Founded in 1948, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) is a “non-collecting institution dedicated to presenting the best and most exciting international, national, and regional art.” Located in Houston’s museum district, CAMH is housed in a very unconventional building — especially for Houston architecture standards — designed by architect Gunnar Birkerts. Viewed from the top, the building’s North and South walls are parallel to the street while the West and East walls are angled at 45 degrees. Viewed at street level, the building has a subtle but noticeable slant. It’s on these physical attributes (as well as an odd triangle shape that sits on top of the entrance) that CAMH has introduced a new logo and identity designed by New York-based AHL&CO.
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is unique among museums in its steadfast commitment to its diverse community and aim to demystify contemporary art for a broader audience. CAMH’s new visual identity embodies the institution’s mission statement and captures the boldness and dynamism of its program.
Economy, versatility, flexibility, and ease of implementation for both print and digital applications were primary considerations in the development of identity standards. The logo is comprised of an icon and wordmark, which can be used together or individually. The mark is comprised of four convergent shapes derived from the institution’s physical site and architecture, distinctive attributes that set CAMH apart in Houston’s Museum District. Advancing the CAMH acronym was a strategic decision to take advantage of the name used by local audiences and simplify and standardize how the institution is referred to.
— Design statement provided by AHL&CO
Having visited this museum many times I can say firsthand that the old logo was a terrible misrepresentation of the energetic exhibitions and projects shown inside this very peculiar space. The old logo was a literal representation of the building and it did it in a completely unappealing way. In contrast, the new logo is an interpretation of the building and its attitude is far more challenging — a much more accurate representation of what contemporary art is supposed to be and do (sometimes). There are probably a dozen ways to configure those four geometric forms and I’m not sure this is the best one, but let’s roll with it. The icon probably needs some explanation to visitors but I don’t think that’s a detriment to it, it looks as if it belongs to the museum. My biggest complaint is that it uses CMYK as the color palette which is a bit expected (at least for designers) and when reduced to a single color you obviously lose a lot of the vibrancy of the full color version. The typography is set in Helvetica and you all know I’m not a fan, but at least here it’s only four letters all in uppercase, so it’s the least offensive form of Helvetica. In the applications it seems where this new identity will give the CAMH a lot to work with and where interesting things start to happen. Overall, a very well deserved and successful evolution for a great museum.