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branding + identity

Say WWWhat? Whitney Museum Unveils New Graphic Identity

With its imminent move downtown to new Renzo Piano-designed digs, the Whitney Museum of American Art decided that its graphic identity was also in need of an overhaul. And so it’s out with Abbott Miller‘s 13-year-old wordmark (which, like a fine wine, would only have gotten better with age) and in with a…spindly, shape-shifting line? The new identity, created by Amsterdam-based Experimental Jetset and unveiled today along with the museum’s redesigned website, is an anti-logo: lacking distinction, gravitas, and the ability to be seen from across a room. The “responsive ‘W’,” intended to dynamically “illustrate the museum’s ever-changing nature” with an elastic take on the letter “W,” is paired with a redrawn version of Neue Haas Grotesk, in all caps. With an infinite array of options, the identity can evoke the work of Dexter Sinister or Lawrence Weiner, the slanting logo of W magazine, or a line graph that got lost in a museum on its way to a sales report. But mostly, it leaves us wondering, Why?

Peter Saville on Creating ‘PUNK’ Show Logo for Metropolitan Museum


The gleaming logo, spotlit on the exhibition’s title wall. At right, the cover of the exhibition catalogue, which includes prefaces by Richard Hell and John Lydon.

When it comes to punk, the graphics tend to get gritty–all ragey handwriting fonts and distressed stenciling–but while a hit of GO-RILLA or Kra Kra is sufficient to evoke a Sex Pistols state of mind or a Ramones-era DIY kerning moment, it doesn’t quite capture the sartorial chasm of “chaos to couture.” Enter Peter Saville, who created the exhibition logo for the “PUNK” exhibition organized by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He used lettering by Paul Barnes to evoke the “coup d’état in youth culture” that was punk. “There has been very little liaison with the Met and the photograph on your site is the first time we have seen the logo actually in use,” Saville tells us. “The logo employs an irreverent use of 18th-century typefaces (by Fournier) in keeping with Nick Knight‘s briefing for the design of the show, which was Versailles on the eve of the French Revolution.”

Chermayeff & Geismar Adds Sagi Haviv to Masthead

Break out the champagne and the ampersands, design fans, because there’s a rebranding afoot at the legendary brand design firm of Chermayeff & Geismar, the creative brains behind identities for the likes of National Geographic, the Smithsonian, NBC, and Chase. For the first time in 56 years, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar have company on the masthead–in the form of partner Sagi Haviv, who has been with the firm since 2003 (the same year that he graduated from Cooper Union). The firm will now be known as Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.

“In the last ten years, Sagi has proved to us time and time again that not only had he absorbed our design philosophy, but had contributed to it and enhanced it with awareness, energy, and talent,” said Chermayeff in a statement announcing the change. “Tom and I felt that the firm had reached a point where credit going forward into our common future should be shared equally amongst us.” For a taste of Haviv’s absorption and enhancement skills, treat yourself to “Logomotion” (below, created in 2008), his award-winning animated tribute to the firm’s famous trademarks.

Watch This: Liz Magic Laser’s Armory Show Focus Group

Over the years, the Armory Show has shifted its expectations of the year’s commissioned artist from creating a few fresh works to showcase in the catalogue and as benefit editions to “helping to create the visual identity of the fair.” (Fortunately, wildly talented graphic designer Reed Seifer has been there to do the heavy lifting.) And so the selection of performance-inclined Liz Magic Laser as this year’s Armory Show poster artist was cause for eyebrow raising, even before the press release that promised she would “activate the fair’s heritage as a site of innovation and discovery,” a phrase that evoked a portrait of the artist as a young gumshoe, raising an oversized magnifying glass to her eye. Laser went the inside baseball route (hey, it worked for Argo) and hit a home run. Embracing the sleek corporate efficiency of the megafair, she embarked on an market research odyssey, staging a series of focus groups composed of collectors, curators, art pros, and journalists, to help her strategize what she would create for the fair, from limited-edition works to tote bags. Watch and enjoy:

Swatch Acquires Harry Winston in $1 Billion Deal

Harry Winston says “I do” to Swatch? It may sound like the ultimate high-low, late-night-monologue-fodder matchup, but only until you realize that the watchmaker’s eponymous plastic timepieces–credited with saving a Swiss watch industry decimated by the “Quartz crisis” of the 1970s and early 1980s–represent just one in a stable of brands that includes Breguet, Omega, and Rado as well as a movements and components business that makes customers of its main competitors. On Monday the Swatch Group announced that it had acquired the Harry Winston brand and its jewelry and watches business for $750 million.

In addition to up to $250 million in assumed debt, the deal gives Swatch 525 new employees, Harry Winston’s Geneva-based production company, and a brand burnished by red-carpet cameos and Fabien Baron‘s stunning ad campaigns lensed by Patrick Demarchelier. “We are proud and happy to welcome Harry Winston to the Swatch Group family,” said chairwoman Nayla Hayek in a statement issued yesterday. “Diamonds are still a girl’s best friend.” True as that may be, the brand’s former owners are hanging on to the sparkly stone supply. The mining activities of Harry Winston will now operate as Toronto-based Dominion Diamond Corporation and continue supplying polished diamonds to Swatch.

Pentagram’s William Russell on Designing for Alexander McQueen

In a sea of ever more opulent emporiums designed by the usual luxemaster suspects (think Peter Marino, Bill Sofield, Michael Gabellini), Alexander McQueen stores swim against the high-gloss current. Bold, vaguely apocalyptic, and often shot through with a distinctively ghostly take on baroque exuberance, the shops are the work of Pentagram’s William Russell. In the below video, the London-based architect reflects on a decade of work with McQueen–both the PPR-owned house and the man himself, known as Lee to friends. “He wanted a collaborative relationship, rather than someone imposing a look or a feel onto him,” says Russell of developing the initial store concept with the designer. “He was a true genius–you don’t meet many in your life, and he was an extraordinary man.”


