Paula Scher on her Philly Art Museum rebrand
Pentagram partner and Phaidon author talks about how she 'uninstitutionalised' an institution
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is soon to embark on a decade of major expansion works. Good timing, then, to also address the institution’s graphic identity.
The museum put the redesign in the very capable hands of Pentagram partner, Paula Scher. Her firm knows a thing or two about cultural attractions, having designed the logos for the Museum of Arts and Design, Dallas Opera, the V&A, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Tate, and the American Folk Art Museum, among others.
The existing PMA marque featured a boxed-out profile of a griffin (whose significance may have been lost on some visitors) standing next to the museum’s name in capital letters, which were all the same size. “I would describe it as looking very institutional,” says Scher. “You didn’t have a sense of it being a museum at all.”
In her version, it’s all lower case bar the P, M and A. The mythical creature has been set free, and instead the museum’s collection is the hero, with ‘Art’ at least double the size of the other three words.
"If nothing else, we want people to know that the building is an art museum and it’s filled with fantastic art. That was the entire goal," says Scher. The collection is 227,000-strong, making it one of the biggest art museums in the US.
In anticipation of the construction work, an exhibition of the proposed changes is running until the start of September. Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art reveals the new designs for the Great Stair Hall, the entrances, increased gallery spaces and a new education centre.
As you probably know, Pentragram was co-founded by the late Phaidon Art Director Alan Fletcher. You can check out his groundbreaking books here, our extensive Pentagram online content here, and our books about the practice here.