Munson: Austerity and minimalism

Located in Utica, NY, Munson (formerly Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute) is one of the oldest arts centers in the state, as it was established in 1919 by Mary Munson-Williams and Frederick and Thomas Proctors, based on their family art collections, which were partly initiated by entrepreneur Alfred Munson.

Designed by the famous architect Philip Johnson, the museum building hosts a substantial permanent collection of internationally recognized works. Apart from it, Munson includes a Performing Arts division, providing a stage for solo singers and bands as well as artistic and educational activists. Rebranding itself with a shorter name now, the arts center has introduced a new visual identity created in cooperation with Order, a NY-based design agency.

According to the studio, they reworked the museum’s “archival design” into a thoroughly modern brand system. The resulting identity is something that encompasses the bright principles of the Munson community, based on proprietary typography.

As the institution’s old logo represented five-line lettering accordingly to its old name, there were some typographical issues with uneven spacing between the letters and different fonts in it. And, surely, such a structure looks a bit awkward, given the modern standards of logo design. On the other hand, the shorter name of Munson made Order’s task easier, especially since the studio is known for its minimalist style of work.

The renovated brand was visualized in a wordmark executed in a bold slab serif typeface, inspired by the modular architectural features of the Munson building. The weight and kerning themselves bear witness to the fact that they’ve done a great job. This is the design that perfectly reflects the artistic and cultural character of the institution, giving it a distinct face.

In addition, Order created a special icon that has a connection with the building as well, and more specifically, with its grid-like structure viewed from above. With its simplicity and boldness, it is well-suited to be used in printed and digital materials.

The design for the museum’s inner space combines the typography developed by Order and Munson’s traditional design features, which were created back in the 1950s by Elaine Lustig Cohen, a legend of American graphic design. United together, these two styles create a kind of interplay between the past and future of Munson.

In general, Order’s work is a faultless example of a thorough branding that shows off a proportional combination of austerity, expressiveness, and minimalism. With some playfulness and a serious approach, it is fully sufficient to represent the heritage and status of Munson.

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