An unorthodox identity

Studio Contents has designed a new brand identity for contemporary arts company IOU Theatre featuring a modular, evolving logo and flexible grid system.

Studio Contents has designed a new brand identity for contemporary arts company IOU featuring a modular, evolving logo and flexible grid system.

Based in Yorkshire, IOU is known for its bizarre and often surreal performances and projects – past works include rooms filled with robotically controlled cameras zooming in and out of animated scenes, LED light installations and sound experiments with metal tubes.

Studio Contents’s identity system is intended to reflect the organisation’s reputation for unusual art “whilst maintaining a modern and professional edge” and uses a modular logo type that can be moved, resized and adapted to suit different mediums.

“The logo is created to work in a rather unorthodox way, the idea being that IOU’s work is renowned for the extraordinary,” he says.

“A complex but flexible grid system—which is designed to expand or contract to fit a majority of canvases, almost like a responsive web design approach to print—creates a guide for positioning each character of the logo. The idea is that the logo is always in a different configuration every time it is used. It will rarely be shown inline, however we had to offer this as an option for practical reasons,” he adds.

Typographic lock ups and imagery, including photographs by Percy Dean (below), are also positioned to fit within this grid. “The aim is to create a sense of the eclectic which still somehow works – very much the sense a viewer of an IOU performance, installation or artwork will feel.”

Cuts in the logo type and different colour combinations are intended to reflect IOU’s sculptural work and its increasing digital focus. “The tactile textures of metal are represented in the gold/bronze colour. The digital can be represented by either white or black in the logo depending on where it is being shown,” he says.

The supporting typeface for the logo is Neuzeit, explains Gilbert “and we only use one weight of it – Book. Any emphasis is done with colour or underlines,” he says.

As well as signage, merchandise and stationery, Studio Contents has produced a responsive CMS for IOU (developed by James Galley) that allows viewers to browse years of past, present and future projects.

Before starting work on the project, Gilbert held a series of brand workshops to help understand IOU’s ideals, which he says were key to the project’s success.

“Without this process to inform the design brief I don’t believe we would not have hit the mark so effectively – if you don’t get [a company] how can you design it? Ideally, we do this on every project and have quite intense two to three-day workshops with clients to cement exactly what makes them tick.

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The July issue of Creative Review is a type special, with features on the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, the new Whitney identity and the resurgence of type-only design. Plus the Logo Lounge Trend Report, how Ideas Foundation is encouraging diversity in advertising and more.

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