New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art—The Met, for short—has just redesigned its well-loved logo. The Museum has gone by a single letter since 1971, using a straightforward M as its logo. All that’s totally gone out the window in a radical update that’s been harshly criticized.
The Met will use its new logo on its website and print materials from March. (Currently, the old logo is still on display on the homepage.)
The Met’s new logo embodies its nickname, which is what it’ll be known as from now on. Accordingly, the museum’s new logo is the words “THE” and “MET” stacked on top of each other in bright, red letters. This has prompted some critics to demean it as a “red double-decker bus that has stopped short, shoving the passengers into each other’s backs.” The criticism makes oblique reference to initial objections that the museum outsourced the rebrand to a London-based design studio—in fact, although the company in question, Wolff Olins, does indeed herald from London, the studio responsible was actually their New York office.
It’s quite a change when your logo used to be a single letter for the past 45 years, but it’s with good reason. The Met has a longer-term goal going forward: it wants to give its graphic identity a facelift to make the museum more navigable and aesthetically consistent for visitors.
The logo itself is a study in technique and fusion. Crafted by British designer Gareth Hague—also responsible for the controversial typeface used for London’s 2012 Olympics—it features a combination serif face, sans-serif touches, and calligraphic influences. The six letters form a design that’s clean, modern and stripped-down. The individual letters seamlessly flow from one to the next, like a collection of ligatures; think of the connections as making a bigger statement on the Met’s history that’s both subtle and significant. Since the Met features modern art and medieval pieces, the ligatures symbolize that the Met’s past is connected with its future.
The redesign includes two, distinct typefaces: Austin, a serif typeface and a sans serif typeface with Calibre influences. There’s also a bold and vibrant color palette along with a dotted line featuring diamond-shaped icons that are being dubbed “ornaments.” These design touches will be featured on the Met’s maps, digital platforms, signage and info material.
The philosophy behind the wider redesign was to focus on accessibility. The new brand’s designers say that they wanted to communicate accessibility to the museum’s visitors. Therefore, the typeface choice—as well as the color palette—is simple, friendly and global. For an institution as big as the Met, this redesign strategy makes sense, as simplicity is a way to link all of its different components for worldwide visitors of different backgrounds.
In total, this new design represents a broader, new brand identity for the Met. It’s the culmination of a two-year relationship between the Met and Wolff Olins. Whether or not the Met ultimately succeeds with the aims of its new logo is anyone’s guess at this point. One thing should be kept in mind, though: when longstanding designs change, the updates are often criticized, only to be gradually accepted as time wears on. It’ll be interesting to see if this happens with The Met’s new logo.