Norwich University of the Arts rebrands with abstract typeface built by alum

The entire identity poses “questions about the fusion of traditional and digital art forms”, says North designer Jonathan Leonard.

14 August 2023


Norwich University of the Arts has exchanged its minimal logo – a simple, slanted ‘N’ – as part of an abstract redesign from design studio North. An integral part of the University’s new look is the custom typeface, Exchange, from North designer and University alum Jonathan Leonard. It was selected from over 50 prototypes built for the project and replaces the University’s long-standing branding from Jim Sutherland of Studio Sutherland, which was designed almost 15 years ago.

With its vibrant yellow palette and juxtaposing typography, the work is distinctive. But it also carries weight, interweaving elements of history and the University’s community. The yellow for example, is canary yellow, which holds specific relevance in the city. “When the master weavers – Strangers – fleeing persecution in the Low Countries were offered a home and a place to ply their craft in Norwich, they brought with them yellow canaries. The colour has been synonymous with the city ever since,” a case study explains.


North: Norwich University of the Arts (Copyright © Norwich University of the Arts, 2023)

The contrasting typeface is meant to represent the range of crafts and mediums taught at the University. But it also references the spectrum of identities the University embodies, from its creativity and “inquiring” spirit to its heritage. Elsewhere, fresh focus has been placed on digital creativity. North says coding and digital tools are not just used as “complementary elements”, but are crucial components of the rebrand. For example, the University will be using generative tools to produce further visuals into the future.

The new identity will slowly be rolled out across assets for Norwich University of the Arts, first on recruitment materials and social media accounts and, eventually, across campus signage.

“Our goal was to bring the identity of this historic institution into the 21st century and it required a revolutionary approach to spark change,” says Sean Perkins, founding partner at North. “The entire creative process was shared together with the University resulting in an identity framework that provides structure while also creating space for expression and shared ideas. As a whole, the new identity embodies Norwich’s history and the insatiable curiosity that drives conversations and challenges conventional thinking.”

GalleryNorth: Norwich University of the Arts (Copyright © Norwich University of the Arts, 2023)

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North: Norwich University of the Arts (Copyright © Norwich University of the Arts, 2023)

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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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