What’s in a name
How an iconic architecture practice embraced its legacy and charted its future
Like Sting, Bono, Pink, or Beyoncé, Jahn’s rock star status in the design world is so established that it goes by a mononym. Yet behind the bold-faced name is a long history of architectural innovators—and, these days, a diverse and creative team committed to advancing the firm’s storied legacy.
The towering architect Helmut Jahn, whose name the firm bears, died suddenly in 2021. He left behind a vibrant practice, an experienced design team, and, more than any particular architectural style, a disruptive spirit. It was up to Ummo to encapsulate that spirit into a new, reinvigorated brand.
Ummo started with the fundamentals. We delivered a strategy document that identified vectors for the firm’s future and clarified trade-offs. The strategy exercise enabled the firm’s leadership to contemplate which values were truly central, cutting through the white noise of accumulated words, images, and habits. The new idea—and new identity—emerged with bell-like clarity.
For over a century, Jahn has been at the forefront of inventive, fearless architecture. It transgressed boundaries, it challenged itself and others, and it kept a sharp focus on what’s next. Jahn, we wrote, was unbounded by convention and energized by the future.
“Our renewed purpose and identity are a tribute to [Helmut’s] legacy—his imagination, his determination, his daring spirit”
The visual identity is just as clear. Unlike the previous Jahn wordmark whose all-caps, red letters grabbed all the attention, the new identity strides with understated confidence. Spelled out in a rigorous sentence case sans-serif, the mark concludes with a forward slash. The character functions as a kind of provocation, making space for what’s to come. But the slash also finds a life of its own, as a secondary mark that resembles an abstracted capital letter “J”. As a container, this mark opens up endless possibilities for manipulation: a simple figure that the staff embraced as a creative prompt.
The mark is supported by a full suite of visual and verbal identity. An elegant grayscale color palette lets photography shine. Marketing and collateral materials elaborate on the theme of confidence and creativity. A new microsite foregrounds the firm’s extraordinary creativity, pairing legacy projects with the experimental, imaginative culture of today’s practice. The language of the brand, rhythmic and direct, emphasises the triad of doing, daring, and designing.
As the iconic architecture firm builds on a foundation of a century’s worth of design, the meaning of its name has subtly shifted. Rather than naming an individual, it captures the creative energy of an evolving, future-focused, and relentlessly driven collective.
Strategy, repositioning, and brand for Jahn
Developer Alex Knoll, communications lead Dillon Goodson
Helmut Jahn’s life and work are inextricable from the studio that bears his name. The brand pays homage to Helmut: to the legacy of risk, rigor, and creativity that is at the heart of the studio.