Institution Is In Its 145th Year
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has introduced a brand identity created by Gretel. Under development since last spring through a process that involved hundred of community members, Gretel partnered with RISD and research agency ON ROAD to build an identity framework that ties all parts of the institution together, amplifying the voices of the diverse and distinctive community. “It was important that its most important stakeholders – the members of the community – be part of the process from day one. This openness resulted in work that captures the ethos of the community and feels recognizably RISD,” says Trustee Joe Gebbia ’05.
Gretel’s strategic aim was to capture the ambition of the school’s artists, designers and scholars to create “a more just, fair and sustainable society.” According to the Gretel website: “We knew our purpose needed to resonate with these audiences while also being actionable for anybody within the RISD community—something they would naturally do every day. Together we co-crafted RISD’s new guiding idea: Question to Create, Create to Question, which captures the spirit of curiosity and drives everything RISD creators make.” Another important theme reflected in the identity is that a design education is dynamic, evolving and never complete. The core visual concept of “Complete/Incomplete” translates into a set of open, flexible tools and frameworks for the RISD community to use and evolve. Layouts are layered and modular – hinting at what’s just off the screen or the page and keeping the focus on the content.
The Complete/Incomplete concept is especially evident in the custom typography. A custom super family of typefaces was drawn by a RISD alum, Ryan Bugden ’14, who worked closely with the RISD and Gretel teams throughout development. The typeface consists of a Serif which ranges from complete to incomplete while harmonizing with the rich history of the school, Providence architecture, and the RISD seal. This type family is contrasted by the utilitarian RISD Sans, which serves as a straightforward, neutral undertone. The custom typefaces are intended to reflect the tensions that define the school: past and future, expression, utility, complete and incomplete.
Drawn in 1951 by sculptor, stone carver, calligrapher and late RISD faculty member John Howard Benson, the RISD seal is a cornerstone of the identity program. The seal, which doubles as the school’s logo, was redrawn by Bugden in consultation with the Benson family to perform better at small sizes. A new official color palette is a foundation of black and white paired with a vibrant blue, a nod to the coastal locale and significant to the act of making throughout art and history, from the first synthetically produced pigments to the hyperlink blue of the early internet.