Sometimes, design can take a village. That certainly was the case with the wayfinding and donor signage design for the New York City–based Whitney Museum of American Art, which opened the doors to its new building in 2015.
Prior to that, in 2013, the in-house team at Whitney collaborated with Dutch design firm Experimental Jetset to create an identity system. “Some of our primary goals in that process were to infuse the building with our graphic identity, enforce consistency of messaging across all signage touchpoints, be inclusive of all visitors, and take advantage of digital technologies to display more temporal information,” says Hilary Greenbaum, director of graphic design at the Whitney. This included elements such as exterior digital signs, navigational signage within the stairwells, and a custom elevator.
Because the building was under construction during much of the design phase, tight-knit collaboration with experts in myriad roles, including the building’s architects, was essential. The in-house team at Whitney wanted the signage system to feel like a part of the building, rather than a system applied on top of it. The plans for the building itself even inspired much of the identity. “The system really came to life and felt at home in the new space,” Greenbaum says, admitting that it was at times challenging to envision how everything would truly look at scale.
Judge Jessica Walsh agrees that it all works amazingly well together, including the packaging for another Whitney entry in the RDA—The Frank Stella Star Ornament. “It’s great to see a nice design system being consistent and feeling fresh at the same time,” Walsh says.