MADA — Thought Into Form

Published:  November 30, 2012
Heath Killen
MADA — Thought Into Form

The Monash University Faculty of Art and Design has embarked on a journey of major reinvention, the first signs of which are now starting to become visible.

Beginning with a new name MADA (Monash Art, Design & Architecture) as well as a new tagline that is helping define a course for the future (Thought Into Form), the faculty is now taking steps to promote its agenda of a cross-disciplinary collaboration, and a spirit of enquiry, experimentation, and playfulness combined with meaningful research.

Professor John Warwicker is part of the team spearheading this new direction, and he is largely responsible for a new branding system and visual language which has begun to appear online, and will start to extend into environmental graphics and marketing materials in the new year.

On the catalyst for the redesign and repositioning, John had this to say

“The new direction came from one word by Shane, the Dean. He said he wanted to make the facculty ‘relevant’ and this, of course, implied re-invention.”

MADA Logomark

Mada Logotype

“The key guiding phrase for the whole of MADA and each part of it is Thought Into Form which generates its own set of imagery. The overlapping circles are the simplest graphic representation of this, with the circle itself being a symbol for the world. There are lots of “overlapping” relationships –  teacher/student, inner voice/utterence, and so on. This symbol is meant to be used like a trademark.”

In addition to the new core branding system, an extensive visual language has been developed for the school, and each discipline will receive it’s own identity – developed with the use of a customised typeface and colour system.

The new branding reflects the new course structure – each discipline has it’s own purpose and identity, however they are linked, and there is a sense of fluidity and connection between them. Importantly, the branding is designed to work at a variety of scales – and this has been integral to John’s vision

“The idea is that MADA is like the ‘creative cloud’ and the departments and activities are programmes – in all senses of the word. There will inevitably be an app so it’s important that these read and are consistent at a very small, icon, size. There will be more as time goes on. It is vitally important that any logo (for MADA or for a department or activity) works at many different scales from a building wall to its incorporation in a browser bar. It is equally vital that it can also be responsive and dynamic within electronic interactive media.”


Communication Design

Fine Art

MADA Gallery

What is particularly interesting about this new identity is the inherent sense of flexibility, mutability, and openness. We often talk about modular identities in graphic design these days, but the new MADA identity doesn’t just invite interpretation and evolution – this usage is at the foundation of its design.
“The most important elements of critera about the new identity is that it is a language – the ability to describe new things in a coherent way but not in the same way. The system had to be open enough, even to be ‘open source’, so as to be used and interpreted by others. A faculty such as ours has many different people doing many different things in many different forms of expression and rather than have a conventional identity that is an immutable stamp, this language can suppport many different mutations and adaptions and still be ‘coherent’. What you are seeing now is the start of the language not the finish.”

The evolving, mutating structure of this visual language is not just a graphic idea – it is in fact a way to reinforce the thinking behind the way the school operates, and the cross-discipline framework that will be driving MADA and its programs forward.

“Again, the word is is ‘relevance’. The language is built to be evolving and therefore continuously relevant so it can communicate the evolving process and expression of each department, activity and/or MADA as a whole. It is hoped both staff and students will contribute to the evolution, and interpret the language for shows and projects, therefore the branding is generative and based on individual expression rather than something more ‘dictatorial’. It’s all about play and experimentation. Ideas engineered and expressed.”

Interactive & Environmental Graphics

Graduate Show Invitation

On the meaning of the copyline Thought Into Form and it’s importance in the re-invention, John had this to say:

“Too often educational establishments struggle to find a comfortable mantra because they over-reach their claim, not unlike other brands. We have settled for and adopted ‘Thought into Form’. A simple statement of everyday truth that has rich implications.” 

It is a strong, succinct idea that seems to connect the common threads between disciplines, without getting lost in the rhetoric of any of them.

Mada Type (8 Weights)

A bespoke typeface has been created in collaboration with Monash’s resident type expert, Dan Milne

“Interestingly Mada Type is also modular and shares a common geometry with the faculty department icons and the rounded more abstracted type on Mada clock (iphone/ipad app). The thought into form lettering also relates. So from a simple basic geometry (department icons) this approach reaps difference and will continue to evolve and change.”

MADA Clock App

Thought Into Form Poster

Thought Into Form Poster

“What I hope for is that MADA contributes something procative, substantial and meaningful into the local, national AND international landscape. It’s not about ‘fiiting in’, it’s about disruption.”

“Again, the word ‘Relevant’ is of prime importance. Being ‘Relevant’ will help everyone – the students, the staff, MADA, Monash University and the global creative culture. I am in Tokyo at the moment. Tomorrow I shall be discussing with one of University partners this issue so that our partnership can be mutally beneficial and productive, and I will be discussing strategies of placing the results of our co-operation into the world in the most ‘Relevant’ way. I and others in MADA will be doing this with existing and new partners acrosss the world to make MADA at Caulfield an energetic hub or nodal point of activity that is of essential benefit to primarily the students. If this happens then everyone benefits, and by ‘students’ I mean the staff as well. By creating this dynamic activity it will not only help the students (from day 1, year 1 right through to Ph.D level) engage in a practical way with global creative culture but also help and enhance those who will be working in local and national contexts therefore the strategy is both philosophic and vocational.”

Ultimately this new identity and visual language represents more than a rebrand, it hints at the development of new methods for educating, learning, and working. There is also a clear response to the changes and developments across the industry. MADA is about community, culture, progression, and as John says - relevance. Based on this colourful and energetic design execution, as well as the philosophical underpinning (both of which challenge the status quo) there are some sure signs that it’s going to be worth keeping an eye on MADA in 2013.

4 Responses

  1. Guy

    Very nice. Quite a Wim Crouwel vibe to those department images

  2. Guy, thanks for the comment. Yes, you’re quite right about the influence of Crouwel. A good place to start. The idea is to start with a reductive geometry (and Crouwel is obviously a master of this). As time goes on and the students become immersed in modular typography the logos will change according to what they create. In this way the identities become a true expression of the creative process and conversation within MADA.

  3. To elaborate. From the start of this year i’ll be running a programme for the first year communication design students introducing them to typography expressed in different contexts. Given that this is very intensive and over one semester I thought it best to start off in the ‘modular’ so it can be easily brought to life in the interactive dynamic media and from this simplfied geometric base talk about the difference between this approach and the more subtle geometries of typefaces. I’ll start with Crouwel and then introduce the work of Karel Martens, HR Werkmann, Fanette Mellier etc. In the meantime the conversation will be about expression, movement and behaviour. So… the identities are actually a visible part of the education programme and this will be exposed and documented on our website ( Please note that the website is in transition and will take several more months to resolve. I’m hoping that the change will happen swiftly and unexpectedly and will push forward the conversation beyond what is normally associated with communication design and into the architectural realm. As the article above illustrates our mantra is ‘Thought into Form’. This requires an understanding and acknowledgement of and a constant engagement with the history of this process (the reason why I chose Crouwel was the elegance of his thinking, approach and design… apparently simple but at the same exuding aesthetic craft of the highest order) and then to use this acquired knowledge in combination with personal experimentation and exploration within the transmedia context. Hope this makes sense.

  4. slight correction – ‘I’m hoping that the change will happen swiftly…’ refers to the identities not the website!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *