Design Beyond Time and Space

New visual identity of The Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava.

AFAD new identity

The Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava welcomes the beginning of a new semester in a new design. After a longer period of time, it changes not only its visual identity but also presents its own font and renewed website. These changes were made, among others, by a tandem of designers Andrej & Andrej (Andrej Barčák and Andrej Čanecký).

After several years, we at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava decided to change our visual identity. However, during our research of its history, we haven’t managed to track down a relevant development path of the logo or any other school’s design (apart from a few recent ones). In a post-truth era, when the world swarms with countless hoaxes, using the method of speculative design, we’ve created an alternative history of the AFAD’s logo. 

Andrej & Andrej were inspired by the Pálffy coat of arms which appears on the facade of one of the school’s buildings in Hviezdoslavovo Square. The building was donated by this family for artistic purposes. In the hands of designers, the coat of arms with the motif of the deer takes different shapes through time, reflecting not only political changes but also artistic styles. Nevertheless, our deer doesn’t represent only a hollow symbol or a nice picture; in the future, it will take its own stand and positions in social events. 

On this occasion, a brand-new font was created for our school, which will be used on official documents, promotional materials and our renewed website. In comparison with the previous one, this one is more user-friendly, responsive and its visitors can easily find all the information, projects and exhibitions taking place at our school as well as behind its walls. Our Medium Gallery will also get its new design. The school’s font will be used on its logo and posters, but the gallery will have its own identity. 

If you want to know more about our news and changes, you can read the following interview. Graphic designers Andrej & Andrej, the AFAD’s rector Bohunka Koklesová and the administrator of the school’s website Jana Gavalda answer the following questions about the new concept and background of the new identity. 

Why did AFAD decide to change its visual identity and website’s design?

BK: Art schools are intended to update its visual identity in certain time intervals. We are not a commercial brand but we are an open and dynamic school which should communicate its situation according to the changing times. We are a school which should go against the flow. While in the logos of many public institutions the text prevails, we’ve opted for the narrative form of our identity, for its permanent transformation even every day. In fact, we wonder where the boundaries of visual identity as such are, why the school’s logo should be variable and unstable, how do we achieve such a thing while keeping the school identifiable within the public space. 

What kind of concept lies behind the new design?

A&A: In the past, the school used three logos that we can track down. Until now, it hasn’t had a firmly defined concept on which its identity would be based.

The goal was to create a visual identity which would be easy to use and would offer a wide range of possibilities and variability of work across different outputs currently produced by the school—exhibitions, publications or communication on social networks.

Our concept fills the historical gap while creating a completely new reality, liberating from the rules and offering a basis and content for future work with it.

What do the new logo and visual identity look like?

A&A: The original owner of the building in Hviezdoslavovo Square, where AFAD is located, Count Ján František Pálffy decided to donate the building after his death for artistic purposes. The Pálffy coat of arms, which is situated on the facade of the building, forms the basis of the new visual identity.

We’ve kept the symbol of the deer and based on the knowledge of the development of graphic design, in this case the development of logos, we adapted it to historical periods across the whole century until now. It has undergone modifications and gradual reduction, leading to a simplified version of the antlers.

BK: I am very well aware of the fact that the deer has become a commonplace topic in art history. A bellowing deer is a symbol of kitsch but also of that I, as a female rector, prefer a patriarchal symbol in the school’s logo. But there is one variable—the absence of the history of the school’s visual identity. We’ve decided to base it all on fiction which blurs the boundaries between time and space; it is able to draw you into the fictional story through the power of its expression and invoke associations that develop the story individually. We’ve said that the deer has “always” been the logo of the school; it’s just that it is subject to changes over time, it carries with it a certain form of aristocratic pathos, then of ideological sediment, immediately after that it gains pop-art attractiveness, it can’t avoid pop-art presentation and other forms, until there is nothing but a fallen antler. And, one day, even that antler will rise like a phoenix from the ashes and assume the form of a roe deer, doe or rainbow deer. Everything is possible because we live in the age of hoaxes which we immediately confront with who we are and where we are going. 

Nové logo a vizuálna identita
Nové logo a vizuálna identita.
Nové logo a vizuálna identita
Nové logo a vizuálna identita.
New logo and visual identity
New logo and visual identity.

What differs the AFAD’s deer from the other “commonplace” ones?

