Thursday, 17 August 2017

Deconstructing the Research England Logo

Research England, the erstwhile research-focused element of Hefce, will soon join the seven research councils and Innovate UK to be the ninth pillar of UK Research and Innovation

It will be a key part of the higher education landscape, guiding the REF and distributing the block grant that results from it, whilst looking nervously (or should that be defensively?) sideways at its sister councils to make sure the dual support mechanism is still, well, dual.

We're all still trying to work out what it will mean for us, and are jumping on every nanogram of news that limps our way, tearing its entrails out and desperately reading them for signs of the future.

Imagine our excitement, then, when a positive behemoth of news lumbered into view with the unveiling of Research England's logo. Now you might not think that that would warrant much, but Fundermentals is nothing if not a past master at deconstructing logos. Remember this? And this? And even this?

So what are we to make of this?

A bold and interesting choice, I think. It seems to be suggesting several things at once. 

  • Hitchcock's Vertigo, suggesting Research England will be dizzying and slightly sick-making, and may lead to an unfortunate death. As any good cineaste knows, Hitchcock's masterpiece is a psychological thriller based on a 1954 novel called Among the Dead. It tells the story of 'Scottie' Ferguson, an ex-policeman with extreme vertigo and a slightly confused sense of reality, who is paid to stalk a subject to their apparent death. Ripe for multi-layered interpretation, the film has been seen by some as 'a place where textual meanings play out in an infinite regress of self-reflexivity,' 
  • Alice in Wonderland, suggesting that dealing with Research England will feel a little like falling down a rabbit hole of altered realities. Alice tells the story of an innocent falling through a portal into a fantasy land where logic is upended. One of her adventures includes the caucus race, where everyone runs in a circle, somewhat pointlessly, with no clear winner. 
  • The Great Wave off Kanagawa, suggesting a brooding sense of foreboding. There's an ominous, left-handed dominance of the circular logo that brings to mind Hokusai's most famous woodblock print. This is more than a decorative and stylised seascape: it conjures up terror and tension, with the wave about to break on the helpless fishermen at its mercy.  
Dizzying, delusional and terrifying. Hmm. Maybe it would be best to quietly tidy away the entrails of this particular beast and wait for something a little more substantial to wander along.


  1. There is also the (hardly) subliminal impression that the focus is on the south-east...

  2. Good point! How did I miss that??

  3. And also 'stealing' the NERC logo colours... have they run out of colours in their palate at UKRI? Is that why the UKRI logo is grey?

    1. True! But alternatively you could see them as possibly - ahem - moderating some of the colours and designs of the other eight pillars. For instance, the design kind of 'irons out' the AHRC logo, as well. As to UKRI's lack of colour: they clearly think it's classy and raises them above the rainbow melee of the sub-groups.

  4. It reminds me of the images from the 60’s/70’s TV programme, Time Tunnel.
    There are loads of people working in a huge complex most of whom are never seen, they often end up in the past rather than the future, and are quite often caught up in disasters … whereas Time Tunnel was a fun TV show.
    Doug or Tony

    1. Good spot, Zilchopilcho! And the similarities are frankly unnerving. Does Research England know something we don't? We must be told!