A new identity for Chicago’s Institute of Design by Collins shifts between chaos and clarity

With a new brand story focusing on design’s transformative potential, Collins crafts a similarly “evolving” visual language for the institution’s 85th anniversary.

26 October 2022

In the second major project to come from Collins in under a fortnight, Chicago’s Institute of Design has turned to the design company for a revamp. With the graduate school’s 85th anniversary this year, the new visual language comes at an opportune time – although the work goes beyond an identity refresh (for which Collins is drawing from the concepts and design work central to the history of the Bauhaus institution). A new brand story reimagining the Institute of Design’s “long-held beliefs” has also been built, departing from the concept of design as a tool of “revolution or disruption” to a tool of “evolution”, the Collins site states.

So what were the problems with the Institute of Design’s current brand story? Collins states: “For prospective students and potential business partners [of the Institute of Design], design is limited to visual arts and product development. They are unaware that design can accelerate the trajectory of their careers, transform companies and improve communities.” In other words, the agency outlines: “For many, design is simply what something looks like. They are oblivious to its power to transform what is into what should be.” The fresh brand story focuses on this transformative power.

It makes sense then that the visual language would reflect the process of evolution also. Musing on the concept of “the evolutionary” led Collins to László Moholy-Nagy, a painter and professor in the Bauhaus school. (In fact, it was Moholy-Nagy who founded the human-centred design school New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937, later becoming the Institute of Design at Illinois Tech as we know it today.) In particular, the agency looked to Moholy-Nagy’s artistic experiments with geometry.

Also drawing from Jay Doblin – an industrial designer and ID director – and his work with design systems, Collins has produced “six foundational structures able to transform from abstract shapes into words and images” for the identity. With these structures forming the basis of the type, the visuals leverage motion design so that audiences can see the possible variables behind each word. This allows the identity to, as Collins puts it, “move seamlessly from chaos to clarity”, much “like design itself”.

GalleryCollins: Institute of Design (Copyright © Collins / Institute of Design, 2022)

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Collins: Institute of Design (Copyright © Collins / Institute of Design, 2022)

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About the Author

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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