky Zhang