The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City may look a little different the next time you go for a visit. And that’s not just because of an expansion that was completed last year, or the safety and distancing measures put in place in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Part of the promise when we reopened was to tell a broader story in terms of modern and contemporary art,” explains Rob Baker, MoMA’s director of marketing. “We wanted to share more of an international perspective.”
Looking for a new and different way to share the museum’s extensive collection, MoMA decided to change one-third of its collection seasonally, with a big “reveal” to bring attention to the new pieces on display. The museum enlisted design and branding studio Gretel to create a name and visual identity for its new approach.
“We hoped to encourage audiences, especially locally, to experience our collection displays again,” Baker says. To do that, Gretel helped the museum think about the language it would use to describe the collection rotation, help them develop a naming strategy for the swap and develop a visual expression for it.
For Gretel, the challenge was to capture the ideological shift in the way the art was being shared in the museum, as well as the seasonality of the new collection itself.
“We’re not naming the collection or MoMA’s approach to the collection,” said Galla Barrett, senior strategist at Gretel. “We wanted to name the experience. With ‘reveal,’ we captured all the elements.”
There’s a throughline between the name, the visual, and the verbal identity, explains Simon Chong, creative director at Gretel. The visual identity is born from MoMA’s core identity with a slight twist.
“They all speak the same language. The name ‘reveal’ is the behavior that is happening, and the rotating blocks mirror the rotation of the gallery. The permanent collection is rotating, but at every turn you’ll discover something new.”
Even though Covid may have delayed the first ‘reveal,’ the museum sees this as a cyclical campaign, not a one-off. “It can remain true regardless of when it launches,” says Chong. “It reflects the behavior of rotation and the promise of something new.”
Ultimately, the museum hopes this new approach will spark a change in visitor behaviors. Rather than planning an all-day visit to MoMA once a year, now visitors can choose to visit a specific gallery more frequently.
“They’re bite-sized,” Baker said. “You can jump into a specific theme or topic. The blocks are a metaphor for change.”