This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.
Guest Editorial by Kosal Sen
The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia is a popular tourist attraction that’s within walking distance from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s a funhouse of exploratory hands-on science. Kids can chase each other inside a giant walk-in human heart, gaze in awe at the IMAX screen, or sit and enjoy the planetarium sky. Though the permanent exhibits are meant for kids on field trips, adults are no less fascinated by the traveling exhibits that take place there, such as The Titanic, Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds, and King Tut. Through the years The Franklin Institute has maintained its well-respected, non-profit reputation by balancing educational material and fun without being too commercial or juvenile.
The Franklin Institute’s original mark, designed by Allemann Almquist & Jones, depicted a solar eclipse with Smithsonian-esque integrity. Finding strength in simplified elegance, the icon by itself maintained its clarity when used on the smallest of stickers to the hugest promotional displays on the building’s facade.
The new logo seems to have abandoned its reputable, scholastic image by dropping “Institute” and using an abstracted style fit only for a luxurious Center City condo. Now, in regards to the dropping of “Institue”, you may think, could the brand just be catering to whatever the general population calls it? Nope. Nobody in Philly has ever left out the “Institute” when saying the name. Granted, nobody ever says the “Science Museum” part, but “The Franklin Insitute” was and always will be its full name.
The previous logo used a customized Futura in a transparent way that would’ve made Beatrice Warde proud, treating the lengthy name to be quickly read. In the new logo, Futura calls attention to itself with an all-caps treatment, making for a hole-infested wordmark. Acknowledged are the attempts to maintain the original typographic choice. But at this point, it probably would’ve been better to find another typeface altogether. Futura will always look clumsy in all caps.
On to color: It’s bad enough they added a slew of colors to their printing costs, but using a dark, thin stroke on a black background is simply unthoughtful. If you can’t tell from the image above, there’s a darkened arc inside the orange circle. Just look at the favicon on their website for more proof. The lack of contrast along with the thin strokes make the whole logo muddled at small sizes. I’m not sure that the new logo includes that gray field behind “The Franklin”, but seeing it on the primary website and a promotional minisite, leads me to believe that it is.
When properly designed, an eclipse can be cleverly illustrated by a figure/ground relationship using only one color. Looking at the new mark, are we to believe now that the sun has been magically eclipsed by a semi-transparent planet? I’m not always for taking logos literally (dangerous strings on Rand’s UPS package), but being the science hub that it is, shouldn’t they know better than that? Truly disappointing.
Kosal Sen is a designer at Sides Media Studio where spends his most of his time on interactive and traditional branding for small businesses.