Picture a typical identity for a philanthropic organisation. Now watch Pentagram’s Eddie Opara do the exact opposite

Evoking the “gestural quality of the human hand”, the final “M” icon is ever-changing; the design team arrived on its initial form after making the mark in clay and ink. A press release from Pentagram continues: “In alternate versions, [the ‘M’] can lower and lengthen, stand tall, loop and intersect with itself. It can also be intertwined with the logotype, passing through the counterspaces of the letterforms.” While the logo’s fundamental shape is in flux throughout the identity, the identity also experiments with texture and tactility, mirroring materials from grass to metal in an effort to ensure that the “mark condones the type of artistic expression that the Mellon Foundation fosters,” Opara explains.
If you think back on all the snippets of branding you’ve seen over the years for philanthropic and charitable organisations, what do you remember? Logos of cupping hands? Illustrations of perfectly formed trees? A single, gently sprouting plant bud? It is this conservative world of visuals that Pentagram partner Eddie Opara is aiming to counter with a rebrand for Mellon Foundation, the largest funder of the arts and humanities in the US. Moving away from “literal sensibilities” for logo choices, Opara tells It’s Nice That, the team went for a more symbolic direction, developing a morphing “M” which fluctuates in shape, texture and colour to reflect the transformative basis of Mellon’s work.

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