Leeds College of Art’s new identity

Sheffield studio Peter & Paul has designed a new visual identity for Leeds College of Art based on a mosaic above the entrance of its Vernon Street building.

Sheffield studio Peter & Paul has designed a new visual identity for Leeds College of Art based on a mosaic above the entrance of its Vernon Street building.

The new identity has been applied to prospectuses and a website designed by Leeds agency Enjoy Digital. Both feature coloured shapes that represent fragments of the mosaic.

The mosaic has formed part of the college’s identity for some time – an image of it was often used in communications – but Peter & Paul felt this image was too restrictive.

“It’s a large scale and intricate mosaic that is cherished by many of the faculty and board members within the college,” explains creative director Paul Reardon. “It represents values of craft, excellence [and] history, but doesn’t fully represent the output of the college in its modern context, and the output of students – [both] their ideas and the tools and methods that they work with,” he adds.

“There was also a bigger issue with the practicality of usage: it’s so defining as an image that it can feel quite disconnected when placed [alongside] other types of artwork, and reproduction at small sizes is also an issue, so it becomes prohibitive in how it can be applied to marketing materials,” he says.

While the college agreed its current system needed updating, however, it also felt it was important to retain a reference to Eric Taylor’s mosaic, so Peter & Paul redrew four single tiles from the piece and used them to create a series of abstract patterns. Shapes can be arranged in various formations and combined with the college logo or imagery.

The studio also worked with Fontsmith to refine the college’s logotype, which had been lifted directly from the mosaic. “We modified it for better reproduction in print and digital, whilst still retaining some subtle quirks and character of the original,” he says.

The updated logo now features the year in which the college was founded, which Reardon says is a small but significant addition. “Jacob Kramer, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore famously studied at Leeds College of Art, Damian Hirst began his education here, as did Marcus Harvey, [and] Si Scott. The date signifies the rich history of the college and the pedigree of its alumni,” he adds.

The college’s new scheme includes four key palettes made up of four colours, and each represents a key theme: ideas, debate, progress and craft, says Reardon.

“It’s hard to encapsulate these themes in colour as everyone will have a different view [on them], so we looked at objects, sculptures and artworks that inspired us around those,” he says.

“We also came up with the idea for an app where you could take a picture of anything that inspired you and it would fragment the image into a very simple mosaic, so you could instantly put simple palettes together,” he says.

As well as working on signage, wayfinding and murals around the college, Peter & Paul is developing a large scale graphic timeline of alumni, which may be made into a sculpture.

The project is still in its early stages, but it will be interesting to see how Peter & Paul applies the system to artworks and additional communications. It’s a simple but effective solution and one that gives the college a more unified and contemporary identity, without losing all reference to its past.

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