Established in 1876, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest museums in the United States with a collection of more than 227,000 objects spread across more than 200 galleries that present “painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, decorative arts, textiles, and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States.” If none of that sounds familiar then try this: The steps that Rocky Balboa climbs climactically during Rocky are the entryway for the museum’s main building, which is what brings us here today. (The building, not Rocky). Coinciding with the unveiling of a master plan for a major renewal and expansion by Frank Gehry, the museum introduced a new identity designed by New York, NY, Pentagram partner Paula Scher.
Philadelphians colloquially refer to the Philadelphia Museum of Art as the “Art Museum,” and the new identity both brings art to the people and leads people to the art. “A” stands for “Art” in the new wordmark, which can be customized in certain instances with up to 200 different “A”s (and counting) that represent different styles of art and works in the collection, from Pop-inspired graphic letterforms to sculptural and photographic interpretations. Bringing an element of playfulness to the Museum’s brand identity, the mark can be modified for specific exhibitions and collections, and is endlessly adaptable.
The previous logo was fine. Nothing too great or too bland and I doubt anyone will really miss the griffin (a real-life version of which sits on the museum’s roof). The new logo takes the same Avenir used in the old logo, ditches the griffin, and places its bets on the word “Art”, by blowing it up about three times the size of the rest of the name. If you like Avenir, this is a nice treat. I don’t but I know I am mostly alone in this so I’ll leave that at that. Regardless of font, what I don’t quite like about the wordmark is the contrast in weights between “Philadelphia Museum of” and “Art”; they are all the same weight but the increase in size for “Art” makes it look like they used something like a combination of Light and Book weights, which is not enough contrast. My inclination would have been to either match the weights in the two elements or making them evidently different, not just somewhere in the middle.
Nonetheless, if the agreed point was to make “Art” stand out, it does. (See all applications below). The changing “A” is fun and well done. It’s quite amazing that there are so many “A”- and triangle-shaped art objects out there.
The standard “A” is used on all institutional materials, and can be used in a variety of color combinations depending on the artwork that it complements. The customized “A” is used for special exhibitions and programs (like the new Gehry exhibition), on tickets and admission buttons, and on retail items and other special promotions.
The applications look fairly nice, with the big crops of art and generous use of white space that nicely isolates the logo and makes “Art” impossible to ignore. The graphic “A”s work better in single-color applications like the tickets and buttons, making them look more integrated with the wordmark. The print materials with the switching colors on the logo are a little strange because they now break the logo in three: “Philadelphia Museum of”, “A”, and “rt”. Overall, it’s a standard sans serif museum identity with enough of a graphic hook to build an interesting identity around.