Launching this Frieze, a form-led ICA identity leaves things open-ended

With a logo featuring related but purposefully composite parts, the Institute of Contemporary Arts identity asks people to fill in the following: “The ICA is…”

11 October 2022

It’s the 75th year of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, one of London’s most well-known independent contemporary art institutions. Although, the new identity that marks this milestone is turning away from a singular definition for the organisation. Instead, those attending Frieze from the 12 October will see the identity launch with the open-ended campaign line: “The ICA is…” Sporting design by Chris Chapman, David Kolbusz, Rebecca Lewis, plus support by Beatriz Cóias, the identity is leaning into multiplicity. A recent press release explains why.

“There is no one statement capable of putting into words everything that the ICA is,” it explains. To give some context, the ICA is home to the first institutional exhibitions in London for Pablo Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquait. It is a platform of legendary performances by Yoko Ono, The Clash and David Bowie. It is also home to queer techno raves and over 300 unique independent films a year. To nod to these several interconnected aspects, the design team has left the campaign line deliberately “incomplete”, instead allowing “artists, visitors, staff to draw their own conclusions about what the ICA is, and what it means to them,” the release states.

This open-ended quality is also mirrored in the identity’s design. For one, visuals highlighting some of the ICA’s “iconic moments” are included alongside a plethora of artist statements. But even the logo leaves space for interpretation. Built from a range of different forms, the design team explains that there are connections between the parts, but they’re purposefully left composite. The release adds: “We wanted to suggest a progressive and open point of view where different people could come together and participate.”

The design team has utilised a customised version of Dinamo’s Maxi to mirror the ICA logo with its distinctive mix of rectangular, curved inner corners and circular shapes. Elsewhere, Jack Collis provides animation for the project, with photography by Philip Vile and support on printing and signage by The Hub London.

Of course, coming up with something that outlines the ICA’s history and output imparted some challenges. Emphasising “there is nowhere else like [ICA]”, the team behind the identity reflects: “Our task was to come up with a distinctive and bold identity that lived up to everything it was, is and will be to celebrate its 75th year. We wanted it to convey fun, playfulness and a sense of humanity – the ICA is anything but a cold and lifeless white box. No pressure! Oh, and we knew whatever we did would need to be inclusive and artist-first.”

See the final result across London during Frieze week. The identity will adapt and change over the next year as more artist statements and events are added.

GalleryChris Chapman, David Kolbusz, Rebecca Lewis: Institute of Contemporary Arts (Copyright © Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2022)

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Chris Chapman, David Kolbusz, Rebecca Lewis: Institute of Contemporary Arts (Copyright © Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2022)

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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