The Graduate School of Architecture (GSA), was founded in September 2015 and is built on the foundations of the Master’s programme established at the University of Johannesburg in 2010. It is now one of South Africa’s largest postgraduate centres for architectural education. At the GSA, they run the Unit System method of teaching, first introduced to architectural education by Alvin Boyarsky at the world-renowned Architectural Association in London. The Unit System has now become standard practice for most of the world’s top architecture schools. The GSA has a 700sqm inner-city ‘base’ called the GAP (Graduate Architecture Platform), which was secured by the University in 2016. Saint-Gobain, a global company that creates high-performance urban solutions, also bought into the school’s vision of a dynamic space and helped to create the GAP: A Saint-Gobain Urban Lounge. GSA reviews, crits, public events, film screenings and round-table discussions are held at GAP and it’s fast becoming a fixture on the local architectural and urban scene.
Having already developed the brand identity for Unit System Africa in 2014, I was asked by the head of the GSA, Prof. Lesley Lokko, to design the identity for the school and it’s co-brand, the GAP. The identity had to work on various platforms such as exhibition posters, an annual GSA “Book of Ideas”, lecture series outputs and public signage.
I wanted the identity to echo Prof. Lokko’s vision for the GSA: to be the best, most forward thinking graduate school of architecture in Africa.
The concept is based on one of the most basic, symbolic and innovative shapes in design: the circle. Circles have featured in some of the earliest designs in ancient civilisations and forms the basis of many design disciplines today. Prehistoric people designed stone circles 4,000 years ago and in ancient Greek culture the circle was seen as “the perfect shape”. It can represent almost anything related to design and people, from unity, an eye, a clock and a magnifying glass, to name but a few examples.
The logo’s three letters were designed from scratch, with an almost perfectly round circle placed inside the bowl of a double-story, lower-case “G”. Each letter echoes with triple lines which gives the identity a dynamic and modern African look. Hoefler & Co’s typeface, Ideal Sans, was chosen as the subtitle font due to the almost circular “O”’s. A royal gold was chosen as the primary brand colour with a series of colder blues and a bright yellow as secondary colours.
The University of Johannesburg