The New Metropolitan Museum logo

Thoughts on the first look at a rebranding

Today on NYMag.com, Justin Davidson called the Metropolitan Museum of Art out for its new word mark. It’s a well reported critique from someone who clearly loves the Museum and hates the new logo, and he gives some great insight into the history of the old brand. I’m not going pretend to be an authority here, but I am a passionate Met Museum attendee, a member, and a designer, so I figured that entitled me to add a few thoughts.

I agree that the general typography of the design is bad. Serifs are half drawn and the shared vertical stems of the M and E in “MET”, and the H and E in “THE” are confusing, and the underlying font is uninspiring. In an attempt to customize itself beyond simple typography, the design simply looks for shared typographic moments and then eliminates the redundancies. The end result is confusing, awkward, and possibly lazy.

It also lacks the elegance and character of the old Vetruvian M that included the guidelines of the underlying structure of the font in its execution.

BUT, the old logo isn’t great at small sizes or on small screens, and could also be considered visually confusing.

AND, I agree with the idea of getting rid of the M in digital. In the app world, letter marks are ubiquitous. Heres a few M’s I found…

And then there’s this insanity that I found on Citylab, if you happen to take public transportation…

And yes, for the record, I was responsible for shortening the ESPN logo to just the “E” as the app icon when I worked there, so it’s fair to call bullshit on me, but I felt at the time that the “E” was unique enough that it could serve as a kind of shorthand for the overall brand, and since the apps were actually subsets of the larger brand, I convinced myself that it made sense. So there!

So as much as I like the old Metropolitan M, I can understand their decision to switch to the word MET for app icons and small digital use (if they actually do. I haven’t seen an app icon yet).

Mostly I just miss the personality of the old one. In our effort to flatten, simplify, clean up and generally declutter design (all good things) we also tend to lose personality and character. That doesn’t have to be the case. A great design solution can do both. And in the case of one of the greatest museums on the planet, it has a responsibility to do both.

Finally, I was disappointed in the Met’s decision to use an agency based in London. It seems like a missed opportunity to connect with its member base and use a local agency or individual, maybe even a member, who is passionate about the institution, to create the new brand. Museums, like sports teams, belong to the people who support them, and it would have been easy to find some local New Yorkers to do the work. My suggestion, in order to save time, connect with the locals, and add personality back into the brand, is below. You’re welcome!

Correction: Wolff Olins, the agency that designed the new Met branding system, is a London based agency that has a New York office. I regret the error.