Windham Campbell Prizes

Brand Identity

Brand identity for the new literary award.

Each year Yale University presents the inaugural Donald Windham—Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes, a major literary award that honors outstanding achievement in the fields of fiction, non-fiction and drama. Endowed by the estate of the writer Donald Windham and his companion Sandy M. Campbell, the prizes will award nine winners with $150,000 each, one of the largest literary prizes in the world. The awards are administered by the Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which houses the Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell Collections, in coordination with the Windham Campbell Festival, a four-day public event at Yale that will include master classes, talks, readings and signings.

Pentagram has created an identity for the prizes based around the elegant graphic motif of brackets. Appearing in various forms, the brackets are familiar symbols of language and also convey diversity and inclusion, important elements of the awards. The designers worked on the project with Michael Kelleher, the founding director of the Windham-Campbell program.

Because these are literary prizes, the designers wanted to make the identity distinctively typographic in character. During the project, they spent time at the Beinecke, one of the world’s largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts, and the book designs there helped inspire the approach.

The identity balances consistency and diversity. The main typeface used throughout is Yale, the face designed by Matthew Carter exclusively for the University. The different brackets, which come from dozens of different sources, reflect the wide variety of prizewinners, who range from noted South African writer Zoë Wicomb to playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis (The Motherfucker with the Hat) to journalist Jeremy Scahill (Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army).

The brackets also subtly offer two additional meanings. First, brackets serve to group items or ideas, and the Prizes were conceived as a way to promote discourse and exchange among the winners, the Yale community, and the world at large—in effect, pulling people together. Also, the use of brackets is a sly reference to the way nominees, finalists and winners are organized in a tournament—brackets are a device familiar to anyone who has put together a sports betting pool.

New York
Michael Bierut
Project team
Laitsz Ho
Jessica Svendsen
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