Revolutionary bespoke typeface splits opinion

Pentagram partner Paula Scher breaks down the process of creating the revolutionary new logo system for The New School...

01. Define the hierarchy

The first part of the project involved a consideration of hierarchy – it was a fairly typical process. The identity had to be flexible. It had to talk of Parsons, for example, as part of The New School, but be separate as well, and it had to be personalised for each school within this whole.

02. Gain visual inspiration

For some visual inspiration, I went to the architecture of the old Joseph Urban building and the new building by SOM. They both feature stripes that are very distinctive in the architecture. That is where the two lines on the logo come from. It's basically a nod to the buildings.

03. Add personality

One logical way to create hierarchy is just what UAL did – to take Helvetica or any clean typeface and to order the typography so it sits in a column. The problem is, it's very 'un-New School'. Also, the schools – Parsons or Mannes – have real personalities and are individualistic.

04. Play with typography

The type on the SOM building, Irma, was designed by Peter Bil'ak. We did a test of what would happen if we used this font: we stacked it and created a hierarchy. Then we connected the schools, extending the logo's line and putting all the names below, which worked very nicely.

05. Customise through rhythm

But The New School is meant to be a little bit ground-breaking, so it needed some customisation. We began extending letterforms and realised that if you had three letterforms – one very wide, one regular and one in the middle – you could create a syncopated rhythm with typography.

06. Mix classical and extreme

This is the basis for the Neue typeface. We realised that you could draw a font that was a combination of three widths at once. If you programmed those widths, you'd invent a syncopation and colour that I haven't seen anybody do – some of it looks classical and some looks extreme.

07. Rebalance the letters

We went to Bil'ak to draw and programme the typeface. He made some corrections to our drawings and rebalanced the letters. The hardest thing when developing different widths is what happens to the corners of things that have angles, like Zs or Ws. He did a beautiful job.

08. Create a custom Pantone

The New School always had a Parsons Red, but we gave them a custom Pantone colour, and the whole school can use it. The New School is black and white with a touch of red. Parsons is mostly red, and everything else uses their own combination of white, black and red.

09. The website

My favourite iteration of the new identity has to be the website, which The New School did in-house. It looks great, and it will also be evolving in the near future. Some of the other collateral is done by The New School art department. That's what it was built for – The New School.

The full version of this article first appeared inside issue 241 – a character design special – of Computer Arts, the world's best-selling creative design magazine. Get up to 55 per cent off a subscription to CA here.

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