The Institute of Contemporary Art Baltimore is a non-collecting arts organization that promotes mid-career artists. ICA was a nomadic institution, displaying in galleries around Baltimore. They now have a permanent gallery space, but also continue to work with artists in site-specific locations. As an expanding organization, the ICA had outgrown their existing typemark, identity system, and website and needed help refreshing them to better promote upcoming exhibitions in diverse physical spaces. Q Collective created a flexible identity that easily adapts to a variety of environments, and a website that promotes current and upcoming events, as well as serves as a catalog of previous shows.


Our design process started by looking at potential combinations of the letters I, C, and A in a variety of typefaces. We experimented with forms that are dynamic, modern and modular to represent the ICA’s mission and vision. Adding shapes, lines and patterns we explored how the letters and logo elements could be altered, repeated or changed for different applications. To further test form, we placed shapes on photographs to determine if they would remain recognizable on complex backgrounds.


The entire name of the organization spelled out on multiple lines was also explored to present a visual sense of movement and a more understandable word mark. Repeated modules at various sizes created interesting patterns and began to suggest ways the identity might be used as signage, wallpaper or other graphics for both online and physical spaces.


Because ICA is a common acronym and name for museums, we placed emphasis on the word Baltimore in some design concepts.



Ultimately, the client decided that their audience had grown accustomed to a lettermark featuring just the letters I,C and A placed on an angled grid. We redrew and restructured the glyphs as geometric letters that are modular and can be placed in multiple configurations, made into patterns, and used with different typography lockups while showing the organization’s entire name. The new mark is a refined version of an early logo that was used on press releases and business cards, with changes to proportion and weight to assure it is legible in print and on-screen at a variety of sizes.


To complement the lettermark, we selected an array of sans serif typefaces for the secondary typography. From top left to bottom right; Futura, Apercu, Galaxie Polaris, Larsseit, Monod and Proxima Nova. Proxima Nova, with its open characters was chosen for its high legibility and modern aesthetic.



Our goal for the website was to showcase the artists’ work while providing easy access to pertinent information about events and exhibitions. As a non-profit run by volunteers, ICA wanted an easy-to-update site that could also serve as an archive of past shows. For the home page, we focused on the idea of posters as a way to promote openings and exhibitions. This idea drove the design concept of a split screen, using each side to highlight exhibitions with an image, artist’s name and dates. The right side of the screen features navigation and small images of past exhibitions.


For the mobile site, the design responsively changes to a one-column layout, with global navigation at the top, followed by the current exhibition, ICA’s mission statement and images from past exhibitions.