Established in 1895, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (“Municipal Museum Amsterdam”) is a museum for classic modern art, contemporary art, and design in Amsterdam. Currently closed, until September of this year, for a major renovation and expansion by Mels Crouwel of Benthem Crouwel Architects that will adapt the 117-year-old building with a new structure, the Stedelijk will be able to showcase its permanent collection that includes works by Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and Jackson Pollock, among others. In late April the museum announced a new logo, designed by the website-less Mevis & Van Deursen, and was immediately met with discontent, gathering more than 300 comments in this Facebook post. Not much other information has been released.
You can certainly see why there has been outrage. The new logo is, well, outrageous. And not in a riotous-oh-my-god-that’s-amazing way but more of a really? kind of way. The concept and execution are at the lowest end of the scale: An “S” made out of the institution’s name set in the most basic sans serif anyone can find. To call it a Type 101 exercise would be advanced. But the main problem isn’t the logo itself, at least not for graphic designers, as the logo comes from one of the more reputable Dutch design duos in the history of our profession, who have generated a smart and visually powerful body of work — for lack of a website here is an image search — with that academic-ey Dutch touch that can be all the rage. So the question is: Do we not get it? Are we too distracted by nice fonts and colors and pleasant things that we are the dumb ones who do not see the genius in this? I couldn’t care less about the answer, I just know what I see, and what I see is a logo with bad rhythm, poor spacing, confusing readability, and no aesthetic joy. Perhaps, as the screen captures below show, there is more to this logo that is yet to be revealed but if all we will be getting are letters stacked in rather obvious ways we shouldn’t hold our breath.
If you are not a Dutch speaker and are wondering, as I was, about why the “I” and “J” are the only letters together in the same line, it is because they are a ligature.