Innovation Labs Logo and Environmental Graphic Design for Harvard University, 2011.

Could a simple and welcoming brandmark ease tensions between a University and a community? In 2009 Harvard halted plans for a $1 billion science center in Allston. This only increased “town-gown” tensions as large swaths of Harvard-owned land in Allston lay dormant. Thus, when Harvard sought an identity for its newly formed Innovation Labs it became clear early on that, first and foremost, it needed to be welcoming—to the academic community as an interdisciplinary center for entrepreneurship but also to the local community of residents in Allston. The identity also needed to be flexible enough to support the highly diverse, interdisciplinary mission of the labs. The labs welcome students and entrepreneurs from all across the University, from the local community, and visitors from around the world. Working with architects from Shepley Bulfinch and as the brand lead on the project, the former headquarters of WGBH was renovated and transformed into a vibrant new center.

On a fast-track schedule, I led a graphic design and brand team in the development of a series of concepts that were initially presented on a spectrum of “Harvard” to “Un-Harvard.” For instance, on the far end of the spectrum, we presented the bold idea to disguise the building entirely, perhaps as a boutique hotel (inspired by the Boston urban apparel store Bodega). On the near end of the spectrum, were concepts that used more traditional academic iconography, such as the Harvard seal. The “Hi” icon sat somewhere in the middle. The icons resemble app icons, such as the ones used by Adobe for its Creative Cloud apps. Harvard quickly fell in love with such a wonderffully simple symbol for “Harvard innovation.” The first “Hi” icon installed on the building’s facade is nearly eight feet square. Months after the building opened, I received an email from Harvard informing me that school children—as their school buses drove by were waving “Hi” back at the building.


Architecture Firm: Shepley Bulfinch
Principal Architect: Tom Kearns, FAIA (now of DSK Architects and Planners
Creative Director: Dan Vlahos
Signage Consultant: Roll Barresi & Associates
Signage and Environmental Graphic Designer: Anna Farrington
Junior Graphic Designer: Erin Deeley
Projection Artist: John Powell
Photographer: Anton Grassl


Harvard: Say ‘Hi’ to innovation, The Boston Globe, November 25, 2011.

FILED IN: Brand Design