Established in 1980 (originally as Nordic Heritage Museum), the Nordic Museum in Seattle, WA, is the largest museum in the United States to showcase “the impact and influence of Nordic values and innovation in contemporary society and tells the story of 12,000 years of Nordic history and culture, across all five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.” Recently relocated to a new 57,000-square-foot space, the Nordic Museum presents a wide range of programs including contemporary art exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and films, and a variety of special events throughout the year. Earlier this month, after a short closure period, the museum reopened at the new location with a new identity designed by local firm Turnstyle.
A new ‘N’ monogram references the museum’s name, but also acts as a subtle nod to one of the key architectural features of the new building. “The fjord metaphor is hard to miss when you visit the museum itself,” explains Graham. “From the moment you walk in the doors, the cavernous fjord-inspired walls dominate your view. The bridges that criss-cross this gap are metaphors for connections - between Nordic countries, between the Nordic region and Seattle, between old and new - and they are literally connections between galleries that focus on these varying topics.”
The old logo had one job to do — spell out the name in correct order, “Nordic Heritage Museum” — and yet it failed by placing “Heritage” in the one spot where it made the least sense as the logo could only be read as “Nordic Museum Heritage” or “Heritage Nordic Museum” but never “Nordic Heritage Museum”. Also, it was typeset in Helvetica. The new logo is supposed to reference the metaphorical fjord that is built into the new space by forming a narrowing inlet into the rectangle shape that then forms an “N”. It’s minimalist, that’s for sure. As an “N”, even an abstract one, it’s not entirely convincing and as a visual fjord, it’s not an immediate read either. It’s not a bad monogram or icon and it looks the part of a museum logo but it feels almost unfinished.
The Avant Garde-esque monogram is fine but and I like how the “N” matches the monogram but other than that it’s fairly forgettable. The one thing that does bother me about the wordmark is that the same sans serif was not used throughout the identity which, instead, uses Lineto’s Circular and misses the opportunity to establish a consistent type language from logo to everything else. I’m not saying all identities have to use the same font everywhere as they do in the logo but when they are this close in appearance, yes, they should.
The all-the-colors approach is getting a little numbing.
The applications are okay. Nothing too exciting but for the most part missing any kind of personality or a unique aesthetic that separates it from other museums. The info signs further down the post start to come together into something a little more interesting but the overabundance of Lineto Circular makes it look like a dozen other things.
Overall, this is okay but I feel like the best-biggest museum about Nordic culture in the U.S. should be a lot more memorable, interesting, and exciting.
Thanks to Lauren March for the tip.