A fail or a gain? The Met's controversial rebranding story so far
It’s been called a “graphic misfire”, one “pathological and self-loathing” act for an institution such as The Met and a brand new logo that backfired for many. “And giving equal weight to “The” and “Met” only compounds the vibe of insecurity that this gives off” commented the acclaimed contributing editor of Vanity Fair Paul Goldberger on a rebranding that took the graphic design community by storm.
“Our new logo no longer relies on symbols and, instead, is based on our commonly used name The Met, which has an immediacy that speaks to all audiences. It is an original drawing, a hybrid that combines and connects serif and sans serif, classical and modern letterforms. In this respect, it reflects the scope of the Museum’s collection and the inherent connections that exist within it” writes the text provided by the institution.
“The logo exploration was led by the choice of the new, more succinct name, The Met. The mark is a unique drawing inspired by the idea of making ‘connections’ — helping users connect ideas across time and culture, across the collection, between themselves and the art they interact with. The letterforms are connected together in bespoke ways and combine both serif and sans-serif letterforms — a deliberate move to incorporate both classical and modern ideas, a nod to the fact that The Met spans 5,000 years of art” added Wolff Olins, the design studio that is responsible of yet another talked-about identity of the past decade, the 2012 London Olympics.
“The old logo featured the letter M and was based on a woodcut by Fra Luca Pacioli, who taught mathematics to Leonardo da Vinci; it had been in use since 1971. Because it was featured for decades on every admission button, the symbol became visually identified with the Met. The old logo worked. It had a rich heritage. It felt dated in the right way. It meant something. It looked good on a T-shirt. The system around it could have been modernized without jettisoning a logo that had a well-earned place in New York life, an icon that adorned millions of lapels. But perhaps that happened because the design wasn’t created by a New Yorker” commented Hyperallergic’s Jennifer Bostic.
“Wolff Olins is a UK-based design firm. Sure, they have an office in NYC, blah blah, but basically, Gareth Hague, the London-based designer in charge of reenvisioning THE MET’s logo, is not attached to New York. I don’t mean to be parochial, but a museum is an expression of place, of a city. Our city” she adds in a somewhat patriotic mode.
“Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, anyone evaluating a brand new logo at first glance is — to paraphrase my partner Paula Scher — reviewing a three-act play based on what they see the moment the curtain goes up. Or, to put it differently, they think they’re judging a diving competition when in fact they’re judging a swimming competition. The question isn’t what kind of splash you make. It’s how long you can keep your head above water” concluded Michael Bierut.
We stand by him.