Express Newark (EN) is a conceptual framework and an interdisciplinary learning space where artists and community residents collaborate, experiment, and innovate in partnership with Rutgers University-Newark faculty, staff, and students to engage in creative practice, foster democratic dialogue, and promote positive transformation. At Express Newark, community and university work together and communicate on equal footing in what has been called a "third space." Trust is built through the arts by bridging differences in power, position, scale, resources, culture, and education. To this end, art, education, and cultural initiatives are aligned to foster a shared civic vision and sense of purpose, and to collectively undertake the necessary, painstaking work of attending to the well-being of the public trust, and to develop a new social infrastructure.
Structures For Collaboration
A guided assumption underlying EN is that success in changing the inequality map in Newark depends on building sustainable structures for collaboration that augment capacity within the arts ecosystem.
As a resident partner, the Design Consortium (DC) offers such structure: A design program embedded in RU-N’s Graphic Design curriculum housed at Express Newark, in which design faculty, advanced design students and community residents, organizations, educational institutions and/or local activists partner to achieve a common goal.
The Design Consortium’s s inaugural project as a resident partner at Express Newark was the branding for Express Newark itself. The DC engaged in an extensive development process which took four semesters and in which faculty took turns to lead the class while tackling specific components of the project. The brand strategy and design process involved all stakeholders (faculty, staff, students and community members) through community meetings, charrettes, collaborative brainstorming sessions and presentations. The resulting brand identity system is composed of the logomark system, typography, print collateral, signage, and wayfinding.
The Design Consortium (DC) is a student/faculty creative studio rooted in a collaboratively engaged design process. The traditional notion of designers “serving” clients is replaced by equal partners who — only through their work together — can create impact. This inclusive design model acknowledges that each participant brings exceptional knowledge to the relationship without which the work would not succeed.
Led by Graphic Design Faculty (Professors Jennifer Bernstein, Ned Drew, and Chantal Fischzang), students are given the opportunity to develop strategies, and to execute and deliver real design solutions. Students learn to align themselves to their community partners’ conditions and histories, acquire real knowledge, develop genuine insights, and become more connected to the realities of the city and its people — solidifying the university-community relationship and mission to build a greater Newark.
The Express Newark’s logomark container was conceived as a symbol of interconnectivity and civic cross-pollination. EN is an open system that benefits from the input of its many diverse partners. Formally, the mark’s two open cubes merge to create a new shared plane – the “third space,” which is a blend of both fields of color and contains the logomark’s wireframe.
Essentially a three-dimensional version of a Venn diagram, the container emphasizes how robust collaboration can encourage unique, culturally rich ideas, art, and design. The wireframe adds another semantic layer. The letterforms “E" and “N" are grafted to one another in such a way (with the “E" on the top plane and the “N” on the right) that they complete each other’s frame. They cannot physically stand alone. Combined, the letterforms reflect the many perspectives of Rutgers and Newark: they may exist on different planes, but when fused together they forge a new social infrastructure that is as secure and dynamic as the logomark itself.
The EN logomark is the essential building block within the visual identity, informing all subsequent design decisions, including the building’s interior, signage, and color scheme.
Color plays both an aesthetic and conceptual role in the branding system. Josef Albers’ concept of 1+1=3, a variant of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," dictates how the third colors are formed for each floor. Underscoring the concept of a “THIRD SPACE,” each floor has its own color scheme and logomark variant deriving from a unique combination of two of the three subtractive primaries (cyan, magenta, and yellow), facilitating a wayfinding system through its own distinct color scheme. Within the logomark’s container, these two colors merge to create a new third hue, which symbolizes Express Newark’s inclusive and collaborative environment: our guiding principle.
In addition, the DC designed a custom typeface, BUBBA_PRO, inspired by the unique formal qualities within the Express Newark logomark. The typeface alternates between straight and curved terminals at the end of each stroke within each typographic character. The interplay of gentle curves, sharp angles, and intersecting lines embody the spaces’ collaborative environment.
Signage & Wayfinding
With signage and future applications in mind, the font system included a set of functional glyphs. Some of these functions include arrows designed both with and without containers and universal symbols on all EN signage being modified to mirror the formal characteristics of BUBBA_PRO.
The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors inherit their color scheme from the full color, primary Logomarks, based on the 1+1=3 concept. The trifurcated palette extends to room number signs making use of BUBBA_PRO, Braille, and modified universal symbols applied on a smooth birch plywood base.
Wayfinding, including Main Directory and a Directory for each floor, demonstrate how all of these elements come together as one coherent system.
Print/Digital Brand Applications
Print and digital applications perpetuate the EN identity system based on the inherent dynamism of revealed color blends through compositions in which color, typography and images overlap, creating new shared planes and suggesting three-dimensionality of space — a “third space.”