From simple things like finding a lucky penny to stumbling across a beautiful building, life supplies many unexpected surprises and serendipitous moments. Seeing the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) new identity was both of these for me: I saw rhythm, simplicity, and a catchy acronym. Upon further exploration I found an intelligent, remarkable, and sophisticated mark.
The Maryland Institute College of Art won its first, seven-year-long battle by identifying itself with the simple acronym, MICA. The second challenge was finding a unique mark that clearly represented the college. Abbott Miller and his design team at Pentagram [www.pentagram.com] (including Kristen Spilman, a MICA graduate) set out to solve this second challenge. Not only did they solve it, they hit the nail on the head.
The 1904 Beaux-Arts Main Building and MICA’s 2003 Brown Center.
As Pentagram explains — and you can see many more images there — the typography is based on the collision of mixed-era architecture in the historic neighborhood of Bolton Hill, where MICA is located:
“This mixture of old and new creates the school’s distinct environment and is what inspired the new identity that is composed of the historically based slab serif typeface Giza designed by David Berlow in 1994. A slab serif was chosen because of the fonts’ popularity around the time of the College’s founding in 1826. The full signature of the institution, Maryland Institute College of Art, is set in a sans serif font, Griffith, that was designed by Chauncey Griffith in 1937, the same year he designed Bell Gothic. At the time, Griffith was the design director of Mergenthaler Type, founded by Ottmar Mergenthaler, who lived in the MICA neighborhood of Bolton Hill.”
The identity also features a pattern and texture inspired by the architecture details of the buildings.
What I love most about the new identity is its unique voice — grounded with history yet current. The old mark did not represent the college anymore; who did it speak to? Artists or Graphic Designers? MICA now speaks to both Artists and Graphic Designers — in a non-clichéd way — representing one of the top four art and design schools in America.
Ed. Note: We are happy to welcome John as our newest author for Brand New. More information on him, and the rest of the Brand New authors, coming in the future.