The New School: Year One

Preview — Mar 30, 2016

Paula Scher writes about how her identity for The New School has come to life since its launch a year ago.

A year ago Pentagram announced the launch of a new identity design for The New School and introduced its bespoke font for the school, designed by my team at Pentagram and the typographer Peter Bil’ak. The font was called Neue. Neue was a redrawing of Bil’ak’s font Irma, and was expanded into three different widths that were programmed together, thereby creating a wholly new typeface. Neue was created in light and heavier weight and allowed The New School to describe its changing individual schools and programs, become an identifiable visual language for The New School, and set the stage for further typographic exploration and experimentation which would be achieved by their very capable in-house art department and the students of Parsons School of Design.

At the time, our launch encompassed the stationery materials for The New School, Parsons, Mannes School of Music, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School for Social Research, and the other constituent institutions, some identifying flags for The New School buildings on Fifth Avenue, a visitors center, a design for the lobby of Parsons, and swag such as tote bags, t-shirts and buttons. Parsons students designed type for a water tower and collaborated with us on the Parsons lobby. The in-house team reskinned The New School website and developed much of the swag.

In the year following the launch, The New School in-house art department has continued to explore the possibilities of their font Neue in the creation of catalogs, magazines, invitations and sniped posters, and building out a broad new communications program. The website continues to evolve and is regularly updated. This work is presented here.

A year ago, our new identity launch was controversial. Many critics complained about the wide “W” in The New School logotype. Others claimed the logo resembled “Star Wars” type. Since that time, there have been other identity launches that have received similar aesthetic criticisms that generally have to do with some form of eccentricity in the logo type. This form of instantaneous criticism seems to define an identity as a launch of a logotype separate from the system that will communicate the entire message. It isolates a component without real context or knowledge of intent and purpose. And it separates an identity from its institution and its audience. It is akin to reviewing a three-act play when the curtain goes up.

The New School’s identity will evolve and change with the institution. It is a living, breathing organism, not a rigid, fixed rule. Other weights of the typeface Neue will be added and different opportunities to extend and enlarge the system will be explored. The in-house art department and the students now own the system. Pentagram will begin to create the permanent signage, but the institution itself is still evolving everyday, and the identity will evolve with it.

Consider this work the end of Act One. We are looking forward to seeing Act Two.

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