National Instruments No More: Meet The New NI

NI's new corporate logo

As a tech analyst, I cover a whole range of topics relating to the tech industry. Oftentimes it’s the latest product and service announcements, but I also like to cover the “softer” stuff, such as strategy, CSR, and corporate branding. National Instruments, based out of my home base of Austin, TX, is a company that I’ve been following for a long time. Founded over 40 years ago, the company specializes in automated testing and measurement tools to aid in research and validation of new technologies. You may not be familiar with the company by name, but you can definitely thank it for its contributions to technology you use every single day—its hardware and software was used to test and measure 3G, 4G LTE, and 5G. Its technology aided in the development of the cars we drive, the planes we fly in, and much, much more. It’s even making bold moves to monetize big data with its OptimalPlus acquisition I wrote about here. Today, National Instruments announced a huge overhaul to its global branding campaign—for starters and has shortened its name to simply ‘NI.’ Let’s take a look at that and other components of the overhaul.

A brand to match the company’s vision

NI has transformed itself considerably over the years in terms of its strategic vision. Historically, National Instruments provided point product solutions, such as its immensely popular LabView offering. In recent years, though, the company decided to reinvent its operating model to focus on software-defined testing systems. Additionally, the company underwent significant restructuring—reorganizing roles and dividing the company into several different business units. NI has also strengthened its software position with the addition of technologies such as data analytics and machine learning. In spite of all these bold changes on the inside, though, on the outside, the company still looked like the same old National Instruments. It’s within this context, according to NI, that it decided to develop a new, modern brand to match the company’s evolution.

NI says its new brand is centered around a new call of action: “Engineer Ambitiously.” The company is hoping this message will inspire engineers, within the company and without, to aim high and develop ambitious, innovative solutions that could change the world for the better. Additionally, the company wanted its slogan to celebrate the ways its technology empowers engineers—who the company considers “the unsung heroes of innovation.” In a letter from NI CEO and President Eric Starkloff concerning the rebranding, he noted that in the current moment, engineers are needed more than ever—they’re the ones who design new ventilators, new face masks, and other technologies that could potentially aid in the pandemic crisis. Now is certainly the time to “engineer ambitiously.”

And then, as mentioned previously, there’s the new name: NI. According to the company, the formal shortening of National Instruments was conceived to make the name more modern and globally inclusive. National Instruments is a bit of a mouthful, even for those of us who live in English-speaking territories. For that matter, NI produces so much more than just instruments. It shouldn’t be too hard for us in the industry to adjust—we’ve been referring to the company by its initials for a long time. All things considered, I think the name change is totally reasonable.

Lastly, there’s the company’s new logo (See Figure 1), featuring the name change. According to NI, the company utilized a balance of “hard and soft” elements in the design that seek to invoke the balance between rationality and creativity, hardware and software, and intellect and emotion that characterize the company’s strategy. It looks sharp and modern—I’m a fan.

Wrapping up

I think NI’s rebranding makes a lot of sense, given all the ways the company has grown, diversified and modernized over the years. “Engineer Ambitiously” is an inspirational message that speaks to my general technological optimism, and I can’t wait to see what technological advancements come out of this call to action. When you’ve been around for 40+ years, you have to find ways to keep things fresh—say hello to the new NI.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.