Established in 1919, Masarykova Univerzita (Masaryk University) is the second largest and second oldest university in the Czech Republic. Located in Brno, the university is made up of nine faculties that offer a combined 1,400 fields of study to more than 36,000 students. In preparation for its 100th year anniversary in 2019, Masaryk University will begin rolling out a new identity in 2018, designed by Prague-based Studio Najbrt.
The logo is a contemporary interpretation of the inscriptions on buildings of the Brno’s luminary architect Bohuslav Fuchs, as well as the work of the designer Ladislav Sutnar or the ever-living legacy of the Bauhaus. The custom typeface Muni by Marek Pistora, which is the basis of the logo and of the entire visual style, is monospace: the basis of coding but also a sign of a certain democratic equality and universal educational base. The form here follows function not only in the simplicity of geometric lines, the building of the identity on the typeface, and the absence of decorations (in this case a symbol) but mainly by creating a functional, truly unified system for nine faculties of the university and many levels of its structures and workplaces.
The old logo possibly had the right idea of combining an “M” and a “U” in a different way but the execution with the thick strokes and rounded endings was somewhat awkward and perhaps too informal for a university. The type in a circle was relatively decent, except for that moment where the “Y” and “K” butt heads. The new logo establishes a new shorthand for the university, “MUNI”, that gives it a compact graphic representation that can easily replace the previous shield and still maintain high recognizability. The short and long versions of the logo (and the whole identity system) is based around a Brutalist-ish, condensed, monospace type family that has a cool way of dealing with characters that have angles in them, making “MUNI” a perfect combination of letters to highlight the quirks of the font.
I assume this aesthetic will not be to the delight everyone here but I find its bluntness and awkwardness quite refreshing, interesting, and a great antidote to the usual aesthetics of American universities, which tend to be very reserved from fear of silly petitions to change the logo back.
The one thing that bothers me — and I’m usually a supporter of it — is the use of that blue. I think this could have sidestepped that trend in favor of any other hue of blue and let the font be the element that gives this its contemporary edge.
The old faculty logos were surprisingly consistent given how complicated a system they had going on of fitting the faculty names in the circle and adding a representative graphic in the center. They were not great by any means but, yeah, they pulled that off. As systematically pleasing as the new faculty logo system is, I kind of wish they had been able to infuse them with the graphic variety of the old logos. Still, I do like a good, strict system and this one takes advantage of the custom type weights in a nice way.
The application renders are pretty great and show the flexible potential of the identity through the varied use of the custom typeface. On the spines of some of the materials I like how they can use “MUNI” or just the “M” to brand them. The secondary sans serif used doesn’t make for the ideal partner, it almost looks as if the custom type didn’t load and that Arial kicked in. Something with just a tad more personality would have been better.
Overall, I like this update a lot as it provides a burst of energy and personality to the university while establishing an unmistakeable visual language for it.