University of the Arts London identity

The University of the Arts London has just unveiled its new identity designed by Pentagram. CR talked to the studio’s Domenic Lippa and UAL’s director of communication Dee Searle about the project, and what it means for the university’s six famous art and design colleges

The University of the Arts London has just unveiled its new identity designed by Pentagram. CR talked to the studio’s Domenic Lippa and UAL’s director of communication Dee Searle about the project, and what it will mean for the university’s six famous art and design colleges…

UPDATE: Read CR editor Patrick Burgoyne’s opinion on the UAL identity here

Pentagram began working on the identity project in January, having been approached to pitch for the work in November last year.

The previous UAL identity, created by a team of students and developed by Lloyd Northover in 2004, was based on a constellation device. Each of the six UAL colleges was represented by an asterisk which showed its relation to the others within the capital. In communications material from Central Saint Martins, for example, the college name appeared in red under the UAL name, with its constituent ‘star’ highlighted in the same colour.


“UAL decided it need to refresh its strategic and visual identity, primarily because the previous one was done when the university was still young,” says Searle. “And it spoke of separations rather than the value-add you get from six of the world’s top art and design colleges coming together.” (Founded as the London Institute in 1986, the collective of five colleges was granted university status in 2004 and remaned as UAL, with Wimbledon College of Art joining in 2006.)

Lippa also observed that, within UAL, “there was a lack of respect for the identity, it wasn’t working for them,” he says. “They didn’t like what they were using.”

The new identity takes a much simpler typographic approach, rendering the university’s initials in lowercase Helvetica, with a colon acting as the bridge between the main university and its six colleges.


“As we were starting from a point of rejection of the old identity, people wanted something to use in a cleaner way, and I think were pleased we didn’t try to over-complicate it and try too hard,” says Lippa. “The temptation is to make something ‘too’ designed.”

(How the previous and new identities work on two examples of literature from different UAL colleges is shown here, above and below.)

As part of the research process, Lippa says the studio carried out interviews with UAL staff, and conducted a comparative study with the identities of several other universities. It was found that the UAL identity didn’t stand out when put alongside those of the other colleges. “If we tried to use it in co-branding, we disappeared as a smudge,” says Searle.

“So we needed to make it bold, robust and authoritative,” says Lippa. “‘The University of the Arts London’ is also a really long visual mouthful. But once we’d established that ‘ual’ was a good simplification for the identity, the colon after the letters became the linguistic link between the UAL and the colleges.”

For Searle, it’s important that the new identity not be seen as a straight-jacket but, she says, “rather as a unifier which lets the distinct characters of the colleges come through. It gives us something quite bold and striking but not dominating. It’s a very practical project and will benefit the work of the colleges. It improves our recognition, our ability to communicate and, so far, it seems to work.”

The studio apparently looked at colour options but settled on a monochromatic design so that the device can work on a range of internal and external materials. “At Pentagram we always approach it as ‘will it work as a one colour job?’,” Lippa explains. “It’s gone from a seven colour job, to a one colour and that also became a pragmatic by-product of the decision, that the university could save money.”

But in emphasising its own utilitarian character, doesn’t the identity run the risk of being too devoid of personality? Lippa says that it is the work produced within the six colleges that will provide the colour and flair in any communications.

“For me the identity should be a platform for the work of the students and tutors,” he says. “They’re the heroes, their work is promoted in the shows, and that’s how the reputation is built. Other colleges the identity tries too hard to be creative, it’s fighting with the student work. Some of the other routes [we took] had more personality in them, but I was conscious that this had to be something that all the colleges needed to embrace – it’s not a dictatorial design for all to use – the colleges will have their own designers working on it.”

Helvetica was chosen specifically because of its “neutrality,” Lippa says, but also because the typeface is robust enough to reproduce at smaller sizes. While stationery (above) can therefore be treated fairly conservatively, used at larger sizes the type can carry much more impact, as shown on these bags and badges, below.

“With communication products from the university as a whole we’re following the identity quite tightly,” says Searle, “but with the colleges, we’re allowing them to interpret it more loosely: a clear and consistent use of the logo as a minimum. Of course, they all have different personalities, it’s part of who they are. And the reason that someone might choose to study with us, or partner with us, is based on how we express ourselves.”

Pentagram is currently finishing the identity guidelines for the university and designing the main UAL guide for the next term, alongside graduation ceremony graphics.




UPDATE: Read CR editor Patrick Burgoyne’s opinion on the UAL identity here


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  • I realise people come of CR and moan a lot about other peoples hard work (of which I have been and still will be critical of) but this really is rubbish as an identity isn’t it?

    It fits with the increasingly bland, corporate style of ‘higher education’ that Universities are pursuing (the new CSM building being another piece of this puzzle, a cold, corporate building that looks and feels more like rip offTate/shopping mall/railway station with added locks on doors and security everywhere)

    Do we want art schools to be seen as ‘neutral’? Do we want their to be no flair? No danger? Is creativity best expressed in Helvetica? The justifications for the design smack of making something up to justify no ideas, yes of course the students/staff work is the key thing, but what does this say about our art schools?

    The whole of our creative culture is being destroyed by this corporate management style of doing things, UAL exemplifies this, what relationship does the Corporation called UAL have to the old art schools it replaces? Very little, if the Sex Pistols tried to play at CSM today they’d escorted off the premises, it seems Pentagram want to amplify this process with this design.

