Michael Beirut’s lo-fi rebrand for MIT Media Lab

Published:  October 23, 2014

Representing one of the worlds most globally recognised design studios, Michael Beirut is currently a partner at Pentagram in New York. With a brief from America’s leading school in design and innovative technology, Beirut was set the challenge of visualising the university’s established history and prosperous future. The outcome sees, ”an abstract set of pixel-art hieroglyphics that marry two distinctly different eras” at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Following the 25th Anniversary redesign from three years ago, the new identity is derived from a dynamic celebratory logo that was created by E. Roon Kang and Richard The. Wired to a randomised algorithm, more than 40,000 iterations of the logo could be produced — which meant, unique business cards for the next 40 years. This lack of continuity, although united, caused issues with consistent branding outside of the university and wrongly implied that the Media Lab was a single entity. Branching off into 23 different departments, Beirut explains to Fast Co. Design, ”we were looking for [...] something that reflected this hierarchy where MIT was the parent, and the Media Lab itself was a subsidiary, but still had these other groups with their own unique identities under them.”

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“Even though we were asked to come up with something more fixed, the theme of variability still seemed meaningful to me,” Bierut explains. “It’s an acknowledgement that the Media Lab is not fixed in time or purpose, but can accommodate so many different ideas and directions in terms of what passes through it.” Both Beirut and MIT Media Lab co-founder, Nicholas Negroponte, found inspiration in the MIT Press logo — designed for the university’s publishing arm by Muriel Cooper in 1962.

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The Press logo could be decoded as a series of book spines or computer digits, in a whimsical play on analogue practice on the horizon of digital consumption. Beirut drew from the reduced simplicity of what he refers to as, “essentially a typeface, masquerading as a logo,” to create a collection of formulated marks that would denote the initials of each Media department. Enlarged to cover a canvas tote-bag or reduced to be placed on a lapel, the logo series manages to retain it’s modular impact.

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