Established in 1460 (not a typo), Universität Basel (University of Basel) is the oldest university in Switzerland and a very well respected and recognized research university regularly appearing in the 100s in global rankings. Basel offers bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees across more than 120 programs to 13,000 students — 2,700 of them PhDs. It has over 370 professions and 5,600 employees, of whom 4,300 are scientists. Earlier this year, Basel introduced a revitalized identity designed by Basel, Switzerland-based NEW ID.
The need for the University of Basel to consolidate its high academic standing vis-à-vis the global competition, to remain fit for the future, to enhance its appeal and to respond to its shifting identity has called for a new, more distinctive profile.
NEW ID has supported this process since 2014 by developing a contemporary corporate design concept and overseeing its application, among other things, in corporate communication, literature, publications, e-communication, social media and events. “Universität Basel”/”University of Basel” will be the umbrella brand. A consistent, holistic and, above all, highly visible identity will be provided by means distinctive colour branding (mint), the modernization of the Karl Gerstner-designed logo (by Gerstner himself!), the font combination and a clearly articulated design system that transforms routine university life into a daily brand experience.
The icon for the university was designed by local designer (and under-sung design and identity legend) Karl Gerstner, most likely in the 1970s. (I couldn’t find a year). Reflecting connections, a network, and with a science-y vibe the icon is quite appropriate for the university and easy on the eyes. Gerstner also designed the wordmark himself and later (or as part of) became the font Gerstner Original for Berthold in 1987. The font, particularly its uppercase letters, is wonky and odd and the way the wordmark was typeset against the logo was disproportionate and unflattering for both elements. NEW ID has kept Gerstner’s logo and even the font but switching to the full name of the university and typesetting it in sentence case, which highlights the still wonky but at least more intriguingly quirky letterforms of Gerstner Original.
Basically, this part of the logo review is as much about the effort of Karl Gerstner and NEW ID, as the elements remain the same. The resulting logo does feel more contemporary, simply by adding contrast to the thin icon through the bolder wordmark and the new color palette of mint and black.
The first image with the samples of the old look shows that even the Swiss can screw up the Swiss style; none of that stuff is commendable in any way. The new identity brings back some of that good, ol’ fashioned Swiss strictness and simplicity best represented by the brochure covers. That image is so great. The choice of mint as the primary color is unexpected but surprisingly effective and the use of Neue Swift as the main type family provides an effective contrast to both the icon and the let’s-call-it-a-sans Gerstner Original. Overall, this is a great evolution that breathes new life into a system that repurposes all existing elements, ensuring that no student starts an asinine petition to change things back to the way they were.