Ravensbourne launches new ‘elastic’ identity by NB

As the college seeks university status, new scheme takes a modern approach to the idea of a crest

Ravensbourne‘s slightly complicated history has provided the college with a few challenges. Formerly Bromley Technical College, it moved to Chislehurst in Kent in 1975. In 2010, it moved again, to its current purpose-built site in North Greenwich, and simplified its name from Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication to just Ravensbourne.

To signify the change and firmly link the college to its new surroundings, johnson banks created a visual identity for the college based on the 30,000 tiles which cover its building (read their post here on the project).

Previous Ravensbourne logo, designed by johnson banks
Previous Ravensbourne logo, designed by johnson banks

The college now has a new director in Linda Drew and the ambition to achieve full university status. And it has worked with NB to create a new visual identity to equip it for the task ahead.

“We came in at the end of a year-long inclusive strategy exercise with lots of stakeholders,” says NB’s Nick Finney. “There was a clear recognition by Linda Drew that the brand could play a major role in helping Ravensbourne to become an independent university with degree-awarding powers. We knew that this was about answering a need the college had to create a functional, easy-to-use identity system that would aide them in their goals to be a shining light in London’s creative constellation of universities; an easy choice for prospective students and businesses, from near and far.”

According to Finney, college staff had told NB that they found the existing identity difficult to use, although, he says “johnson banks had done a brilliant job of heralding the move to the new building”. Moreover, there was a feeling that having the name split over the three different shapes made it difficult to recognise and pronounce, particularly for the all-important international students.

“Ravensbourne is just a name really. Or if you’re being pedantic, a brand-name,” Finney says. Its London location could be a draw and NB have created a lock-up version of the logo which features the word but, says Finney, the new identity “is not about describing where they are, there’s much more to Ravensbourne than that. As a smaller specialist institution making an international impact, it’s vital that the Ravensbourne name sings out. We merely made sure it was bold in attitude, easy to read and easy to deploy across all media. The previous version was mangled and unpronouncable – Rave-nsbo-ourne.”

The new identity uses a bespoke typeface designed by Kostas Bartsokas. Its basic form, Finney says, is a modern take on the idea of a university crest, with an R for Ravensbourne in the top left corner. This ‘elastic’ mark then expands so that it can be filled with imagery and words, making the identity itself a frame for student work.

“We may have designed the system but it’s an identity that invites collaboration,” Finney says. “We want it to be a dynamic showcase for creativity across all the disciplines at Ravensbourne. One of the most exciting aspects of the solution is that it makes a switch from celebrating the building to celebrating the creative work that the Ravensbourne community produces.”

T-shirt visuals showing potential of framing device to hold multiple images
T-shirt visuals showing potential of framing device to hold multiple images

Of course, this is far from the first time that either the ‘logo as image container’ or ‘logo as framing device‘ metaphors have been used. But it’s an undeniably useful and appropriate strategy for an institution such as Ravensbourne as it allows the student community a role within the necessary constraints of a workable system.

Ravensbourne identity as framing device
Ravensbourne identity as framing device
Ravensbourne identity as framing device
Ravensbourne identity as framing device

And talking of the role of the student body, a common issue raised whenever an arts or design college embarks on a new visual identity is the degree to which the design students themselves were involved in the work.

Finney explains that student representatives, along with members of the faculty and the design industry, sat on the steering group to which NB had to present their initial ideas. This group was then responsible for ratifying the final designs.

In addition, “we invited the Students Union to hand-pick a group of students to come and visit us in Bankside for a creative session. We wanted to know what it was like to be a student at Ravensbourne, to be a product of Ravensbourne, how they got there, and what influence the college, its practices and its people had on them. The things we discussed together in this session informed and inspired what happened next. So, early on we got positive reassurance from the student body that we were on the right track, doing something fresh and relevant that felt representative of Ravensbourne,” Finney says.

Ravensbourne identity as framing device
Ravensbourne identity as framing device
Ravensbourne identity
Frame device can expand to hold longer texts
'Bendy frame' version of Ravensbourne identity
‘Bendy frame’ version of Ravensbourne identity

The resulting system, he claims, “is all about the students. The mark becomes a system the whole community can participate in and express themselves with – a celebration of the students and their work.

Couldn’t the students have devised Ravensbourne’s new identity themselves? “I think they are too busy doing great things at the college,” Finney says.

The new system will be rolled out incrementally over the coming months.

Ravensbourne prospectus
Ravensbourne prospectus
New Ravensbourne signage
Mock-up of new Ravensbourne identity in signage
New Ravensbourne signage
Mock-up of new Ravensbourne identity in signage
Mock-up of Ravensbourne magazine ad
Mock-up of Ravensbourne magazine ad
Mock-up of Ravensbourne tube poster
Mock-up of Ravensbourne tube poster

Credits, Ravensbourne:
Linda Drew – Director
Ashar Ehsan – Director of External Relations
Jennie Stewart – Head of Marketing and Communications
Laura Chambers – Marketing and Communications manager
Tor Njamo – President, Ravensbourne Students’ Union

Credits, NB:
Strategy – Dan Radley
Account Direction and Strategy – Tom Moloney
Senior Design – Jamie Breach
Design – Ed Cornish, Harry Grundy
Creative Direction – Nick Finney
Typography – Kostas Bartsokas

Animation – James Dunlevey
Photography (prospectus) – Hannah Coates
Work featured throughout, the faculty and students of Ravensbourne

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