    The art schools of London deserve better, and I can’t believe an agency like Pentagram can come up with something so dull and uninspiring.

  • Neutral and pragmatic. Dull and boring. Corporate and stifling. Shine student work, shine.

  • ——–


  • What a boring, nothing identity. I know it’s just an umbrella identity but this could have been much more dynamic and exciting. A framework which could be applied to each of the individual college identities. The “ual:” concept could actually work if the lock-up to the college used their identity rather than just generic type. A real disappointment which hardly reflects the creative nature of UAL.

  • I think it was a good idea to let the branding take something of a backseat and allow the work produced by the colleges themselves to shine. This seems particularly important considering there are 6 institutions to unite.
    I do however like the thinking behind the original branding, if not the execution.

  • Completely agree with Noel Douglas’ comments also.

  • Alun

    Ah, the colon is a bridge. Inspired.

  • G

    Ooh how radical and unexpected! (sarcasm).

  • “…the reason that someone might choose to study with us, or partner with us, is based on how we express ourselves.”

    I’m not sure anyone with a creative frame of mind would study or partner with UAL, if they were basing their decision on this identity. Just scrolling down this page shows a submissive and lifeless brand. I agree that making it the platform for the students’ work to shine on should be it’s function, but there should be a way of achieving that with more flare than this.

  • bare

    By appropriating part of their logo, will ‘desigual’ stores now sell degrees in design at ual?

  • Matt

    I am loathe to criticise this as firstly, Pentagram usually know what they’re doing, and secondly, part of me likes the work from an aesthetic point of view and would like to see how it might develop. But as a branding project, I don’t know. At the moment It just looks like a collection of contemporary design examples. A repeat pattern here, an overprinted bit of type there and the inevitable pin badge and tote bag – more of a blog post on septemberindustry than a memorable piece of branding.

    Being positive, it’s much more on target with its audience than the previous one visually, and I think the idea of letting the separate colleges shine underneath the marque is a good one. In fact once this sort of collateral is rolled out it could look great with the marque taking a backseat against stunning artwork.

    Once you look past the Helvetica and embrace the bigger pocture I think this could be great.

  • Cleverly, the designers have secreted within the logo itself, an emoticon describing the rush of emotions you experience when looking at it …


  • As a student at LCC,

    I really don’t understand the justification of “letting the student’s work shine through” when in the examples shown, the logo is used with promo material for talks and events put on by the respective colleges. From experience (may not always be the case, for all events) student’s have no say in the design of materials for these events, heck we have no say in how our current degree show is being presented! So this explanation has a certain stench to me.

    I think the motives here are telling by the fact that the old identity was designed in conjunction with students and the new one was made using interviews from staff. Why does UAL keep it’s students so far away from these things? Are they ashamed of the work we produce?

  • Mike

    Pentagram have created something that accurately reflects the ethos and image of UAL.

    It happens to be that UAL is less an academic and creative institution that listens to its students, but more a business that cuts jobs to increase its profits (which made almost 1/2 million last year)

  • Are you being serious??
    I bet if you brief any UAL will do better

    Good I am not studying there because I would not be happy about this change.. With such a reputation they can show themselves to the world with helvetica sticked on a corner. I hope Pentagram know what they are doing because it does not seem quite right to me this time

  • Georgina

    UAL -Uncreative Arts London

  • As a design student of UAL on the cusp of graduating, I do actually have to agree with Noel Douglas above. After four years I certainly feel like UAL is ‘my’ university and have a great deal of affection for the institution, particularly my college, and I feel a tremendous sense of ownership. I’ll agree with Domenic Lippa that across the university there’s been a dissatisfaction with the previous identity. Yet this solution is really severely lacking for every reason that’s been noted above – it’s stale, bland, generic, and difficult to associate with. It stands for very little indeed, and its passivity does a disservice to the outspoken work produced in each of the colleges; as an identity it’s awfully ignorant of what the university is and what it has stood for in years past. Since it’s been unveiled I haven’t heard a single positive word about it amongst students or faculty, only criticism or, at best, a sigh of relief that ‘I suppose it could have been worse’.

  • outright boring. too corporate and bland for an art school. and we are talking london here!

  • David Lee

    …as an ex Camberwell student (back when it was part of the London Institute) I’m hopelessly disappointed with it. I agree it’s more functional and robust, but it just lacks any character and I hate the fact there is a larger negative space to the right of the colon separator. Some major rules of typesetting have also been ignored, and not for the good of the identity. By the time you get…

    of the arts
    london college
    of communication”

    …on 5 lines, it looks like just single words place in a box – there’s no flow and it doesn’t read well, not to mention london being repeated right above one another.

    A very poor, unimaginative attempt, which no doubt cost somebody a lot of money.

  • ual:-(

    Agree with noel. we could have a lengthy discussion about the contemporary relevance of an austere late/international modernist visual style coupled with modern brand-speak, but the real point is the question about why our art colleges feel the need to be so pliant to the demands of capital.

  • Pentagram do sometimes produce great work, but this isn’t an example of this.

    The whole scheme lacks any real attempt to capture the spirit of creativity that lies at the heart of the colleges. A monochromatic approach doesn’t exactly help of course because it strips out any chance for highlighting this. The colour use in the previous scheme at least allowed a highlighting of the difference between the colleges but now we have six very uninspiring logos, which all, broadly speaking, look the same.

