In January of 2010, Aalto University — the resulting institution of the merger of the Helsinki School of Economics, the University of Art and Design Helsinki and the Helsinki University of Technology — in Helsinki, Finland will begin its first day of school. For those interested, a handy PDF explains everything in detail about this new institution. While everything about this school indicates a forward-looking vision, they decided to hold a backwards-acting contest to determine its visual identity. Open to students, staff and alumni of Aalto University, the contest was open from March to April and a few weeks ago the winner was announced.
Logos of the Helsinki School of Economics, the University of Art and Design Helsinki and the Helsinki University of Technology.
The winner, Rasmus Snabb, a graphic designer and a former student of the University of Art and Design Helsinki named his entry Kutsu, “Invitation” in English, and in his web site explains the concept:
What defines the image of an educational institution? Discussion, evaluation, change. A school is constantly re-evaluating, discussing and adjusting the way it organizes itself and its activities. The image of a school is thus undefinable — it is in constant change. This is why the logo should not provide a static predefined image, but a blank canvas, which will in time be attached with meaning — an identity created and experienced by the students, researchers and employees.
Alternatives of the logo, and use in other languages.
And further on the actual execution:
The logo doesn’t have a static visual form, it can be endlessly rearranged and changed. The typeface Helvetica has been chosen because it is the most “meaningless” typeface. The primary colours are used because in this combination they have no symbolic value but merely represent “all colours.”
While I will never encourage contests to define identity design, I have to admit this is a pretty well thought out result that also happens to look pretty good. I think something other than Helvetica — something with enough neutrality but a little more warmth and personality — would have been much more appropriate, specially since Helvetica has become a cliche for neutrality. Nonetheless, I really like the visual strategy of this logo and how it can change yet still maintain a very consistent texture and recognizable identity. Above all, the concept is just plain good and you don’t need to have it explained to be understood, it’s quite evident that this logo (or, well, these logos) represent a different kind of university that is willing to look at things differently.
Thanks to Jyri Niemi for the tip.