BK: The logo of our school is designed so that we can invite any other logo of a movement with which we as a school want to associate. And, for me, this is one of the most beautiful things that we have accomplished. The deer will stand side by side with the Polish red lightning bolt or it will enter into the partnership with an environmental movement VLK (the WOLF) or it will stand up for a specific community in need, sometimes it will be covered in rainbow colours, while at other times it will be covered in grief, mourning the victims of terrorism. Our deer will have a lot of responsibilities and I think that it will handle them quite well, because  unlike other deer, this one is gender-correct, it adjusts its own ego for the benefit of others and it has a sense of humour about itself—even if one of its antlers falls down. 

Aplikácie vizuálnej identity
Aplikácie vizuálnej identity.
Take Care publication
Take Care publication.
Aplikácie vizuálnej identity
Aplikácie vizuálnej identity.

AFAD also has a new font—what are its particularities?

A&A: The font unfolds from the logotype which determines the font’s structure. The problem of the logotype was that it was necessary to write the full name of the school as well as its English version. Such long inscriptions, unfortunately colliding diacritics and wide interlinear spaces create a non-compact, disintegrated and inconsistent shape. We solved this problem by using higher lowercase letters in order to narrow the interlinear spaces; and vice versa, we slightly lowered the uppercase letters.

Deer Headline typeface
Deer Headline typeface.
Deer Headline typeface
Deer Headline typeface.
Deer Headline typeface
Deer Headline typeface.
Deer Text Typeface
Deer Text Typeface.

AFAD renewed also its website. How does it differ from the previous one?

JG: Our school web contains a large amount of information, web pages and hundreds of announcements, invitations and other events. The previous web was created approximately eight years ago and, with its structure, it responded very well to the needs at the time; but the times have moved on, many changes have taken place and we have to respond to those changes. That’s why our new web has a different structure of information. We’ve tried to ensure that different groups of users have what they need and search for at hand.

What kind of changes of the web have you made? 

JG: We’ve completely changed the system of working with events—invitations, announcements and so on. On the website, they appear across the whole content at places to which they are content-related. You can find the invitation for an exhibition of a specific department or studio not only in the section of Invitations but it also appears on the web page of that specific department or studio. This "brings life" also to otherwise content-static pages.

Another significant change is responsiveness. Our web is finally fully responsive and it can be displayed in high quality on the screens, monitors or displays of different types and sizes.

A crucial step in the content section is the creation of an English-language version of the web which fully reflects the Slovak version. Until now, only some of the pages and events were translated. On the new web, we’ve created an exact copy of the Slovak version of the web. This way we respond to an increased interest of foreign students to come and study at our school. I would like to point out that it is not a common thing at many foreign universities.

New website AFAD
Martin Kahan, Andrej Čanecký, Andrej Barčák: New website AFAD, 2021.
New website AFAD
New website AFAD.

The new design was created, among others, by young designers Andrej & Andrej who graduated from the AFAD’s Department of visual communication. Why did AFAD choose them? 

BK: Two years ago, Andrej Barčák and Andrej Čanecký created for us the visual identity of the school’s 70th anniversary. They came up with the motif of the deer and we could see new and new stories snowballing on this proposal. We could see that people at AFAD enjoyed it and we realized its real potential. We liked to communicate with them. The whole thing was created against a backdrop of humour, wit, but also of thinking about the present times, school and our graduates. 

What does the school expect from the new visual identity and web? According to you, as far as design is concerned, how should an art academy present itself nowadays?

BK: I don’t perceive visual identity exclusively as a school’s trademark with some symbol but also as a political tool, as an attitude through which we comment on what is happening around us. The school’s identity should not be composed solely of what is inside of our school but it should also be integrated with external stimuli. 

Collaboration in the preparation and realization of the project:

Visual Identity, Font, Animation
Andrej & Andrej (Andrej Barčák, Andrej Čanecký)

Web Design
Martin Kahan, Andrej & Andrej (Andrej Barčák, Andrej Čanecký)

Project Consultant
Palo Bálik

Web Development
Juraj Kapsz

Web Structure
Jana Gavalda

Font Consultants
Ondrej Jób, Michal Tornyai, Matej Vojtuš

Sound Design
Martin Zaujec

Design Support
Matej Mihályi, Kristína Uličná

Collaboration in the First Phase of the Preparation of Identity
David Kalata

AFAD’s General Partner: Tatra banka