The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new logo, designed by Wolff Olin.

Wolff Olin strikes again

Much has already been said about The Met’s new logo, and the resounding feeling from designers isn’t particularly good. I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated with the amount of bad design permeating the industry from the under-qualified and the overactive. So, it would be strange for me not to comment.

I have to say, to most eyes, there probably isn’t a problem. Something I try to do as often as possible is put myself in the shoes of the uninitiated (i.e. the general public) to consider how much a) they would care and b) would be able to recognise the positives and negatives of a logo. To muggles, this is just going to be a red shape that will likely become synonymous with The Met in time.

Does that mean it’s good, though? I mean, is being able to say “well, it doesn’t matter, because people won’t be able to tell” a way of going about design? I’d say no. One would think that most people know where they are when they enter The Met. So the need to be able to read a logo that says “The Met” isn’t necessarily paramount. But that doesn’t excuse the lack of readability of the logotype.

The way the logo is laid out means the brain does not make its usual connections. Instead it comes out with combinations like “ne ner” and “te mt”, it’s all a bit jarring. And with standalone logotype, a lack of readability is somewhat sinful. It strikes me as the sort of logo you might see from a student who has just learnt how to put letters together in Illustrator.

I asked someone outside the design world what she thought and she replied “Times New Roman 190px, I don’t like it.”

Wolff Olins’ “design” for the 2012 Olympic logo.

It was designed by Wolff Olins, the firm responsible for the similarly polarising and jarring London 2012 logo. Admittedly, the 2012 Olympics’ identity was a bit all over the place. But this logo was at the figurehead of the good ship “Diffident Design”.

Design epiphanies can occur anywhere, but this looked like someone had dropped a plate in the Wolff Olins kitchen and run with it. Even worse were the garish acid colours it was presented in across the board.

With the benefit of time and the the context of how much of a mess the whole British identity at the Olympics was, the logo somewhat melted into the background. We grew accustomed to it, much like we would anything else horrible that we can’t change. And so it was accepted a bit. But the new Met identity seems to have opened up old wounds.

It doesn’t use the acid colours of the Olympic logo, but it still has something jarring about its person.

We can be thankful that Wolff Olins steered clear of acid pink this time and went for the muted tones of blood red. To be honest, the concept isn’t a bad one. The issue is that, rather than being constructed into a real integrated logotype, it is just a mashing together of existing type. Pieces have been cut off to create contrived connections, creating a mangled freak of type. Worst of all, for me at least, is it just comes across as lazy. It’s the sort of design you do at the beginning or the end of the day. The beginning of a logo project is full of dreadful images, things you put together when you don’t know what else to do. These normally get put away when you do the real design. But in this case, much like the 2012 logo, Wolff Olins ran with it. And despite being a large accomplished firm, apparently no one had the insight to realise that they were doing wasn’t right.

This isn’t the first rebranding gone wrong, and it won’t be the last. So perhaps it is unfair to be too unkind about it. But for a company that usually at least occasionally has the excuse of “well, we were trying something different” this represents a genuine misstep. Much like their dreary Mobilink logo of 2013, it’s a clumsy and unfortunate piece of branding.

In a few weeks the design world will forget about the new Met logo. We’ll likely have something else to gripe about. But it does represent a real wasted opportunity. Instead of an accessible and worthy identity, the Met is now going to be stuck. And in the process, it will further propagate the “that’ll do” attitude of some designers, and the idea that bad design is “good enough”.

For anyone who is interested, this was the original logo.