    It might as well be an advert for First Direct – Corporate. Dull. Boring, It could

    The typography is pretty sloppy. Aside of the fact that Helvetica is a bit of a stylistic cop-out, the fact that the sub brands are set up so that text breaks out of the overall combined X height of the three letter/colon group is amateurish. If you really wanted to go for a plain and simple layout, putting the additional text into two lines, left justified gives a much more elegant appearance.

    Domenic Lippa said “It’s gone from a seven colour job, to a one colour and that also became a pragmatic by-product of the decision, that the university could save money.”

    Here’s a free suggestion for Dee Searle that might save more money: next time, rather than employing an external agency, why not mine some of the talent that you already have in house (staff and students) to come up with something? If you’re a student this would be a great project to have in your portfolio, plus it’d be a lot cheaper for the college!

    Corporate clients queue up to use firms that have impressive offices, complicated coffee machines and a ‘designer’ sofa in the reception (missing the point that they’re playing for all this luxury). Unfortunately the actually work that’s delivered to them turns out to be pretty poor. At this stage however no one breaks rank and says, “this is crap” because if you did then it’s tantamount to admitting that you were suckered. The client will talk about how ‘innovative’ and ‘special’ and ‘creative’ the work is (read: I don’t understand any of it, but it must be good, because I paid a big pile of money for it), the agency builds their ‘reputation’ and so it continues.

    Scores of clients, from the Post Office (remember Consignia?) to the London Olympics (who have a superbly crap logo, courtesy of Wolff Olins), time and time and time again, completely fail to grasp that just using an expensive agency doesn’t give any guarantee at all that you’re getting better work. You simply get a much bigger bill – nothing more, nothing less.

  • What are badges??

  • Phil

    The original logo was excellent – don’t get wrapped up in a “who am i?” Zoolander motion, your a hot spot in the world, your the UAL not some cold looking corporate rebrand. Well if it goes i WILL steal your super colourful stars and use them elsewhere! The black and white (well 85% black pffft) looks dead. Dobbers

  • garvey harris

    I don’t like the ‘negatives’ given in the explanation as a reason for justification of the new identity. To be honest I am worried that to gain the contract the studio lost it’s sense of direction up the bum of those who would pay for the work to be done.

    I think what they have produced stylistically is retro contemporal it has value, but has nothing to do with the university’s image unless this is the trend of diversification branding, hence change for change sake and implies that the university has no identity because it is in a state of schizophrenic flux which is the influence of poorly guided management who want to make a mark in their attempt to justify their post.

    I personally think the strategy to outsource was this disease of management following the trend of outsourcing everything including the ‘kitchen sink’, they were naive and if I am honest, stupid. They should be fired for not believing in the capabilities of the universities educational system and should have done as previous management has done; given it as a student project so that students at all levels, within the university and other universities could have had a go at meeting the brief, they should have in a sense used crowdsourcing and got people involved from their own back yard

  • Wow, talk about open fire on one of the UK’s leading design agencies. I personally don’t get this, I’ve searched it for an idea and I just can’t find it.
    What happened to the hundreds of mentions in “Smile of the Mind”. For me there is no “smile” or “mind”… It’s pretty empty.

    Sorry, I love the work Pentagram produce but this does not reflect the agency or the university. I’m a student and if I brought this to an interview I would be slated.

  • The original (as in the one just ousted) logo was anything but brilliant. It was a pig to use, being a sprawling, loose-knit mess that either looked too small to make out properly or took far too much space wherever it was used. This really is a much more usable identity. And I say this with years of experience dealing with the previous one, not to mention years of design practice and teaching.

    However, I take issue with the claim by Lippa from Pentagram that the old colour graphic was expensive to use. There have always been variants to use in different production scenarios, including monochrome. The identity guidelines even talked about this option. And on what planet does seven colours absolutely require seven inks to reproduce? I’m certain Lippa has heard of ‘four colour reproduction’ so I have to put that statement down to spin and post-choice justification. That is the sort of statement that would, or at least should, be called out if made in a peer presentation by students. It is a shame to see it being made at this level.

  • Adam

    I do hate negative commentary but I wonder if any other agency submitting this work to CR would have it featured. Not every piece of work from any agency will be stellar but genuinely CR perhaps a little more from you in terms of curation. I do not detract from Mr Lippa who has a wonderful body of work but this wouldn’t feature.

    Extremely dull

  • Mark Sinclair

    @Adam The redesign of the identity of one of the world’s largest (and most well known) art and design educational institutions is the story here. You’d rather we ignored that?

  • Adam

    Hi Mark are we talking about the scale of the job, the scale of the body that it was created for or the quality of the creativity and thinking? Perhaps I had the wrong end of the stick but I thought the point was to create a platform for displaying and sharing work of distinction.

    I don’t think the scale and renown of the institution is of enough interest on its own.

  • chris collicott

    As an identity, I’m a little disappointed that the university seems to have gone with a tried and tested style and not really gone out on a limb to come up with something new, exciting and inspirational. Let’s face it, it’s the safe option.

    Having said that, a lot the work that goes on at UAL is absolutely fantastic so I’m looking forward to seeing how much ‘letting the work do the speaking’ will actually happen compared to the previous identity.

    More amazing students’ work please, less Helvetica!

