The Whitney Museum will have a lot of change in the coming years, moving from its home of over five decades on Madison Avenue to a new Renzo Piano-designed building, set to open in 2015 near the High Line in downtown Manhattan. To celebrate this major change, the museum staff thought it perfect timing for a change in graphic identity – doing away with Abbot Miller’s block design of for a seemingly simple ‘W’ logo.
The visual identity system, created by Dutch agency Experimental Jetset, is built around a “responsive W”, a slim rendering of the letter that can change its shape, responding to the text or images that surround it in Whitney marketing materials. The designers imbue the three lines with a lot of symbolism – more than the average tourist might see. They explain:
We came up with the idea of the zig-zag line, with the zig-zag being a metaphor for a non-simplistic, more complicated (and thus more interesting) history of art. We think the line also represents a pulse, a beat – the heartbeat of New York, of the USA. It shows the Whitney as an institute that is breathing (in and out), an institute that is open and closed at the same time.
The delicate W is meant to be a framework that encompasses all that the Whitney represents in its flexible, thin lines. Accompanying text set in Neue Haas Grotesk typeface, the entire graphic identity is minimalist while hoping to be bold. A statement on the Whitney website further elucidates:
[It] is a distinctive and inventive graphic system that literally responds to art — a fundamental attribute of the Whitney since its founding in 1930. This dynamic identity…also illustrates the Museum’s ever-changing nature.
A lot of theory about a fine line, but hey, this is the art world.
Click through to see the many possibilities of the responsive W: