New Work: New York University Abu Dhabi


The inaugural class began its studies this week at New York University Abu Dhabi, the first comprehensive liberal arts and sciences campus to be operated abroad by a major U.S. research university. The next step towards NYU's ambition to create a global network for the creation of knowledge, NYUAD was created in partnership with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This partnership is the outcome of a shared understanding of the essential roles and challenges of higher education in the 21st century, and of the alignment of NYU’s goals for global education with the forward-looking goals of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. There is no other such institution in the Middle East.

Pentagram was initially asked to design a graphic identity for this new institution, and subsequently has created a wide range of material to support NYUAD’s activities. The creative challenge was to devise a graphic language that would clearly link the umbrella New York University identity with the cultural context of Abu Dhabi, the Emrirates, and the Middle East.

The brand architecture is complicated by the fact that the institution has three different public faces: the main one at NYUAD; the NYUAD Institute, which develops and hosts public programming for the NYUAD community; and NYUAD Washington Square, which serves as the New York gateway to NYUAD for faculty, students, and the wider public. These needed to be differentiated but clearly connected.

The centerpiece of Pentagram’s solution is a motif based on the NYU’s symbol, the torch. By repeating and rotating it, we create a tiled pattern evocative of Middle Eastern decorative arts. A bold color palette, derived from Abu Dhabi’s official brand standards, brings the pattern to life in a variety of combinations, and unifies the different facets of the institution’s communications program. These have included brochures, posters, announcements, catalogs, email formats and website, as well as signage and graphics at NYUAD’s interim campus building in downtown Abu Dhabi and its satellite facility on Washington Square Park.

Applications for NYU Abu Dhabi have exceeded applications in both number and quality. According to the New York Times, 'The new institution drew more than 9,000 applicants and has accepted fewer than 200. They are an elite group.' Pentagram's work for NYUAD is the latest in our long history with New York University, which includes projects for the NYU's School of Law, Stern School of Business, and Wagner School of Public Service.
















Project Team: Michael Bierut, partner-in-charge and designer; Katie Barcelona, designer.

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