The Art Gallery of Ontario is set to re-open in November with a brand new renovation by architect Frank Gehry, a new curatorial strategy and a new logo.
VoCA likes the Warhol-esque new logo. We read it as the white letters sitting on top of a colourful background of (art) history. It seems appropriate.
The logo. Image: artmatters.ca
Not everyone agrees, though. Click HERE to read what Sarah Nicole Prickett had to say on Torontoist.com, and some of the ensuing commentary.
In the interest of fairness, VoCA spoke with AGO logo designer Kevin Sugden, of Bruce Mau Design about the gallery’s new identity:
VoCA: What was the design brief?
KS: It was an enjoyable process, they wanted a community approach that was going to reach to new audiences. Their goal is to connect the public with art.
The boiled down version of the logo came out of a lot of market research, interviews, trying to get at visitor motivation, why people were and weren’t coming to the gallery.
So the mission of the AGO was really at the centre of the brief. They wanted something accessible, that works well, that’s identifiable, has flexibility, that can be used for different audiences and application types.
VoCA: How did you conceive of the logo?
KS: We went into it with an art historical speculations. It needed to somehow emulate art practice within itself. We looked at the identity for the Tate, which everyone agreed was great. We wanted a Tate-like effect, and I think the logo has a bit of an edge, it’s unexpected, but it has a robust timelessness to it. It needed to be classic.
Tate logo. Image: businessweek.com
We experimented with motion, superimposition, pliability and animation sequences, we pulled art references from early stop photography like muybridge..
We wanted to introduce the idea of the kinetic, to create a visual frieze, a stop motion freeze, to capture a point in an experiment.
Eadweard Muybridge: Woman walking downstairs, late 19th century. Image: wikimedia.org
We did really wild experimental stuff. We thought we should have an algorithm, so that it’s an algorithmic program so that the logo appears different every time. This got us really excited, but it scared the steering committee.
So in the end we went for a simple superimposition. The logo is generated by collapsing 5 typefaces on top of each other and designating a colour palatte to each of the points of overlap.
The root typeface is called Knockout. It has super variations between weights, it’s a great family. There are different width values that each have different personalities. There’s been just a little graceful work done.
VoCA: It reads like Pop Art, Andy Warhol, no?
KS: Yes, there’s Pop Art there. When you blow it up big, there are great details. We originally wanted to use only florescent inks, but that was unsustainable (laughs). There’s a pantone designated colour for each.
Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn. Image: lovecolours.net
The Pop reference is right, because we had to select colours that we not too deep. The palette couldn’t be too deep, so none are very dark or light. Close up, they are tending toward a pastel, bright feel.
I was impressed by how good it looked in the globe and mail, at 72 dpi.
We’ll see how it grows over time, there are figure ground opportunities, wherever you place it, on a layout, it dictates how the layout will work, it obliges a consideration for placement.
The logo commands its own halo. We don’t have much problem about things getting to close to it. It handles itself in tough contexts, but it’s demanding. It’s not an easy logo to use well, so it’s a good thing they‘ve got some talented people in the graphics area of the gallery working with it.
We designed the logo in 2006. BMD is doing the signage inside the gallery too.
VoCA: Does that mean we’ll see enormous Helvetica fonts throughout the galleries?
We wanted to do huge graphic gestures on the outside, but the gallery wanted something more subtle. I think Frank was disappointed…we were going to do something big and expressive. The end wings are meant to be billboards.
BMD’s Massive Change at the AGO, 2005. Image: flickr.com
VoCA: What’s your opinion of the inside?
The inside of the building is amazing. We’ve done a MoMA-like wayfinding system, very quiet, only what’s needed. The spaces are just exquisite, they are a combination of restraint and respect for ideas of clarity of space, with some delirious moments that are perfectly balanced and the circulation throughout the gallery is now incredibly clear.
Walker court is the arrival and departure point on a path through the building.
VoCA: What about the curating?
They have this idea of recreating conditions where art can be understood in its cultural context. In one of the 19th c European galleries, downstairs, for example, the works are close hung in classic salon style and they will mix 19th c. Canadian work with the European work. This seems logical, since these are artists who went to Europe, and were interpreting the Canadian landscape….
Paintings gallery, Art Gallery of Ontario. Image: Walter Bibikow/jupiterimages.com
How do you think the future bodes for the AGO?
The future is there right now already. I’ve been working with the AGO for almost 20 years. They have definitely been through their moments, like when they had the rapid turnover when Glenn Lowry left, and Max Anderson came in, and then left, it was a difficult place at that time.
It’s unbelievable the level of enthusiasm in that place now. It’s incredible. From the top all the way to the securiry guards. There’s a feeling that they are part of something really significant in the city.
Everyone is working as hard as they can. The galleries need to be re-installed in waves, so some are finished and sealed, but they are moving and every few weeks there are new galleries being opened.
The city is coming around to what the institution can be. And the new education centre has a major new donor, so that’s very exciting. There is a new program vision, a new idea about art education and how the gallery can interact with the public school system.
VoCA: Any final comments?
We are damn lucky to have the AGO. It will be one of the great art institutions in North America.