  • Yoni

    [comment deleted by moderator. As we have stressed repeatedly on this site, we would prefer comments that contribute to the discussion in some way, positive or negative]

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Adam

    This is not a museum, it is a website that seeks to report on the issues and work that we think our readers will want to know about and discuss. Sometimes our choices will be motivated by aesthetics, sometimes by the ‘newsworthiness’ of the project, sometimes by both. As you can see by the number of comments this project has already received (and I can see from the traffic it is attracting), this project is of considerable interest to our audience.

  • Mark Sinclair

    @Adam I think both those issues of scale come into it, but it’s also that this work is for an institution which is a prominent shaper of the creative culture of the UK, and beyond. So while the work affects current students (primarily at those six London colleges, admittedly), it will also be seen by prospective students, and is something the wider design community probably has an opinion about. Whether they like it or not is of course another matter.

  • Rob Mowbray

    To draw a topical footballing analogy, Helvetica is surely the ‘long ball’ of typography?
    A safety first solution which ‘plays the percentages’. Reassuringly familiar in a postmodernist ‘death of the idea’ age, where institutions of education feel compelled to operate as multinational corporations.


  • Adam

    Mark and Patrick thank for the response, I will make this my final reply, merely because I will need to do some work in these times of austerity. I do not look at Creative Review as a museum but at the same time you do exact a degree of curatorial control over what you choose to feature, this is not simply a news feed per se. The scale of an organization is a business matter, there are many businesses and institutions with greater reach, importance and resonance, they are not featured here because this work is being featured within the context of its identity redesign.

    You have elected to feature the work with the designers explanation and justification completely unchallenged, this is fine if the work is of merit but in this instance the work is very questionable, it is indistinct, characterless and is clearly aping a Swiss Modernism but adding nothing to it.

    I am not the primary audience for this work and would love to know does it resonate with that audience internal and external.

    I will leave my humble and no doubt incoherent argument there, but I see CR as a showcase for work of distinction and you do a good job in doing that, but I think you devalue that to a degree when you occasionally choose to show work of a far lower calibre.


  • James

    As a recent graduate of UAL I’m thrilled to see that my fees over the past three years have been spent on this identity. Rather that than additional contact hours with tutors, increased facilities and the staffing of a 24hr library.

    Money well spent. (I’m sure all the staff that have been made redundant over the last 12 months will agree with me)

  • I think as long as they stick to their word and let students work DOMINATE promotional material it will be nice. But obviously by the badges and the bags I can see that won’t happen.

    If they do use students work for various promotional material it would give them a great confidence boost and a starting point for an effective portfolio. And also an amazing variety of promotional material that will show the diverse nature of the students at the school.

    UAL Alumni (MA Illustration)

  • What a shame, Always liked the old one.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Adam

    What this site is not very good at at the moment is distinguishing between what is meant as ‘news’ and what is ‘comment’. If you have been following Leveson you will know that keeping the two separate has become an issue. You seem to imply that it is OK to run an unquestioning piece on work that you deem ‘good’ but not on work you think is ‘bad’: I would argue that the role of a news story is to report fairly the facts and the background and not to pass judgement. What works well on here is when we do an initial ‘news’ piece then follow it up with a ‘review’ or ‘opinion’ as we did with the Olympic posters and Design Museum Shop recently. For a future version of this site, we will be looking at ways we can better mark out the difference between the news and comment rather than putting everything into the same pot.

    Anyway, back to the discussion…

  • Adam

    Patrick no running a piece that I deem subjectively unquestioned is not exactly what I meant, I was attempting to be succinct, apologies for lacking clarity in my argument. I would suggest without being facetious or insulting that repeating verbatim what is said by the designer is not reporting but recording, I would think that a degree of questioning on any given piece would elevate understanding, this feels and I caveat that strongly with only in my own opinion, like a PR piece for pentagram.

    To move the conversation along before I get fired for time wasting, what does the audience for this communication make of it, are they energized, emboldened, enlivened if so everything I say is moot.

    But I would stand by my rather trite and seemingly unthinking comment that this work on first glance is decidedly dull and dare I say it derivative.


  • clio

    For a university largely famous for Fine Art I don’t think this suits UAL, but for the Graphics and design courses it’s quite appropriate. I think using B&W is a mistake, an art uni needs some colour! However, it is neat and very recognizable, which is good.

  • It works, it divides opinion, it has attitude. Just a shame they couldn’t spring for a more unique sans-serif.

  • It just looks like a generic piece of design work from the 90’s. Letting the logo ‘take a backseat’ might be nice idea but when it’s used to build associates with courses and people it needs to engage people on an emotional and visual level, something which it is failing to do massively. One look at it and you feel uninspired and emotionless as it references a form of design than has become standardised.

  • Matt

    As a current student, I think quite frankly that UAL and Pentagram are taking the piss. This new identity is appalling in it’s entirety and I don’t think I’m over-reacting. Compared to this, the existing identity was perfect in almost every way, giving each college it’s very own identity, whilst retaining an overall brand for the whole university.

    Even as a LCC design student, with more interest in this type of minimal, typographic design than most people, I can’t understand why UAL would want to adopt something so quickly conceived and unimaginative. So what must the art students at some of our other colleges think? How does Helvetica speak for an institution with so much history and such a colourful present? There is no creativity what so ever.

    I particularly like the recently updated UAL homepage banner “Start Your Future Today”, which makes gives us the appearance of any further education college in the UK. Something that would be suitable for the Open University, but not University of the Arts London.

