The New School has been at the vanguard of innovation in higher education for almost a century. Founded in 1919, the progressive university in New York’s Greenwich Village now combines design thinking with varied areas of study: from liberal arts to performing arts, from global policy to social research. Pentagram has designed a new identity for The New School and its constituent institutions—Parsons School of Design, Eugene Lang College for Liberal Arts, and Mannes School of Music, to name just a few—that reflects the university’s unique interdisciplinary approach.
Using custom typography, the identity establishes an iconic brand for The New School as a whole, while also setting apart the university’s different schools, institutes and programs. The identity introduces a groundbreaking bespoke typeface called Neue that is composed of extended letterforms. The typeface is revolutionary in its combination of regular, extended and very extended widths of the same font programmed together and used all at once. The typography embodies the progressive mission of The New School and represents a technological advance in the art of type design.
The designers collaborated closely with The New School to create the system. The university needed an identity that would clearly express the nature of its curriculum, which is integrated, flexible and personalized. The system also had to distinguish the relationship between The New School as a university and its constituent schools. In addition, the identity had to be able to evolve over time, as the university is continuously redefining its programs.
The designers had the idea to create a typographic solution that could be used to differentiate the various schools. The school names are not individual logos, but did need to have their own unique character while remaining connected to each other. To develop the new font, they experimented with extending different letterforms for different words. Each letter has been drawn in three widths that are used together seemingly at random. An algorithm has been created to facilitate the use of the three widths in headlines and text.
The aesthetics of the identity system is inspired by the architecture and typography of the New School’s landmark Joseph Urban building, as well as the new University Center, which opened in 2013. Neue is a customized version of the font Irma, which is utilized in the environmental graphics of the University Center and was designed by Peter Bil’ak. Pentagram commissioned Bil’ak to draw and program Neue, which means “new” in German. The proprietary font has been named in honor of The New School, with a nod to The New School’s historic luminaries.
Both classic and contemporary, the typography builds on The New School’s heritage in art, design and the humanities to create something new. It is also bold and expressive, capturing a bit of the character of New York itself, an important part of The New School experience.
The identity incorporates a pair of parallel lines that echo the horizontal striations in the architecture of the buildings. These graphic bars anchor The New School wordmark and provide an organizing device to display the names of the various schools and programs at different scales in relationship to the logo. The system enables The New School to stand alone at large scale, or act as an endorser when connected to schools such as Parsons and Lang. The flexible structure allows the university to continue to evolve and change, and supports the different names to work alongside The New School brand.
The New School wordmark and bars appear in black, while the names of the individual schools and programs are set off in red. The university commissioned a Pantone color, called Parsons Red, to honor the design history of its Parsons School of Design.
The program will be implemented throughout collateral and graphics for the university and all its schools, utilized in publications, admissions materials, signage and environmental graphics. The in-house team has redesigned The New School website working with Pentagram's initial guidelines and utilizing Neue. The identity has the potential for future growth and expansion in various applications. To introduce the new identity, Pentagram worked with students at Parsons to create a special environmental installation at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, as well as on the campus water towers.