project a visual identity for the critical infrastructure lab October 2023

The visual identity of the critical infrastructure lab is the result of a collective thought and creation process between the lab’s co-leads Fieke Janssen, maxigas, Niels ten Oever, and the communication designer Ulrike Uhlig.

For a week, Ulrike not only observed the work of the lab, she also conducted several workshops during which several questions and subjects were researched, the two most important ones:

  • who are we?
  • how do we want people to see/feel/understand the critical infrastructure lab?

the result of these workshops produced several phrases which served as visual clues for the design. “we are a transformative and decentering force” was our most important guiding principle.

we knew we wanted to use a font family which works in print and on screen and which came with an open license. Ulrike conducted tests with several candidates, before we collectively decided to go with the Source font family (Sans, Serif, and Code Pro)

but which color would be infrastructural? some things in the design process are the fruit of hasardous reading. we talked about ingrid burrington’s “networks of new york”, and there we found the colour that we deemed infrastructural: the neon orange used to mark network equipment in the street. this colour then reminded niels and maxigas of the color coding of UTP cables which use the ‘‘25-pair color code’’ industry standard. the lab operating through three different lenses—geopolitics, environment, and standards—it seemed interesting to reuse this color code to subtly mark produced publications, a clin d’œil as well to the color coded tubes of the Parisian Centre Pompidou which can be either esthetically appreciated without explanation.

while discussing how infrastructures are temporary, how antennas work, ulrike stumbled on the evolved antenna produced for NASA using genetic algorithms. even though we strongly question cybernetic principles of optimisation, we thought it interesting to involve a process reminding us of nature into the design. even though we did not rewrite the algorithm, principally because we lacked a fitness function—a function which would test how well the antenna works—the logo of the critical infrastructure lab is based on this evolved antenna. in the digital realm, on the website, we generate a new one every time the page is loaded to remind you—and us—that infrastructures are temporary.

a comma like trait in the logotype is inviting to ask if we are talking about the critical infrastructure—pause—lab or the critical—pause—infrastructure lab? the logotype, the text in the logo, is based on the very geometrical inter font.

there are some more subtle questions being asked through the design:

  • on the website for example, a white trait is drawn, until we click somewhere, symbolising that when creating infrastructures, we are leaving traces—after all, it’s these traces that we interrogate in our work.
  • in some of the print publications you might notice that page numbers subtly move, the further one advances in the publication. again, we are decentering, transforming, and marking progress.

We published our publication pipeline as well as our website theme under the GNU GPL v3 license.