RISD Custom Type &
Brand Identity

Evolving a 145-year-old creative institution with its community
Founded in Providence in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design is one of the leading art and design schools in the world. Known for its cross-disciplinary approach to art and design pedagogy, RISD has always attracted students who are interested in making while critically engaging with culture and producing ideas that impact the future.

In recent years the school entered a transformation that involved deeper, structural commitments to evolve and open up—to a wider range of creative voices and practices, to the decolonization of histories and knowledge, and to new applications of design disciplines and technologies that would attract the next generation of aspiring creative minds.

Over the course of a year, my team at Gretel partnered with RISD and research agency ON ROAD to build an identity framework that ties all parts of the institution together, amplifying the voices of this diverse and distinctive community.

Creative Direction & Design at Gretel

Role .................. Creative Director & Designer
Team .................. DESIGN: Dylan Mulvaney, Lea Loo, myself / ECD: Ryan Moore / STRATEGY: Kasia Galla, Sam Arabia, Nathan Frisch, Daniel Edmundson (ESD) / PM: Kerry Griner / MOTION: Cyrus Cumming, John Choi / INTERNS: Julia Grippo, Eoin Cantwell
Research .............. ON ROAD Tarik Fontanelle
RISD team ............. Kerci Marcello, Huy Vu, Jordan Gushwa, Mary Banas
Field ................. Identity, Type Design
Typefaces ............. RISD Sans & Serif by Ryan Bugden in close collaboration with myself, and the larger Gretel + RISD teams.
Published ............. August 2022

Built with the RISD Community

We developed this Identity openly with the RISD community, sharing every step on a microsite we designed & built, and through open forums where we would present to the community and have open discussions about the work.

A Custom Typographic Voice

A RISD education revolves around the power of questioning, doing so in ways in which leads to creating, and then questioning again. It’s a continuous cycle, which moves from incomplete to complete and back again. This led us to develop a custom typeface that captures all the states of completion, and which felt both future facing, while at home in Providence’s rich history.

After an extensive exploration that yielded over 105 font prototypes, a custom super family of typefaces was drawn by a RISD alum, Ryan Bugden (GD 14), who I collaborated closely with, checking in with the RISD and Gretel teams throughout the development.

Evolving The Seal

The RISD seal contains so much of what’s alive at RISD: a rich history, a visual mark rooted in craft, and a timeless piece of design. Drawn in 1951 by sculptor, stone carver, calligrapher and late RISD faculty member John Howard Benson, the RISD seal is a cornerstone of the identity, which is proudly loved and used by its community.

The seal, which serves as RISD’s logo, was redrawn by Ryan Bugden in consultation with the Benson family to perform better at small sizes by lessening its density, improving the clarity of letterforms and reviving the calligraphic details that had been lost over the decades. Ryan looked closely at its analog past in order to evolve it for the future.

© 2024 A.A. Trabucco-Campos