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When our relationship with Elam began in 2016, the School needed to find ways to bring their values and ideals to the forefront of their storytelling, and share its unique vision for the future of contemporary art. We came on board to support Elam by envisioning a new way to position the school as the leading educators and makers of contemporary art in New Zealand.

Our challenge lay in the need to craft a visual language to tell this story, without creating a new brand identity that would contend with the University of Auckland branding the school was represented by. But how do you communicate the personality and uniqueness of a brand within these limitations? In response to this challenge, we decided to put the students in the spotlight.

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When applying this approach to the digital catalogue, we considered the talent of the students the school is producing. It made sense for Elam to take on the role of the students’ gallerist, providing each artist equal opportunity to present their work in a public space.

Taking cues from the art world and its spaces, publications and other exhibition platforms the new digital catalogue was formed. Designed to both showcase each student’s work in its fullest sense and create a way for viewers to explore the breadth of work created, the brand system allowed for the individuality of the students. Accessible design ensured the brand was easily recognisable, and would retain its consistency as and when it was required to evolve.

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From our own experiences walking around the studios, we understood the need to profile the impressive facilities. This was the surest way to articulate the skills that students take into a professional career and that translate into any creative job. With this in mind, we ensured the artwork was photographed within the studio environment, profiling Elam as a space of practice where people learn and make as a group — the artwork simply being an outcome of these processes. By inviting the public to see Elam in this light, the School became accessible and naturally more connected to its relevant audiences.

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Given that it was essential for the brand’s presence not to take away from, overshadow or restrict the students work, portraying Elam in the right way became a balancing act: to harmonise an extremely modern and subtle approach to design with a school that had a unique personality and distinguished itself from the rest.

The challenge was finding a creative way to communicate the School’s core message: Elam is about the student cohort — past, present and future. Acting as a permanent reminder for the annual graduate exhibition, the new website is also part of Elam’s ongoing experiment to find fresh forms of dialog through art. The platform not only makes it easier to discover new artists from within the university’s expansive student body, but as the brand positions itself on the same level as any major art institution, our attention is called to where Elam is headed in the near future.

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