    This work is just a fail in every possible way, as far as I’m concerned. For starters, no one has abbreviated the university’s name as UAL until now, not within any official branding anyway. It looks worse than “University of the Arts London”, which is probably why they avoided abbreviating in the existing, better identity.

    I could rant about this more to be honest, as I’m ashamed that my university would ever consider adopting something like this, let alone go ahead with it without consulting students or anyone that actually speaks for UAL, in anyway slightly more significant than Pentagram ever could.

    Never would I have guessed, when I applied to UAL/LCC last year, that they would just let someone come out of no where and give us a new identity that completely misses the point of UAL, destroying a lot of reputation/history in the process.

    UAL is bigger than this identity, and I hope someone, with higher authority in decision making than a student, very soon realises this, before they go around wasting even more of my tuition fees on replacing the current signage/literature.

  • matt

    Very 2002….

  • Tracey

    Why didn’t they get the students to come up with a new logo, rather than spending a fortune on an agency. I’m sure they would have come up with something a lot more inspiring?

  • Struggling to find anything I like in this poor excuse for an identity

  • Jean Coulson

    Bland and uninspiring. Helvetica, come on. Talk about playing it safe! This is hardly a reflection on the most creative colleges in the world. I cannot believe a modern font was not chosen when there are so many out there. This is something a first year design student would have come up with. Yes it’s a classic, but very lazy.

    Ex Camberwell Student

  • Colin Gifford

    Two of Domenic Lippa’s comments ring true:

    “We didn’t try too hard,” and “The temptation is to make something ‘too’ designed.”

    Very little thought and no craft at all. Not even a bespoke drawing of the logotype. Just straight off the Mac Helvetica. Does that reflect one of our most distinctive and unique Art Schools?

    I agree that the students work should reflect the output of the University as this will keep the identity fresh and contemporary, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of a unique identity. Just because they are Pentagram they shouldn’t get away with this lazy approach.

  • @B Coleman

    Love it.

  • Anis

    Seems like he Phostet app came in very handy.

  • Ma Kohleg Jez Faarhted

    I think Adam has made an interesting point albeit an entirely different debate.

  • Jack Hassall

    For me personally, as a former Student of UAL (Chelsea) I dont think this is a fair representation of the Brand UAL. This new design would be suitable for one or two of the colleges (Chelsea + LCC) However Each College has such a varied and unique approach to visual communication, then i think the new Rebrand needed some more individuality to show this. Very annoying for me!

  • Ma Kohleg Jez Faarhted

    I think Adam has made an interesting point albeit an entirely different debate.

  • graham mcissac

    It looks like I’m outnumbered here, but the strategy of underplaying the importance of brand seems to me be a sound direction for design in general. We live in an era where ‘good’ design and branding is so ubiquitous it becomes difficult to tell the difference between your local dry-cleaner and a multinational corporate.

    In answer to the howls that it does not suit a creative organisation, presumably a neutral symbol will allow the creative to shine, self-evident in the poster designs.

  • It just looks like a generic piece of design work from the 90’s. Letting the logo ‘take a backseat’ might be nice idea but when it’s used to build associates with courses and people it needs to engage people on an emotional and visual level, something which it is failing to do massively. One look at it and you feel uninspired and emotionless as it references a form of design than has become standardised.

  • Adam

    Graham, I can understand the usage of shall we say a neutral identity in the context of a gallery, but this is an educational institution with you would hope a distinct, shape, attitude and character. Secondly I would offer the opinion that the direct usage and appropriation of an historical, renowned and distinct historical design style cannot by its nature be neutral, in trying to say nothing, it is saying quite a lot.

  • Josh

    as a graduate from the ual (st martins), I think it has potential (it’s no way near as bad as many are saying). It’s a shame they didn’t spend more care and attention on the logotype/typography, it does look ‘typed out’.
    But I like the sentiment that the student work should shine through – they just don’t show any examples of this on the blog.

    I think a build could be to use the suffix ‘ual’ as part of the tone of voice, eg: ‘visUAL’ ‘unusUAL’ ‘conceptUAL’ etc. to stress all the colleges have to offer. Let the typography be the voice of the academic body and the imagery used, the voice of the student body.

  • @ Nathan David Smith,

    Cheers – I couldn’t resist…

    Wish I could have embedded it in the post

  • Ramon Marin

    This is probably the worst, most uninspiring, lazy, tasteless piece of work I’ve seen done by a leading agency for a long long time.

  • At first glance this looks incredibly dull – more appropriate to the University of Accountancy London, but, at second glance, there is something to be said of having a more neutral identity to allow the student work the space and room to breathe. The idea is all well and good, but the execution is failing it, I’m afraid. If the execution is to be true to the idea I feel the logo should be smaller on most of the pieces shown – it’s too dominant for its intended purpose. As for the dour grey director, it’s straight out the University of Accountants – overwhelmingly dull and lifeless. The guide and courses pieces are no better – pink or purple on its own does not a creative design make.

    I agree with some of the comments here regarding the typography. I love Helvetica and its ubiquity makes it the perfect neutral face which works here. Again though, the execution isn’t quite right – the three lines of text need tighter leading to tie them together.

    The colon, however, is an affectation which doesn’t work on any level. As for it being a bridge between ual and the colleges, I’ve been in this game long enough to spot post-rationalisation when I see it! All it is in its current form is a ‘bridge’ between the acronym and the full name, with individual college names demoted to unsuccessful secondary additions. Surely, to make the bridge work, the individual college logos would simply carry the acronym, colon and college name, omitting ‘university of the arts london’ altogether.

