New York’s Grand Central Terminal train station will celebrate its centennial in 2013. In honor of that milestone, Midtown TDR Ventures worked with Pentagram to create a new logo and identity system for the landmark location. Pentagram partner Michael Bierut oversaw the project with designer Joe Marienek. The logo includes an interpretation of the four-sided Tiffany timepiece that sits atop the information kiosk at the center of the Main Concourse. The clock is set at 7:13 PM (19:13) to represent the year that the station became officially known as Grand Central Terminal.
The clock is a fitting symbol for Grand Central — a recognizable icon that recalls the interior architecture, as well as the landmark. The subtle 1913 time reference is the kind of smart, thoughtful touch that’s a signature of Pentagram’s work. Although, while this may seem a bit pedantic, the clock’s hour hand is positioned incorrectly; at 7:13 the hour hand would be almost one quarter of the distance between the 7 and 8.The wordmark is a tasteful, generously spaced use of Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir.
The combination of the clock and wordmark is something less than the sum of its parts. The result lacks a venerable sophistication that Grand Central deserves. Perhaps the ornamental detail of the illustration feels a bit cartoonish. Maybe the wordmark is too understated. The result is reminiscent of logos for Las Vegas destinations like MGM Grand or Caesars Palace, or high-end shopping malls. Both of those references might be entirely appropriate given Grand Central’s popularity as a tourist and shopping destination — it’s even home to an upscale mall staple: a shiny, new Apple Store.
On their blog, Pentagram revealed a handful of applications for the new Grand Central identity. The ad, poster and hangtag all share bold headlines, ample negative space and tasteful logo placement. It’s an effective system — yet it presents Grand Central as more retail, less majestic, less grand. It’s another shiny coat on the identity’s commercial veneer.