Academic design from Fivethousand Fingers

Montreal creative studio Fivethousand Fingers has designed a new identity for the Black Visual Archive, a collection of critical writing on black visual culture.

Montreal creative studio Fivethousand Fingers has designed a new identity for the Black Visual Archive, a collection of critical writing on black visual culture.

Based in Chicago, BVA publishes regular articles contextualising the work of contemporary African American artists. Fivethousand Fingers designed a new website, word marque and typographic logo for the archive and has applied the identity to business cards, bookmarks and tote bags.

The focus on typography is designed to reflect the archive’s youthful critical perspective on contemporary culture in the form of the written word, says Lexane Rousseau, who co-founded Fivethousand Fingers with Eli Horn in 2011.

“[It was] inspired in part by classic literary publishing, which has a history of publishing long-form writing with inherent sophistication and readability, and in part by current trends in academic graphic design, which tend towards a playful subversion of the classical,” she adds.

Horn and Rousseau designed a boxed-in logo for BVA and a marque featuring its initials. Both designs use sans typeface Agenda Bold and appear in blue, yellow and black.

“The logos strike a balance between structure and play, alluding to the formal organisation of the archive in the boxed-in grid of the full logo, and then challenging these qualities in the BVA marque by removing the structure to instil a sense of the informal,” says Rousseau.

“It’s intended to give the feeling of a tangible object which should be inspected under all angles, reflective of the three dimensional thinking associated with linking theories and artists across time,” she adds.

The pattern used on bookmarks and business cards is inspired by composition book covers, says Rousseau, and the serif text (Exljbris’ Calluna) provides an elegant contrast to both logo designs.

On the BVA website, embellishment has been kept to a minimum – the concept, says Rousseau, was to reflect its essential function as an online archive of texts published in a linear fashion.

There are some lovely details, however, such as the headline position, right click feature, arrows pointing to drop down menus and hover effect on the logo. The use of bright yellow, soft grey and dark blue give the website a contemporary feel, and the identity system references the archive’s academic content and historical focus in a modern way.

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