    Like the 2012 logo, this is unfinished.

  • Ed

    How can an identity project have absolutely no identity?

    The utter lack of character in the logo and scheme as a whole communicates exactly nothing about the ethos of UAL. Even adopting a bespoke or unusual typeface would’ve saved this if they wanted to go understated.

    Below are some examples of University branding that, while not all to my taste, at least have some bloody personality:

    Norwich University by Hat-Trick:
    Bournemouth University by Radley Yeldar:
    Ravensbourne by Johnson Banks:

  • Mike

    Dare I say it. I prefer the old version. Nothing new or inspiring here. Such a shame.

  • Po

    Nice idea to re-branding the UAL. However, in terms of keeping traditional image and UAL’s atmosphere, I reckon this new identity is not powerful enough to convince me to applause for it. There are more rooms to be refined and developed. Not for me.

    This opinion is from a past student from CSMBAGD.^^

  • Flora Mitjavile

    Oh please, this is SOOOOOO BORING.

  • Hmm. I think that Helvetica and this style of identity does have a place, but I’m not sure that it works for the art school. Sure, it may position the students’ work at the forefront of everyone’s line of view, but for me, it doesn’t communicate the idea of a creative environment. The idea is nice and there’s a timeless element to it, and it should age well, but I feel the old identity suggests a creative environment more successfully.

  • Seriously, there is not nearly enough Art Director nudity in this article to warrant this amount of whinging!

  • The Original A

    Does anyone remember the one before the stars with all the capslock. It was a bit dated but is the best of all 3 in my opinion. Shame on UAL for giving Pentagram such a dull brief and accepting this bland piece and shame on Pentagram for being happy to show this to the client. Bloody terrible, what do I care anyway I graduate from UAL this year.

  • The Original A

    …noel douglas voiced exactly what I would have liked to say perfectly

  • designtutorlondon

    This is a Ford Transit or a house brick of a brand isn’t it? Extremely functional and useful but not something you would, or maybe should, notice? In application it’ll be there if you need to see it and I really hope the promise of putting the work of the students and staff first is carried forward.

    Its blandness, like many of UAL recent decisions should be of no surprise – check out the UAL governors who would probably be the people who gave the final go ahead:

    Apart from the couple of people with actual arts/design backgrounds it’s clear to see how any notions of more experimental approaches would be ignored or not appreciated.

    It could be fun if we use UAL’s own assessment criteria (available here: devised to assess all UAL students work to grade this brand (based on the examples shown on the CR Blog post).

    As a design tutor of over 10 years experience these are the level criteria indicators I would grade this work as:

    Research: Adequate information has been gathered and documented from readily available sources applying standard techniques. Grade: D

    Analysis: Key elements within relevant information are identified, but may lack accurate interpretation Grade: D

    Subject Knowledge: Evidence of understanding key aspects of the subject context, in current debates and/or historical background. References to some relevant movements/ people. Grade: D

    Experimentation: Unable to identify problems; does not understand the purpose of risk taking or exploration of alternatives. Grade E

    Technical Competence: Skills are adequate to communicate ideas; accepted conventions and procedures are usually applied. Grade D

    Communication & Presentation: Conventions and standards are applied; structure is clear; information selection and organisation shows awareness of audience requirements and preferences. Grade: D

    Personal & Professional Development: Sporadic evidence of reflection and planning not followed through consistently. Incomplete awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses. Grade: E

    Collaborative and/or Independent Professional Working: Awareness of main standards required of relevant profession. Able work both collaboratively and independently. Grade: D

    Overall: D-

    This equates to a 3rd class BA Honours grade. At least UAL students have an at hand example of work to aspire beyond.

  • Steve

    Some of this commentary is very unfair. None of us know exactly what went on in the briefings and the resultant iterations. I can imagine ual being a difficult client…opionated and (obviously) knowing just a little too much about design to be annoyingly interfering. Never mind the politics of steering work through a number of institutions.

    I understand that some find the identity bland, but I also suspect that once it is bedded down and playing out on collateral (which by the way I think will not be as easy as just ‘letting the student work shine’) the one thing that the commentators here haven’t talked about will begin to become clear – that it is memorable. Some design fun could be had with the colon, and as one of the commentators here suggested, with wordplay – such as ‘visUAL’. And just because the fun doesn’t happen in the master identity itself, doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had at all.

    And what’s wrong with Helvetica in any case? Its a timeless classic. To accuse Pentagram, of all agencies, of not redrawing it or choosing something else is rich indeed. Rather Helvetica than, say, a current fad for something like Museo Sans. For me its use in this identity says something about an understanding of the principles and history of design. In the context of ual it could be interpreted as we’re going to teach you the rules and then if you’re a student who is any good you’re going to work out how to break them.

  • I think it’s very very smart: the simplification works for me.

  • Mike

    I wish people would actually research what UAL actually stands for, then look at the identity and then realise that Pentagram have done all they can to represent the brand of UAL. UAL has clearly become a larger corporate umbrella name that is sapping away the identities of the college themselves.

    All I knew while I was at Camberwell is that while my tutors hours were being cut down, and students having to pay extra to use facilities like screen-printing and the photocopier, UAL were building CSM a new college or cutting jobs at LCC, or cutting prestigious courses like Ceramics at Camberwell that has been part of the college for decades. And now spending no doubt hundreds on an external company to design this identity, when either students or even the tutors could have created something equally good, if not better.

