Since 2009 I have been responsible for the design, implementation and direction of the visual identity of Aalto University, which was created in 2010 from the merger of three Finnish universities in the fields of technology, business, and art and design.
The initial announcement of the creation of a “Innovation University” was met with overwhelming scepticism and resistance. In this situation, any visual representation that would impose predefined ideas about the would-be university’s identity would have had a polarizing effect. My solution was to create a neutral visual canvas which in time would be attached with meaning – the true identity of the university created and experienced by the students, researchers and employees. It does not define the identity of the university but is an open question directed at the recipient. The logo is an invitation to discuss, evaluate and participate.
The visual identity was created before the university had been inaugurated. To deal with unexpected demands and create resilience in a changing operating environment, the foundations of the visual identity were created to be flexible and adaptable. A continuing challenge has been to create a coherent visual identity while maintaining the ability to meet the varied requirements of the university’s wast array of materials.
The visual identity is based on a layered approach to visual identity design, where “fast-moving layers” provide adaptability and “slow-moving layers” ensure stability. In this way, the visual identity attempts to provide both functional visual tools and deeper principles that help both designers and non-designers apply the identity appropriately to different tasks.