Eddie Opara and the UCLA Identity

Last week, it was announced that Eddie Opara, formerly of Map Office, is the newest partner at Pentagram’s New York office. According to Pentagram, Eddie is a “multifaceted designer whose work spans interactive and graphic design, strategy and technology.” I greatly enjoyed one of his design presentations (video below) and I thought it would be a good time to discuss his work – specifically the fascinating case of the maligned identity for UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design school.

This case study is fascinating because transformation and motion are dominant themes in identity design today; see Luke Hayman’s SECCA identity for another recent example.

The ‘Transformative’ UCLA Mark

‘Transformative’ is a word that emerges often while Eddie talks shop, and the theme is certainly manifested in this daring identity.

Eddie Opara's First UCLA Logo

Eddie’s original mark (two variations above) is architectural and so abstract that the letterforms almost become a secondary realization: the acronym emerges after a moment of viewing the bold shapes. It’s very hip, bold, and implies three-dimensional structure.

However, according to Eddie’s tale in his presentation, this identity was (mostly) abandoned by the university after about a year in favor of what they have now (“It’s Optima Slanted,” Eddie laughed, “…you could have done it in about fifty minutes”). Here’s where things get interesting.

Eddie side-stepped the University’s abandonment of his identity by transforming it into a sort of incognito post-identity. He designed an iteration of the identity that takes abstraction to the extreme: the letterforms are now gone. “It doesn’t say UCLA, does it, eh?” Eddie says with a smile. “It doesn’t say anything!” Visit the architecture school’s homepage and you’ll see a video of the transformation of this revised post-logo.

I’m impressed by Eddie’s cleverness and tenacity in finding a way for this identity to live on in its new, subversive reincarnation. Some might say that there was a fundamental problem if the client was unhappy with the identity in the first place (Eddie says the Architecture school fought for it but the University decided against it). Whatever the politics of the situation were, this project is the work of a designer who is willing to take risks and strongly believed in the results.

Another theme that resonated with me was Eddie’s discussion of designing imagery that references the past. He says that these images should be “contemporary and nostalgic.” I loved this way of describing the necessity of updating the past and viewing it through a contemporary lens (instead of merely regurgitating history).

View Eddie’s presentation below or read Alissa Walker’s Eddie Opara article and interview at Fast Company.

2 Responses to “Eddie Opara and the UCLA Identity”

  1. One idea immediately came to mind:

    Casa De Musica:

  2. Yes, there’s absolutely a shared theme between these two identities: the theme of architecture. The clients in both cases are directly related to architecture, and the identities reflect that.

    It’s a common and comfortable area for Opara; see this structural, three-dimensional identity that he designed for an architectural client as well: http://map.themig.org/#SORG

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