Established in 1985, Atlantic Theater Company is an Off-Broadway theater in New York, NY, co-founded by playwright David Mamet and the actor William H. Macy. With two locations, Atlantic has produced over 150 plays in 30 years, including multiple Tony Award winners. In August, the theater introduced a new identity designed by New York Pentagram partner Paula Scher.
For the Atlantic, Scher developed a system that can accommodate a wide range of uses but still unmistakably read as “the Atlantic.” The new logo takes the form of an abstract graphic emblem that is inspired by the shape of an “A” and also suggests a megaphone or spotlight. The shape can be used as a device to house — or “stage” — imagery related to a featured play or program, or by itself to represent the company as a whole. The emblem is accompanied by strong typography set in the compact sans serif Tungsten.
The previous logo had good, edgy intentions with its 3D, photocopy-textured “A” and wordmark in a semi-circle but it doesn’t look particularly helpful in building an identity around it. The new logo takes the two basic premises of the old one — an oversized “A” and condensed typography — to create something much better. The “A” is now abstracted as a trapezoid shape that can be interpreted as a spotlight, a really big megaphone, or, you know, an “A”, any of which are perfectly valid and relevant to theater. The logo is bold, striking, and hard to miss. The accompanying wordmark reinforces that the shape is an “A” by replacing all “A”s with it. Since each of the three words in the name has an “A”, the effect works particularly well.
The institutional applications are very straightforward yet bursting with energy as the “A” takes up the full size of some of the layouts or, in an alternate application, becomes confetti. Some might not like this deviation but I think it feels particularly joyful.
The “A” gets repeated plenty in all the applications and it might get tiring or repetitive after a while — repetition begets branding, so maybe it’s not the worst that could happen — but, for now, it gets broken up nicely by using one “A”, multiple “A”s, at angles or straight up, and with blue half-tone photographs in unexpected angles.
The posters are dead simple, intersecting the name of the play with the “A”, making every poster a “touchpoint” for the theater’s logo establishing the institution in viewer’s minds and establishing a connection between the play and the theater. It’s hard to not want to see this as an extension of the Public Theater identity and posters since there are plenty of similarities — in both execution and graphic chutzpah — so, as a graphic designer, the system stands apart better from the storied Public Theater work when it uses halftone images. I bet there are a few eagle-eyed New Yorkers who might notice the similarities but, overall, the large “A” and knickerbocker color palette will help the Atlantic build its own identity in due time.