Museum Mark Making

Museum Mark Making

September 2, 2011  |  Branding

This week I wanted to acknowledge some truly exquisite mark making—the kind of branding that makes you eat your heart out. Iconic, timeless, balanced and beautifully refined. A few of the worlds’ most well known and respected Museums also boast some seriously awesome identities.

Here are a few of my favorites: The Victoria and Albert Museum in London (design: Alan Fletcher, 1989), Centre Pompidou in Paris (design: Jean Widmer, 1977), The Museum of Modern Art in New York (design: Paula Scher, Julia Hoffman, late 2000s), Musée d’Orsay in Paris (design: Jean Widmer and Bruno Monguzzi, 1984), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (letter “M” originally created by Da Vinci, 1497). The Guggenheim, Noguchi, Smithsonian, and Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) also come to mind.

What makes these logos so formidable (beyond the formal design), is how they are being used for various campaigns. Contemporary mark making favors versatility where the logo is active. I’m finding that they no longer sit quietly in the corner of a poster—they act more as a bold statement. If you consider Pentagram’s rebrand of MoMA I start to wonder if the logo is overpowering the exhibits it’s promoting. A museum’s identity carries a reputation, a heritage, cultural significance and the promise of quality (in some cases, transcendental) experiences. For a brand to be so neutral, yet relevant and encompassing vast works is about as challenging a project brief as you could find.