Established in 1993, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is a a multi-disciplinary contemporary arts center in San Francisco, CA, with programming that includes performing arts, visual arts, film/video, and civic engagement. Located in the Yerba Buena Gardens, YBCA consists of two buildings that house multiple venues including the Forum, Screening Room, Galleries, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, all of which are popular for event rentals and how many people know of it — not so much for “their vision and dedication to redefining what an art center can and should be”, as Manual explains in the new identity they designed for YBCA that has started rolling out in the last couple of months.
Beginning in late 2015, Manual worked with YBCA to transform all aspects of their visual and verbal identity and expand their reach and relevance for people everywhere. The twofold goal of the identity is to position YBCA as a leading-edge art institution—vibrant, active, vital, energetic—and communicate the organization’s belief that culture is a catalyst for social change.
At the heart of the identity is a new iconic logo—drawn from YBCA’s geographical site and a conceptual representation of the notion of expanding and extending. Across all communications the logo connects to visual content via a simple and flexible graphic system.
I have always liked the old logo, designed by Futurebrand and drawn by Erik Marinovich, probably because it’s everything most contemporary art center logos are not (i.e., black and far too self-serious). But at 10 years old and not necessarily a timeless design, its time had come to change. The new logo is more like other contemporary art centers but in its angled execution and staggered, downwards typography avoids coming across as taking itself too seriously. Drawing its shape and proportions from its geographic placement the almost pharmaceutical logo has a quiet irreverence to it that makes its otherwise simplicity stand out. Where most logos would have their name moving from top to bottom because forward-looking and optimism and progress this one goes down because fuck you, it does. (Sorry for the swearing; trying to make a point of how rare a logo that goes down is). I also like how the overall shape of the logo fits in a square and lets the logo sit tightly in the top-left and bottom-right corners, creating instant tension in any layout.
The identity uses two different condensed sans serifs to great effect, Giorgio Sans (Black) from Commercial Type as headlines and Pressura from Grilli Type as text. The stationery establishes an unexpected color palette — our eyes, they are not burning! — but in other applications starts going into way different color territories, which is not terrible just a little confusing about what colors should be associated with YBCA.
The verbal identity of YBCA is expressed in campaign communications that defines art as an active, participatory experience—thus enabling YBCA to establish themselves at the center of the conversation and effort to shape the city of San Francisco.
The visual identity and communications were brought to life across all touch-points including signage, exhibition graphics, brochures, posters, outdoor advertising, identity guidelines, and a new website created in partnership with Bureau for Visual Affairs.
A big part of the redesign includes a lot of messaging in and around the surrounding Yerba Buena Gardens area to help establish what YBCA is about. At first, the sentences don’t exactly roll off your tongue but once you get the rhythm they are quite engaging. The logo acting as a pointing device to the copy showcases the great functionality of the logo.
Overall, I really like the identity and its flexibility that doesn’t rely on a dozen different logos to feel varied. The headline typography might need some tempering down the road as I don’t think most people will enjoy being shouted at with caps lock for many years but for now it works to help call attention to the renewed identity and establish it as the CENTER FOR THE ART WITH BADASS TYPOGRAPHY.