The inauguration of the Wallenberg Research Centre is in fact also the beginning of a new phase in STIAS’ existence. The establishment of the STIAS Company marks the transition from an institute operating in pilot form to an independent, national research institution.
This transition presented an ideal opportunity to revisit the STIAS logo. The old logo had a ‘classic’ feel with italic letters. The red ‘i’ marks the centre of the word, but places the focus on ‘institute’, which is not the core concept. The globe with Africa in the centre is an over-used image that is not very distinctive. The logo was often used with a line drawing of the Mostertsdrift manor house, emphasising the past rather than the future.
The brief given to the designer John Pace was to rethink the existing logo, to make it contemporary, clean, simple, future-oriented, Africa being central and not added on, with reference to the new Research Centre as an expression of ‘a creative space for the mind’.
The result is a shift from the ‘i’ to the ‘a’, from the old to the new and a unique series of integrations.
By making the ‘a’ the focal point, several levels of integration and association are achieved in one stroke:
The ‘a’ simultaneously stands for ‘Advanced’ and ‘Africa’, integrating the two core elements of STIAS’ mission: To promote research on the highest level on issues of the highest relevance to the region and the continent. It is at the same time an expression of belief in the intellectual and creative potential of Africa to take its rightful place in the global search for new knowledge. It refers to the intention of STIAS to provide a ‘creative space for the mind’ and to do so specifically in Africa as one of the most interesting research contexts of our time.
The ‘a’ also symbolizes the creative interaction between different research disciplines and research traditions, especially between the humanities and the natural sciences. The Greek alpha has rich associations with different aspects of the humanities and social sciences – from ars poetica, (linguistics and literature) to agape (theology) to agora (philosophy, politics and the foundations of democracy). Greek symbols often appear in mathematics, the ‘grammar’ of the sciences, and are widely used in all branches of the natural and applied sciences. In statistics, the alpha value quantifies the degree to which something is significant (not simply due to chance).
The ‘a’ refers both to the creative power of diversity and to the importance of a critical consciousness: the diversity of ideas, of research traditions, of disciplines, of cultural contexts, of perspectives, requiring critical discernment and assessment.
Alpha also signals the first (in Africa), the seminal beginning of thought and new ideas, of quality and of excellence.
The logo forms an entity on its own, but in combination with the core statement ‘a creative space for the mind’ and the line drawing of the Wallenberg Research Centre, these concepts are reinforced. STIAS in itself represents a virtual space for the mind – the building gives expression to this ideal in three-dimensional form.
In fact, the logo is in itself a creative space, inviting further imaginations and associations …