A museum with a distinct signature
Moderna Museet, Sweden’s national museum of contemporary art, opened on Skeppsholmen, Stockholm in 1958. Within just a few years it had developed an international reputation, with acclaimed exhibitions of works by Picasso, Duchamp and American Pop Art. When the museum was forced to temporarily close its relatively new premises in 2002 for repair and refurbishment, it took the opportunity to critique its own visual identity – and concluded that a change of direction was in order.
The new museum building, designed by Rafael Moneo, was a long, low-lying, boxy construction. Its rather standoffish air and complex navigation didn’t square with MM’s wish to catch the eye of visitors to other museums and attractions on Skeppsholmen. The museum couldn’t afford to alienate any potential new audiences: MM’s new identity needed to convey its reputation and excellence, but also its accessibility. Stockholm Design Lab, teamed with Greger Ulf Nilsson and Henrik Nygren, was selected from more than 50 Scandinavian design studios to develop a brand that could bring stability and success after the unsettling years of the 1990s.
Early in the process, we homed in on the idea of a logo that could animate the museum’s long, linear façade and call out loud and clear to Skeppsholmen’s culture vultures. Together with MM we experimented with many, many identity ideas, including one that simply doubled the famous McDonald’s “M”, or Golden Arches, and in discussions we questioned whether a strict, conventional identity programme was the right approach. The solution, a so-called “readymade”, eventually leapt out at us from the cover of the 1983 25th Anniversary catalogue, designed by an artist with a long association with MM, Robert Rauschenberg.
Rauschenberg’s “Moderna Museet” signature was arresting, compelling and expressive of both the artistic process and art world notions of authenticity. It resonated with MM’s past, too, and its leading role in promoting Rauschenberg and the Pop Art movement in the 1960s. More than a decade on, MM’s signature has helped put the museum back on the modern art map and made art objects of all kinds of branded merchandise, and the system of unstuffy, airport-style backlit signs that we designed, with the special version of Wim Crouwel’s Gridnik typeface, continues to guide visitors around the museum building.
Signature by Robert Rauschenberg
Henrik Nygren Design
Greger Ulf Nilson
Tham Videgård Arkitekter
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