Success Academy

Brand Identity, Signage & Environmental Graphics, Book Design

Identity and environmental graphics for the largest and highest performing network of charter schools in New York City.

Success Academy is the largest and highest performing network of charter schools in New York City. Founded and led by former city councilwoman Eva S. Moskowitz, Success Academy’s growing group of publicly funded, privately operated schools includes 24 elementary schools, seven middle schools and one high school that provide education for nearly 9,500 students across the city. Primarily serving underprivileged children, SA consistently has the highest test scores of any schools in New York, regularly outperforming institutions in wealthier communities. 

Pentagram has designed a graphic identity for Success Academy that conveys the schools’ innovative educational mission. The system extends to environmental graphics that help motivate students and build school spirit at Success Academy locations, which share space with New York City public schools.

Success Academy is known for its exacting standards for achievement—the schools notably refer to their students as “scholars”—and the new identity conveys this sense of academic rigor. The designers realized that each word of the name has seven letters, and the logo perfectly organizes these letters into rows, divided by lines. The typographic arrangement suggests Success Academy’s mission of educational accountability, while also reflecting the sense of order it seeks to instill in its student-scholars’ lives. The typography is set in a custom rounded version of Akkurat Mono, with Akkurat serving as the supporting typeface.

Environmental graphics in the schools help create an atmosphere of academic motivation. Success Academy schools are housed in buildings that also contain public schools, and the identity and bright school colors are used to set off the SA areas. In elementary and middle schools, educational slogans based on Success Academy’s ACTION principles (Agency, Curiosity, Try and Try, Integrity, Others, and No shortcuts) are dynamically illustrated in posters that line the halls.

Success Academy opened its first high school, Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts, in October 2014. The interior design by Biber Architects integrates elements inspired by college campuses into the high school environment. The design team collaborated with Biber on a program of distinctive environmental graphics for the school. Color is used to designate different sections of the campus. Seating areas for impromptu meetings have been created in wall recesses where lockers used to be, and feature photographs of traditional libraries that appear to recede into infinity, giving scholars a perspective on their educational aspirations. Names of Ivy League schools appear on the walls as typographic outlines; when an SA scholar graduates and is accepted to the college, the name is filled in.

The team has also created a series of publications for Success Academy’s annual benefits, including a program inspired by a notebook and a commemorative hardbound book that features student portraits by Blair Getz Mezibov (for the 2014 gala).

New York
Michael Bierut
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