Around 2013, Sam Howison, then Head of our Department, asked me to be in charge of all External Relations for the Mathematical Institute. Soon after, we hired Dyrol Lumbard as our External Relation Manager. Dyrol and I decided that our first task should be to brand the Institute. We thought it was important to define our image. How should we present ourselves, as a mathematical department, to the world? The dual goal was to promote mathematics as a discipline and, in the process, promote our own activities, research, and teaching.
We decided to start with our visual identity, something simple, mathematical, and easily identified with Oxford. I asked our designers at William Joseph to play around with some of Penrose’s impossible shapes and tilings. Among the many proposals they made, one caught my eye, a simple Penrose tiling. Why not? When a few edges are removed, the tiles look like they have exploded. Within a few iterations, the exploded Penrose tile was born, and after checking with Roger himself, it became our main visual segue.
Since then it has been featured everywhere, from our website to mugs and pens, publications, and so on. It has become extremely popular and, from year to year, we update the design with new variations.
The second step was to find a decent name for our activities to discriminate between the administrative and academic entity that is the Mathematical Institute and how the public at large perceives us. After much discussion with Dyrol, we eventually settled for the simplest possible combination that fully describes us: Oxford Mathematics was born. Our strategy at that point was to use ‘Oxford Mathematics’ informally in our events and publications in the hope that it would catch up. Sure enough, Oxford Mathematics is now widely understood as representative of our activities. It is who we are.
But, a brand without content is pointless. Soon, we started our activities and initiated the Public Lectures.
You can find a full description of our close collaboration with William Joseph on their website.