Responses by Stefan G. Bucher, designer, 344 Design
Background: Zócalo Public Square is a Los Angeles–based nonprofit that has also become a unit of Arizona State University. It publishes intellectual essays on political and cultural issues of the day and hosts smart public events both locally and all over the world. For its fifteenth anniversary, the nonprofit decided to undertake its first major rebrand to better communicate its playful, kaleidoscopic approach to exploring big ideas.
Reasoning: Zócalo’s new look centers around a logo made up of squares that expand into the third dimension, growing from flat rectangles into zocalohedrons, known colloquially as cubes. The logo appears in a variety of colors, creating a sense of depth that evokes Zócalo’s prismatic view of the world. The new identity reflects an almost cubist approach to grappling with ideas, and adding a brazen yet mutable color palette reflects its joyful spirit.
Challenges: Striking the right balance between exuberant intellectual inquiry and serious-minded analysis. Of course, there are always technical challenges with identities that involve a large number of varied applications and years of heritage content, but finding and maintaining the right tone is the heart of the project.
Favorite details: How flexible the identity is, but I’m most delighted by the openness and support I received from the Zócalo team. It’s a rare pleasure to have such a positive partner in Zócalo founder Gregory Rodriguez. It’s also been wonderful to see how excitedly the Zócalo audience has embraced the new identity. I’m also proud of the daily change of colors throughout the site.
Visual influences: I’m a big fan of animation that goes abstract, like the synesthesia scenes in Ratatouille, Homer Simpson’s chili hallucination in The Simpsons and of course Yellow Submarine. On a more high-minded level, I love Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy and Niki de Saint Phalle. While this isn’t an attempt to approach what they did, their work informs the ideas I brought to the assignment.
Specific demands: Redesigning Zócalo’s website on top of the existing layout and structure. We had years and years of existing content to wrangle, and the architecture of the site proved byzantine. Lots of credit goes to web developer Joe McGarry for his hard and persistent work tweezing apart a near-Gordian knot.