Cover Story: How NVIDIA Put Its Soul on Its Sleeve

by Brian Caulfield

Can a company have a soul?

Designer Carl Peterson.

Our work blending the science and art of visual computing evokes passion and precision. Sensation and spirit. Detail and depth.

These relationships are something Carl Peterson aimed to explore when he toyed with ideas for the cover of our latest annual report. And that brought the tall, soft-spoken NVIDIA designer to the form that underpins everything NVIDIA does: the polygon.

Our GPUs can pour billions of polygons onto the screen, many times each second. These polygons, in turn, are the building blocks for the computer-generated images that astound and amaze gamers. They’re the stuff of which movie makers, engineers and architects model their creations. They’re used by scientists to visualize viruses, predict our world’s climate, and simulate the collision of galaxies.

Early concept
An early cover concept.

The problem: making that tangible. To do that, Peterson – whose resume includes stints at DreamWorks SKG and “Mad Magazine” – came up with three images.

One was a cloud showing NVIDIA’s logo connecting all of the different technologies our products touch. The second showed shards of glass filled with information on it resolving into NVIDIA’s logo.

His last idea was more daring: it poured our products into polygons, with those polygons comprising NVIDIA’s logo. It’s an idea that touches on ancient artistic techniques: it’s as evocative of mosaics as much as it is of modern mathematics.

Early concept.
Another early sketch.

It’s also an idea that was inspired, Peterson says, by the design for our new campus. Its iconic, rippling roofline and support structure are built of polygons.

So, Peterson sketched out his ideas and brought the concepts to our CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang. The first two ideas were too literal, Jen-Hsun told him. NVIDIA needs something beautiful that people can have an emotional reaction to, Jen-Hsun told him, before seeing Peterson’s third concept. That was the one.

The final product.
The final product.

It was up to Sean Wagstaff, a 3D graphics and animation professional and NVIDIA’s senior technical 3D artist to use make that concept come together. No surprise, he needed NVIDIA’s GPUs.

The result is startling, and, we believe, soulful. Hopefully you’ll find it as beautiful as we do.