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Pentagram Goes with Helvetica to Refresh the MIT Media Lab Identity

Chris Dickman Mon, 10/27/2014 - 08:48

Founded almost 30 years ago, the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) speaks of itself as being devoted to exploring "disruptive technologies that happen at the edges, pioneering such areas as wearable computing, tangible interfaces, and affective computing. Today, faculty members, research staff, and students at the Lab work in more than 25 research groups on more than 350 projects that range from digital approaches for treating neurological disorders, to a stackable, electric car for sustainable cities, to advanced imaging technologies that can 'see around a corner.'" In others words, fun stuff.

The last major redesign of the Media Lab identity was fairly recent, when in 2011 agency The Green Eyl came up with the interesting approach of having the logo be programmatically generated, such that each participant could employ a unique variant, as shown below. This time around mega-agency Pentagram, embodied by Michael Bierut and Aron Fay, was tapped for a fresh look.

According to the Lab, the new approach "started with Richard The’s anniversary logo, which was based on a seven-by-seven grid. Using that same grid, the Pentagram team generated a simple ML monogram to serve as the logo for the Media Lab. Then Bierut and Fay, using the same underlying grid, extended that identity to each of the 23 research groups that lie at the heart of the Lab’s activity. The result is an interrelated system of glyphs that at once establishes a fixed identity for the Media Lab, but celebrates the diversity of activity that makes the Lab great. Helvetica, so central to MIT’s communications when the Media Lab was new, has been reinstated to support the overall system." Helvetica!

The grid underlying the logo system for the Media Lab's 25th anniversary.

The grid is used as the basis for the letterforms of the new logotype.

The Media Lab monogram formed in the grid.

The new MIT Media Lab logotype.

Based on that same grid, a family of identities for the Media Lab's research groups.

A custom typeface, again built on the same grid.

Poster display at the MIT Media Lab's 'Deploy' Fall Member Event.

Business cards.

Tote bag.

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