I love the controversy behind the launch of the new branding for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It shows how much we care about brands.
Designers all over were heartbroken and people in shock or offended, but why? It is really that bad of a design? Did The Met need a logo? Here are my two cents.
On mid February 2016 the logo was unveiled getting immediate reactions on the media.
The logo at the centre of the polarized opinions was designed by the firm Wolff Olins, as part of a two-year project with the Met to rethink the museum’s approach to the public.
According to the press release statement the concept of the logo “features two prominent words — THE MET — stacked on top of each other in bright red capital letters that seem to lean together, like the walls of the Temple of Dendur.”
Don’t mess with my tribe
At the center of the debate is the discussion about the history behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art and what it represents for a lot of people.
We humans are so basic. We need to identify with our tribe and feel that we are part of it. We feel threatened when our group is re-defined.
One of the main components for a brand is the sense of belonging, the same that a flag or a coat of arms are marks of ownership and belonging for countries. Brands (and logos) are loaded with meaning. Good brands become symbols and people have killed for symbols (the cross, the star David, the swastika). Sports fans wear the team symbols and are willing to get into fights to defend “their colors”.
People not only own Nike shoes or shirts, they tattoo the swoosh on their skin. Kind-of-forever. We love brands.
It was certainly a bold move for the museum director to redefine their brand, and for all the attention that they got, I think it was the right move. I don’t want to talk about good or bad design. I think the new logo is powerful (powerfully ugly…)
The Willem Defoe effect
I will never call Willen Defoe beautiful. Promise. But -oh my god- what a good actor. What and interesting person, so strong and unique.
One thing we cannot deny about the new logo is that, as Defoe, has lots of personality (like The Met). It is certainly unique (Like the Met).
The uniqueness that this new logo brings to the museum is worth every single debate.
The one thing that you don’t want in a logo is indifference. Mission accomplished.
Hey, that logo has some attributes!
I think there are great attributes in the logo: the name, for instance, is short, powerful, and as simple as simple can be.
And there is something “Newyorkish” in the font used. A bit spiffy, a bit weird, a bit timeless a bit pretentious.
I know that typography purists say that this logo it is just a “dog’s breakfast”, a mix of everything: serif and sans serif type characteristics, unconventional ligatures, squished kerning beyond belief… Isn’t that what the Met really is? A lot of stuff in one place?
Maybe the overwhelming nature of THE MET finally got represented in a visual symbol.