New Work: Columbus Arts District Identity

I'm from a town just south of Indianapolis, IN called Columbus. If you've not heard of it, definitely check it out. Though one would never suspect it, the city of 50,000 is a haven for mid-century modern architecture.

Starting in the mid-fifties, J. Irwin Miller – a leading figure at Cummins Engine Co. and Irwin Financial Corp – led a city-wide program which supplemented new public building projects with world-class architects (from a shortlist provided by Miller,) with the architects tab being covered by Miller's Foundation. We're talking Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Kevin Roche, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, César Pelli, etc.

Along with great Architecture, Miller was also fond of great design, and he hired the legendary Paul Rand to design the Cummins identity in 1973. During one of his visits, Rand found time to do a pro-bono identity for the local Visitors Center (below, left.)

After 30+ years of service, Rand's Visitors Center identity was quietly retired. Enter present day... A few months back I was given an opportunity to create an identity for the newly formed Columbus Arts District. I met with a few key people and quickly discovered that–before I was brought it in–the idea of reviving/reusing the Rand logo had been tossed around. An opportunity to bring a classic Rand mark back to the streets was something I couldn't pass up, and I eagerly agreed that it was a terrific plan.

Few designers have had as big an impact on me as Rand, and I was hellbent on honoring his legacy. When it was all said and done, this meant redrawing the artwork, ever-so-slighly tweaking a few elements, and introducing Christian Schwartz's Neue Haas Grotesk to the mix. The one requirement was to introduce more color, and I created a palette based closely on Rand's original. Eventually, the different colors will be used to denote various 'districts.'