Visualizing the story of a revolutionary brand

Founded in 1969, Instinet was the firm that invented electronic stock trading, and spent the next half century setting the pace for innovation in the industry. When it was time to tell their story, Instinet chose an equally innovative way to do it, working with Thinkso to push the boundaries of the traditional corporate history. Together, we reimagined the story of Instinet and the fintech revolution in the form of a graphic novel, bringing to life the visionaries and characters that shaped each of the company’s five decades. The result is a visually rich, premium case-bound book that doesn’t just talk about innovation, but also demonstrates it.

A full view of the cover of the Instinet Fintech at Fifty graphc novel with partial views of some interior pages around it.

BACKGROUND

If there is one thing that defines Instinet, it’s how the revolutionary vision of its founders still lives on today — and the way that vision continues to evolve to shape the financial markets. So when Thinkso was tasked with helping Instinet commemorate its 50th anniversary, inside-the-box thinking wasn’t going to cut it.

The challenge was to create something special that reflected Instinet’s pioneering spirit — something that was just as original and daring as the company that had invented electronic trading in 1969. This anniversary wasn’t just about the story of Instinet, however, it was the story of “fintech” itself. So we wanted to also convey the context of the unprecedented level of technological innovation in the financial markets and the world over the same 50-year period.

“If you want to tell a compelling story of innovation, you should actually be innovative. Thinkso is a great partner for challenges like this. They ‘go for it’ from a creative standpoint, and execute with authenticity and an attention to detail that fully realizes the vision.” Lorna Boucher, Chief Marketing Officer, Instinet

APPROACH

It helped that Instinet’s CMO shared some of the founder’s upstart attitude. With Instinet’s mandate to create a truly engaging client experience, together, we developed the idea of a high-end “coffee table” book to tell the story of this visionary company in a completely unexpected way: through the emotional and cinematic format of a graphic novel.

It was a big story. The last 50 years were a period of dramatic change, and as Instinet and Thinkso researched key historical milestones, we found that the events and arc of each decade suggested a specific theme. Thinkso brought in five artists to illustrate each of the company’s five-decades, and the simultaneous rise of financial market technology. The artist’s different styles — ranging from documentary and journalistic to playful and abstract — contrast with and complement each other, and give each chapter a distinct point of view and personality.

To tie it all together, and underscore the energy and dynamic growth of fintech and Instinet’s innovations, we introduced the interactive animated illustrations of Takahiro Kurashima. Featured on the book’s cover, and woven into each of the illustrated chapters, the animations immerse the reader in the action, and bring the book’s ideas and characters to life in an ingenious yet practical way. Just like Instinet.

Before the artists got to work, Thinkso worked on the book’s core narrative with Instinet’s team, coming up with a storyboard approach that resembled a screenplay. Pulling from first-person accounts, contemporaneous reporting, and Instinet’s archives, we meticulously researched the people, technology, and events that shaped and animated the fine points of the story. Once the artist’s illustrations started to take form, Thinkso’s designers and writers worked hand-in-hand with Instinet to refine and organize the distinct chapters into an integrated, long-form book that was faithful to the firm’s legacy.

RESULT

Fintech at Fifty: The rise of Instinet as a transformational force combines the intelligence and sophistication of a mature and successful enterprise with the playful sense of invention and wonder of a restless innovator. In other words, a perfect picture of Instinet. The book was distributed to thousands of clients, many of whom attended the firm’s 50th anniversary conference and gala in New York City, where the book’s themes and artwork were featured as centerpieces of the events.

Fintech at Fifty won the Gold award in the category of corporate image print collateral in the 2020 Financial Communications Society Portfolio Awards and a Silver Stevie at the 2020 American Business Awards®.

James Otis Smith, one of the illustrators for Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel. conferring with the other artists.
A close up an artists hands over in progress drawings for Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.
Close up of an illustrator taking notes on draft pages of  Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.
Owen Brozman, one of the illustrators for Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel. conferring with the other artists.
Close up of Takahiro Kurashima, an illustrator for Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel, and his Japanese interpreter.
Two hands move a filter over a page of Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel to view the special animated illustrations.

The New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo based artists assembled at Thinkso’s midtown studio for a day of immersion in the project and each other’s work—along with the client and our designers, writers, and project managers. Takahiro Kurashima and his interpreter met with each artist to discuss ideas for integrating his animated elements into their panels.

The front cover and case cover for Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.
Close up of the 3D red metallic Instinet brand chevron symbols on the Fintech at Fifty graphic novel linen box case.
The inside of the front cover of the custom box for Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.
A detail from the red and black illustrated endpapers of Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.
"Fintech at Fifty" printed on the spine of the linen covered custom case for Instinet's 50th anniversary graphic novel.

Housed in a custom clamshell box that is wrapped in silvery fabric and adorned with a jewel-like dimensional chevron symbol, Fintech at Fifty: The rise of Instinet as a transformational force, tells the story of Instinet’s pioneering role in electronic trading. The case bound book features an original Takahiro Kurashima image, edge-to-edge, across the front cover.

A spread of pages with scenes from the nineteen eighties chapter of Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.
A spread of pages with scenes from the nineteen nineties chapter of Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.
A spread of pages with scenes from the two thousands chapter of Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.
A spread of pages with scenes from the two thousand tens chapter of Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.

The book is divided into five chapters, each drawn by a different artist, that represent one of five decades. Each chapter opens with a timeline that, along with its illustrated pages, highlights the decade’s turning points for Instinet, the financial markets, and the world.

The 70s, was drawn by Nick Bertozzi from Queens, NY
The 80s was drawn by Owen Brozman from Brooklyn, NY
The 90s was drawn by Josh Neufeld from Brooklyn, NY
The 2000s was drawn by James Otis Smith from Brooklyn, NY
The 2010s was drawn by Chris Koehler from San Francisco, CA

An animated illustration from Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel showing mainframe computer reels in motion.
An animated illustration from Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel showing fireworks exploding over London.
An animated illustration from Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel showing rotating concentric circles of dots.
An animated illustration from Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel showing shock waves emanating from a pressed button.

Working directly with each chapter artist as well as with Thinkso’s designers, Takahiro Kurashima wove his animated artwork throughout the book in a way that not only delivers on Instinet's brand messages, but also invites the reader to experience key historical events. His unique animations added emphasis and kinetism to the storytelling—from the intensity of a protesting crowd, to the spinning reels on a 70’s era supercomputer, and the ripple effect of the Flash Crash. His illustrations are activated by sliding a special acetate lens horizontally across the image.

A rear view of a person opening the pages of a 7 foot tall version of Instinet's Fintech at Fifty graphic novel.

The content and structure of the book was adapted to an all-day conference at the New-York Historical Society, as well as a gala celebration later the same evening at the American Museum of Natural History.