Founded in 1754, Columbia University is the fifth oldest school in the United States, a distinguished member of the Ivy League and one of the world’s most innovative research universities. It is also one of New York’s principal institutions—recognized in its official name, Columbia University in the City of New York—with a 27-acre urban campus in Morningside Heights that is home to nearly all the university’s undergraduate student body and comprises a kind of “college town” in the city. At the same time signature Columbia programs like the World Leaders Forum and a growing network of Global Centers look beyond New York.
Pentagram has developed a comprehensive program of admissions materials for the university. The program is designed to help position Columbia as forward-looking and contemporary––less as a tradition-bound Ivy League school and more as a dynamic, modern university and vibrant academic community within the larger fabric of the city.
Working closely with Columbia’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the designers created a coordinated system of books and brochures that presents a cohesive but varied portrait of the school. The pieces range from a viewbook for prospective students to a welcome brochure for incoming freshmen to booklets for specific programs in engineering and science.
The team collaborated with the copywriter and strategist Andrea Jarrell to create a program that captures the spirit of Columbia, its 20 constituent schools and diverse student body. The series is designed in a non-standard size that helps make each piece feel like a unique, tactile object, with embossed details and a variety of formats––fold-out poster, accordion fold brochure––as well as the basic book.
The covers appear in a distinctive shade of “Columbia blue” and feature a stylized version of the school’s crown symbol, embossed in tiny dots that evoke the urban landscape. The blue has been set off with gradient color accents in various hues that suggest the “glow” of the city skyline.
The contents of the books present a smart, lively overview of programs, faculty and alumni; life on campus in Morningside Heights; and the opportunities of the city beyond. An active mix of diagrams, maps, lists, pull quotes, and “a day in the life” accounts by students help create an exciting insider’s view of what it is like to be part of the Columbia family. Newly commissioned photography by David Leventi and Matthew Septimus captures the cosmopolitan energy of the school and its diverse community.
Pentagram previously designed the identity and website for Columbia Business School.