We, the Purdue University Northwest School of Engineering, are proud to be celebrating our second year! In the Fall 2018 semester we debuted our new logo, which has been applied to our main office window in Hammond (Potter 121) and on various print and electronic materials. What does the logo mean and why is it constructed in this way?
Geometric construction of the new School of Engineering logo:
Relation to engineering
Our logo was designed to convey fundamental distinguishing features and principles of the field of engineering in a symbolic fashion. Among them is the realization that engineering is a combination of rigorous science as expressed in the laws of physics and a creative process that is necessary for us to harness these laws in order to find solutions to problems that matter to people. Thus, our success as engineers crucially depends on our ability to transcend frameworks of individual disciplines and to frame problems in different ways. To be creative and open to contrasting possibilities when we design solutions. And to celebrate diverse points of view as we work to improve the quality of life for all of us.
This multi-faceted nature of engineering is expressed in our logo, the interpretation of which can be cast in a number of alternative but internally consistent ways. There are (at least) two possible interpretations relying on the ambiguity of interpreting the fundamental geometric structures of the logo either in a two-dimensional framework as hexagons, or in a three-dimensional framework as isometric projections of cubes (see graphics above).
Furthermore, the logo also attempts to articulate the inherent complexity of engineering, as both art and science, with its need to develop solutions that on one level solve purely technical problems while at another being cognizant of and respecting nested hierarchies of context with regards to human individuals, groups, and society. This is expressed through a fractal-like design of “structure within structures”, with, alternatively, hexagons arranged in a hexagonal pattern, or cubes arranged in a cubic pattern.
Artistic creativity + strict mathematical laws
Finally, a number of details of the design exemplify the fundamental tension, typical for engineering solutions, of having to combine artistic creativity with strict mathematical laws. In addition, in designing practical solutions while having to satisfy a large set of often conflicting requirements, the concept of an “optimal solution” becomes complex and often requires balancing pure function and aesthetic simplicity with considerations outside of the realm of mathematics and science. Thus,
- the size of the fundamental building blocks of the graphic (the cubes/hexagons) varies with the square-root of the golden ratio;
- however, this variation employs a mix of isometric and cartesian coordinate systems breaking the hexagonal symmetry in order to achieve a transition to a progression from left to right corresponding to a cartesian coordinate system.
- Colors are defined in a “hue-saturation-lightness” (HSL) system, using identical hue and saturation for all cubes, and varying lightness only.
- Colors progress towards increasing lightness, starting from darkest (black) for the sides of the cubes in the leftmost column to lightest for the top of the cubes in the rightmost column. The cubes in the rightmost column appear with an average lightness that produces the “Purdue Gold” color.
- For each transition the top color of the cubes of one column becomes the color of the sides of the cubes in the next column to the right.
- Colors are identical within columns and change in a strictly cartesian coordinate system, completing the transition from the isometric to the cartesian view.
Once again, this transition in the use of coordinate systems can be seen as a metaphor illustrating the initial ambiguity between a two-dimensional hexagonal system versus a three-dimensional cartesian system.
Engineering is built on principles upon which we agree. But, our success as engineers also derives from our ability to frame problems in different ways – to be creative and open to possibilities when we design solutions. And, to celebrate diverse points of view as we work to improve the quality of life for all of us.
What do you see?
Postscript: This logo is the product of a collaboration of engineers/scientists and designers/artists. We would like to give credit in particular to Jeannie Hartig, Jill Schaffenberger and Dana Krill.