  • MM

    As a lecturer at CSM I’m happy with it.

  • Gavin

    I’d have liked to have seen this job tendered to the most rated students of Graphic Design at one of the UAL colleges – not as a crowd sourcing competition or a committee, but as a straight up corporate job. Who ever came up with the best concept should have been commissioned. Going to someone like Pentagram is just adding to the issue of students not getting a chance at corporate level. Also, the college would have had the perfect selling tool for it’s courses. Communicating belief in their own students work is far better than any brochure imo.

  • Very disappointed indeed.

    Some very relevant reading on the homogenisation of educational institutions:

    “There is a predictable disconnection from the institution’s culture and traditions…a missed opportunity to relate directly to the faculty’s history. Even seemingly marketable obvious achievements are forsaken in favour of a visual pose that could come from anywhere and stand for anything. Likewise, there is no real attempt to engage with the substance of the university’s contemporary culture – no engagement with the cohort, or its social context. What a wasted resource.

    Thus it came to pass, a unique institution is homogenised, trivialised and ultimately weakened.”

  • SR

    Didn’t Moving Brands also work on the identity for UAL? I wonder how much combined both Pentagram and Moving Brands cost the university?

  • SP

    I like this identity, it’s only there as a framework for the work of the students and the brief was to make something easier to use across the corporation. It’s similar to (but not as good as) the rebrand of OCAD last year

    Although that work does seem slightly further ahead than ual; maybe it’s going t’be one of those things we don’t see the best of until we see it in tandem with the work of the students.

    I think if you brand an institution like this, with something quite anonymous, you challenge the students to rebel against it and prove it wrong: and then you get the best out of them. Put a student in an overly-stylised institution and you might end up influencing their own creativity/work into something that looks creative, but actually has no substance. I’m not recommending designers work in hipster laboratories but I just think the rebrand answers the brief well. If it was any other sans serif typeface it probably wouldn’t get nearly as much flak as it is.

  • [comment deleted by moderator]

    What a total waste of money, given that the university is stuffed full of creative art and design students!

    You could have put the project out to the students (and got it done much cheaper). It would have given the students some good experience in working on a real life corporate identity project, and the university would have ended up with a better finished item than the dull, lack lustre scheme that Pentagram came up with.

  • Ed Wright

    Love it! Let the colleges speak for themselves.

    However, I don’t know what’s so wrong with using caps for names of things. Y’know, like, University, or Wimbledon, etc.

  • abc

    FAO Michael Preston

    maybe you could get a student to develop as it is shockingly in need of a MAJOR overhaul. The benefits is that it would be cheap, give students good experiance and you will end up with a better finished item than the dull, lack lustre scheme that creative19 came up with

    NB i am not anyway affiliated with Pentagram, just someone that is confused by someone (Michael Preston) repeatedly posting on a comments board as a voice of knowledge and expertise, criticizing when in fact his own website is shockingly bad…therefore will he practice what he preaches about and give students (me) a chance? just curious…

  • FAO: abc

    I’m not a web designer, I’m a print designer with 30 years experience. Generally, I only only comment on print design, typographic design and typography on here because as I will freely admit that I know nothing substantial about HTML, XML or web programming.

    As you’ll know from having visited the site, right at the top it says, “Our website is currently being designed and worked on, hence why you’re seeing this landing page.”

    A web designer is working on for me.

  • Renata

    Never imagined such a coward approach from Pentagram. Quite disapointing, really.

  • Oliver

    As a recent UAL graduate I can honestly say if they had set it as a live brief within the university umbrella itself and offered a fraction of what they paid out to Pentagram as a ‘Prize fund’, not only would they have received numerous ideas, the final outcome may well have been more intuitive.

    If they then wanted to waste the rest of the money (which UAL seem quite happy to do so) they could have asked Pentagram to polish the finer details or given the selected student a plcement / what ever. Hitting two birds with one stone.

    Also while we’re on the subject of UAL, get rid of Morag, she’s terrible and so have the graphics been for the LCC grad shows for the past couple of years. (Including my year).

  • Matt
  • Abu Salh

    Wow! This identity has created such an incredible stir and uproar. Personally, Pentagram has done a brilliant job on the UAL logotype. Im not sure if folks who are endlessly deliberating with barrage of comments have noticed that something rather clever is at play with the positioning of the colon between the acronym ‘UAL’ and the name respectively. What appears to me (whether accidently or serendipitously) if you were to guide your eyes around the negative space of the colon you will notice the latin uppercase ‘A’ emerging. Therefore emphasis of that ‘A’ is to denote the ‘Arts’ :)
    Abu Salh

  • Ed

    @ Abu

    Could be an H or a B too. The logo doesn’t even work when you read too much into it.

  • Sonja Frick

    My beloved creative, fun, anarchic CSM and other art schools being turned into an INSTITUTION. Where once creativity, innovation and experimentation was key, institutionalised, bureaucratic thinking of management has taken over. Considering this it may be a very good and honest reflection of what art schools have become. But how sad!

    Should an identity not appeal to it’s ‘customers’?
    I doubt many highly creative young people will be attracted by it. But then it is no longer about the students but business instead.

    It’s a step back into history and the 21st century deserves and needs a different approach.

    SHAME ON YOU UAL Committee!

  • Luis

    I see it and think AOL.

