Located in the heart of Amsterdam, the Joods Cultureel Kwartier (Jewish Cultural Quarter) is where the first group of Jewish immigrants settled in the sixteenth century and where they developed their culture and practiced their religion. Today, the small Quarter (less than one square kilometer) is home to four institutions open to the public: the Jewish Historical Museum (established in 1932 and housed across four synagogues), JHM Children’s Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue, and National Shoah Museum (Holocaust). Late last year, Joods Cultureel Kwartier introduced a new identity designed by local firm koeweidenpostma.
The logo for the Jewish Cultural Quarter is derived from square patterns in the architecture of the Great Synagogue, the oldest of the four synagogues (1671), in which the Jewish Historical Museum. The vertical lines refer to the lists of names in the Dutch Theater. The task was to develop an iconic brand, without the use of famous Jewish symbols such as the Star of David or the Menorah, and that it would not compete with existing logos of the four museums.
The old logo shared colors and typefaces with the Jewish Historical Museum as it is the main destination in the Quarter, so not a big surprise there. It wasn’t a good logo by any means but at least the font was sort of nice at the larger size and more spaced use (in the Dutch name vs the black and squished English version underneath). The new logo doesn’t have the strongest of concepts behind it — a square derived from square patterns in one of the synagogues of the museum — but it leads to a familiar MIT-Press-logo-approach that tends to work every time.
Visually, I like the new logo because of its abstract geometry and play on counterspace and Gestalt-ness but there is nothing specifically relevant about Jewish culture or the destination. It’s understandable that they wanted to avoid the Star of David or other Jewish icons but in doing so they also avoided any other sense of culture and place. The new logo also links to both the old Quarter and Jewish Historical Museum logos by using the RGB color palette which feels far too playful and maybe this was the moment to separate the identity of the Quarter from that of the museum by adopting new colors, perhaps starting with the same blue and then going into a monochrome palette of blues. Technically, though, it’s a good logo and the accompanying typography — set in Avenir (and a dark gray) — looks nice against the monogram and it’s supported by a strong identity.
The “jck” monogram serves as the anchor and focal point for all applications in different forms: sometimes it’s white over images, sometimes it’s in full-color against white, sometimes it gets knocked out of a color bar and used as a window, and sometimes as a crazy pattern. It’s a very flexible logo not in terms of how many shapes it can take on but how many different “flavors” it can deliver, giving the Quarter a consistent but dynamic look. The crazy pattern, in both color and single-color, might be my favorite application and, again, I wish it came in a range of blues because it would look quite great. Overall, if this had been infused with a slight hint of the culture it represents it could have been a home run; for now, it’s bases loaded waiting for the right hit. And I have no idea why a Jewish quarter in Amsterdam identity review devolved into a baseball analogy. Monday, I guess.