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Field Trip: Inside the Wired Store

‘Tis the season for pop-up emporiums and “best of” lists. Wired combines the two with a concept store stocked with the magazine’s picks for the most innovative products and technologies of the year. To get its annual NYC retail showcase to look as good as the covetable merchandise–think GPS Navigation Shoes, a stool made of recycled bicycle inner tubes, and a Makerbot desktop 3D printer–Wired tapped Mother New York to mastermind the shopping experience. The creative agency delivered a sleek space filled with custom furniture and fixtures as well as wall-sized interactive elements. The store design is unified by graphics inspired by the magazine’s “What’s Inside” features and the work of product-dissecting photographer Todd McClellan, Mother creative director Piers North tells us. Pay a virtual visit to the store, which is open Tuesday through Sunday ’til December 24, by scrolling through the below photos. This being a Wired production, the stuff–who doesn’t need a pair of caped Superman socks?–is also available to purchase online.


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Quote of Note | Rob Walker

“Tell me about yourself, and you might mention where you’re from, the music you prefer, perhaps a favorite writer or filmmaker or artist, possibly even the sports teams you root for. But I doubt you’ll mention brands or products. That would seem shallow, right? There’s just something illegitimate about openly admitting that brands and products can function as cultural material, relevant to identity and expression. It’s as if we would prefer this weren’t true.

The underlying discomfort is something I’ve noted over many years spent writing about brands and products. One reader comment clarifies the dilemma. In a column about products and companies that exist only in the fictional worlds of books and movies, I categorized such things as ‘imaginary brands.’ Harrumph to that, this reader replied: All brands are imaginary.

I saw his point, but he’d missed mine. The ambiguity in the relationship between our selves and the brand-soaked world we navigate is exactly what’s worth taking seriously, not waving away. When such consideration is filtered through an open and unpredictable mind, anything seems possible. Willfully imaginary brands and products can be considered as a medium, expressive of joy, fear, humor, unease, ambivalence–very real stuff, in other words.”

-Rob Walker on “As Real As It Gets,” the medium-is-the-marketplace exhibition of fictional products, imaginary brands, hypothetical advertising, and speculative objects that he organized. The ersatz emporium is open through December 22 at apexart in NYC.

Glithero Brings Curvy Contemplation to Design Miami


“Lost Time” by Glithero for Perrier-Jouet at Design Miami 2012. (Photo: Petr Krejci)

Chairs, glorious chairs, are everywhere at Design Miami, but no one sits for long. Collectors, dealers, journalists, and the odd celebrity (who knew Will Ferrell was a design buff?) stream through the fair at different speeds and with varying agendas: see Maarten de Ceulaer’s latest “mutations,” close the sale on the Nakashima bench, locate a friend and a chocolate dulce de leche pie ($7 at the catering stand), nab a seat for Stefano Tonchi’s on-stage chat with Diane von Furstenberg, load up on free magazines. A welcome pause from this year’s frenzy was offered by Glithero, the design duo of Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren.

The London-based studio was commissioned by Perrier-Jouët to create an installation that honored the champagne house’s Art Nouveau heritage (that famous flowered bottle was the result of a 1902 collaboration with artist Emile Gallé). “We sought to work with a designer that has the Art Nouveau dimension in his or her DNA,” Axelle de Buffevent, brand style director for Martell Mumm-Perrier-Jouët, told us in Miami. “With Glithero, you immediately see that their work is very inspired by nature, by the processes of nature.”

Long fascinated by processes ranging from artisanal craftsmanship to industrial production methods, Simpson and van Gameren responded to Perrier-Jouët’s commission by creating “Lost Time” (pictured), a darkened chamber strung with skeins of shot beads that dripped from the ceiling like glamorous ghosts of stalactites—or champagne flutes. The swooping volumes, inspired in part by Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, were reflected in a shallow pool of water, an infusion of moisture that heightened the cave-like atmosphere (and winked at the humidity that awaited on the other side of the air-conditioned tent).
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Name a Planet! Spacey Startup Uwingu Creating ‘Baby Book of Planet Names’

This week a team of sharp-eyed astrophysicists announced their discovery of a new planet: a young, cold, and roguish type that refuses to orbit any star. They’ve named the sunless planet…CFBDSIR2149. While this is an improvement over “Uranus,” it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. An astronomy- and space-focused startup is seeking to end this squandering of planet-naming opportunities with its first commercial project. Uwingu–”sky” in Swahili–is challenging the people of Earth to create a “baby book of planet names” for the 160 billion or more planets astronomers now estimate inhabit our galaxy, the Milky Way (cut to image of delicious candy bars).

“You can nominate planet names for your favorite town, state, or country, your favorite sports team, music artist, or hero, your favorite author or book, your school, your company, for your loved ones and friends, or even for yourself,” suggests Uwingu founder and CEO Alan Stern, an aerospace consultant and researcher who formerly directed all science program and missions at NASA. Each nomination costs 99 cents, with proceeds going to create a private sector fund for space projects. Names can be up to 50 characters (latin letters only), from any language or culture, and “can be anything the average grandmother would be proud to hear her grandchild say.” A contest will determine the 1,000 most popular planet names in the database, which will be communicated to planet-hunting astronomers for consideration. Voting is now open (votes also cost 99 cents each). Among the early leaders are “Pale Blue Dot,” “Heinlein,” and “Ron Paul.”

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