  • Maziar Raein

    A number of ex-Central Saint Martins Graphic Design staff and students have been considering putting a letter of protest forward to the Board of Directors of the UAL.
    There are two reasons for this. Firstly to censure Sir John Tusa’s comments regarding the previous identity from design week, 28th April 2011, where he states that the previous identity is “rubbish, as it was designed by committee”.

    Obviously ignorant of the history of the last identity (which followed a disastrous attempt by Trrickett & Webb). Two second year students at CSM BA Graphic Design, Zamir Antonio and Antoine Choussat won the pitch for the identity. They sketched some very good ideas but the UAL Marketing Department, not trusting its own students or staff, whipped the idea away at its initial stages and handed it over to the rather drab Lloyd Northover who managed to implement every awkward element we see, into the current implementation.

    However for Tusa to describe his own student’s work in public as rubbish is neither good form or professional, and he should apologise for it.

    Secondly, there has enough been said about the current Pentagram design that I need not add our voice to it. It is not that Helvetica has been used. It is a fine font when used in an appropriate way. Rather it is the indolence of the designer to choose a default font and describe it as neutral, the drabness of vision the identity represents, the laziness of the design and the ignorance of the client (at management level) that is astounding.

    We see here one of the nails, that has been driven into the coffin of London art schools by UAL, destroying their place at the forefront of the creative industries.

  • graham mcissac

    @Maziar Raein “ex-Central Saint Martins Graphic Design staff and students have been considering putting a letter of protest”

    I knew UAL staff and students take themselves ‘seriously’ but protesting over a logo really shows design education has lost it’s way.

    Considering the current political climate, why not try protesting about something that really matters and then you may appreciate the CONTENT in the words not their transient and trivial appearance…

  • Genuinely thought their now old logo was unique and made them stand out. This new identity is dull and has taken away any elements of creativity the old logo had. Disappointing, but ofcourse time will tell.

  • Maziar Raein

    “you may appreciate the CONTENT in the words not their transient and trivial appearance…”

    Well it’s not really my job to educate the readers of this blog. But I will repeat so that you may develop an understanding. It is about ex-student’s work being rubbished in public by someone who represents the UAL at Executive level, has no professional qualifications in the area of art & design, and it indicates what has been happening at UAL for a long time.

    As to “transient and trivial appearance…” well that speaks for itself.

    Good luck!

  • Daniel Harding

    The poor judgement demonstrated by the management of UAL in the acceptance of this design as suitable for an institution that prides — and promotes — itself on the creative exploration of the visual arts is a serious concern and raises questions about the current management’s ability to successfully govern such an educational institution.

  • ERC

    I’m a marketer working at UAL and had nothing to do with the design/planning for this new logo so hopefully my opinion is objective. My first impression when I saw it was that it lacked creativity and didn’t reflect any of the individual college personalities etc. Having been using it for a month or so now I can safely say that it’s a vast improvement on the previous version and is a lot more ‘commercially’ useful. We’re now using the imagery (of student work or students at work) as the lead in all of our communications which I hope is more powerful than any logo could be. The colleges’ identities are so strong and diverse that no logo or symbol could ever accurately reflect this…and actually something much ‘simpler’ is a lot more effective. I think it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and suggest that a student should have designed this. Perhaps a more helpful suggestion would be that it would have been great if a student alongside an agency who are familiar with the commercial requirements of a logo should have designed it. I wonder how many UAL graduates are already working at Pentagram?

  • AHR

    As a teacher…I thank all of the previous contributors for providing me with enough material to feed my small but select band of Graphic Design students for weeks to come. In soap opera style we have the heroes, the villains the patriarchs all hurling their opinions into the frame. The celebrity in the mix, performed by Pentagram, has left tongues wagging and tempers frayed. Like Elton John at the Jubilee Concert, has Pentagram disappointed fans and failed to touch a new audience.? Have they simply failed to break through or are there no new boundaries to break ? Does their sane, business like (and beautifully crafted ) solution just reflect how we are all feeling ; tired, frightened, disillusioned, longing for safety? Or is it acknowledgement to the prohibited way our art schools now have to be run, with only the balance sheet in view.
    If only the institution I worked for had the foresight to use a consultancy with the stature of Pentagram I would not have to endure, on a daily basis, living with an identity of such horror, banality and poor production values and one that patronises the audience it screams and stamps its foot to attract.

  • Pentagram makes a good designer Logo for The University of the Arts London. It is best new identity. I like it’s design.

  • Future LCC Student

    They only just changed the lgo on the website. Ihad no idea about any changes so I must have refreshed the page 20 times thinking: “This can’t be right. Where’s the logo gone?”

    What an utter piece of crap it is.

    They spent £48,000 on THIS?! Are you people SICK? This isn’t worth 48 pence! I would be ashamed to offer something like this for free!

    Bloody shameful. What a rip-off.

  • michele

    “Having been using it for a month or so now I can safely say that it’s … a lot more ‘commercially’ useful.”

    says it all, doesn’t it?

    Wimbledon BA student

  • Student at UAL

    I think the real problem with the identity, all aesthetics aside, is that I does not work well in digital. The channel through which so much is communicated. On twitter, for some institutions it becomes illegible if used correctly. On facebook it looks plain dull. It may, or may not work well for print as has been argued by some, but we no longer live in an era where print is the dominant channel. This is my book is the one massive failure that UAL and Pentagram have to answer for. Did they forget digital?