Grafik Paragraph
By Monish Khara
Work by Vrints-Kolsteren
iMAL Art Center
Vrints-Kolsteren, Antwerp based Design Studio created the identity for iMAL center in Brussels

iMAL is technically an art center, but it's not like one of those classic boring ones with giant oil paintings from two centuries ago.

iMAL has a distinct focus on digital culture and technology, their exhibitions and conferences are more reminiscent of a Space and Aeronautics museum as opposed to an art institution. They host debates, conduct research and encourage dialogue around the challenges faced by our ever-evolving technology-driven society. They even have a FabLab on-site, 'Fab' is short for fabrication not 'fabulous' lol, complete with 3D printers CNC machinery and laser cutting, all available to members.

Vrints-Kolsteren created the new visual identity for iMAL, coinciding with the opening of the centers new venue in 2020. Not unlike the Antwerp based studio's other work, the iMAL identity utilizes simple Sans Serif typography that's accompanied by a range of geometric shapes and halftone patterns.

Vrints-Kolsteren's uses these geometric shapes as symbols, with each distinct shape and color representing the different departments of iMAL, creating a distinguishable graphic system that celebrates each facet of the center equally. You can see the symbols used at scale on the facade of the building as window decals, creating visual impact from afar (Figure 1.) and paired together with the logo in a neat row on the left. The image treatments take cues from the shapes as well, with halftone effects using the same circles, triangles and squares. Seen from a distance these effects give the images a kind of bitmap feel, with tiny pixel-like dots making up the larger image.

Figure 1.
Figure 2.

One of my favourites of the printed pieces is the brochure and posters Vrints-Kolsteren designed, (Figure 2.) there's a really nice interplay here between the rectangle shapes, the type and color. It has a very screen-printed vibe and everything slots in place neatly.

What's striking about the halftone effects used and the patterned animations are the digital and technological essence they give off. It pairs perfectly with the subject matter of the centers' technology-driven' themes. The animations remind me of the running lines of code from the matrix, (Figure 3.) they give a space-age, futuristic feel. They've done well to play up the future-forward feel here, it for sure matches the pieces on show. Check out their current exhibitions: Yunchul Kim, YU-CHEN WANG, James Bride.

Figure 3. 'Falling code from the matrix

The typography used here is clear and coherent, taking use of Forgotten Shapes 'Gerstner-Programm' Font. They've opted to use just one weight, with visual hierarchy achieved with scale and all caps. This decision further adds to a no-fuss, simplistic feel for the type, that extends from the website to the printed materials. The type is super straightforward, PRIME EXAMPLE (Figure 4.) there's great consideration to negative space whilst creating enough visual interest. The white type on the left here really pops on the black.

Figure 4.

The output for Graphic Design nowadays is often executed on small screens or print (although less and less in print these days). But what drew me towards this particular work was the executions of the opposite, grand sized signage and window decals that are visible from across the street. The identity as a whole feels like a giant digital expression of the content inside the center and does well to welcome the centers new space in 2020. As someone who's super into the future and technology, I'm really getting the itch to visit this place, given the current global situation, virtual visit anyone?

You can view the full project by Vrints-Kolsteren here