Sebastian Koseda’s degree show identity for RCA2023 puts a progressive spin on classic elements
The 2023 degree show identity for the Royal College of Art questions its context and creation at every turn, utilising this academic conjecture as the basis of its design, which was crafted by London-based designer Sebastian Koseda. Beginning with an exploration challenging the cultural necessity for royalty, the foundation of RCA2023 is a deconstruction of its royal crest, digitally rendered in course-specific materials.
“William and I created a deconstructed version of the crest,” Koseda tells us, referencing RCA alumni and creative, William Fairbrother, “and skinned it in materials that represent the different courses at the RCA,” notably glass, ceramics, concrete, textiles and jewellery. “Along with various animated sculptural elements,” he adds, with the 3D-rendered crest existing in perpetual motion, interacting with the critical motif featured across the identity: flags.
Again questioning the royal institution – following 2022 and 2023’s royal paraphernalia-heavy scenes with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the crowning of King Charles – Koseda sought to challenge the role and significance flags and bunting could play, utilising the space for research, information and inquest in place of patriotism. Having put an open call out to students, the identity’s flags respond to critical, speculative questions from pupils across the spectrum of degrees, covering topics of city-ready immune systems, recycling time and plant extinction.
“Alongside this year’s identity, the brief was to create guidelines for the RCA to use year on year,” Koseda notes, “and I had to be careful not to choose a font with a distinct time stamp on it,” instead turning to a typeface more familiar and timeless. “I decided that instead of choosing something trend-driven,” he questions, “why not use Helvetica and modify it year on year?” setting the system in place for years to come and, in doing so, creating the space for a visual legacy to evolve.
For 2023, Koseda introduced harsh, digital cuts into the ‘H’ forms of the illustrious typeface, harnessing the disruption at macro and micro scales. “Cutting, layering and textural juxtapositions are key pillars in the identity,” he details, “so all elements need to feel like they are speaking the same language,” noting its inclusion across the scope of the identity. “The cuts in the ‘H’ elude to arrows pointing forward and backwards,” he suggests, “a nod to the future facing, progressive nature of the institution, whilst retrospectively celebrating its heritage,” Koseda concludes. “These cut-ins also inform the wayfinding arrows around the site,” interweaving intellectual elements to create something simultaneously conceptual and pragmatic.
Helvetica (customised) by Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffmann