You Decide: Whitney’s “Responsive” Logo

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I love the story behind the iconic Whitney Museum of Art, founded by sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Whitney set up the museum, first as the Whitney Studio in 1914, to showcase American artists who were ignored and dismissed by galleries. It was so hard for them to get noticed, that even when Whitney offered 500 works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art – with an endowment – the Met turned her down. Not to worry, she opened her own museum, launching the careers of hundreds of artists.

Now the museum is taking some heat over a newly unveiled logo referred to as “the responsive W,” design by Dutch graphics studio Experimental Jetset. Sure a logo can be responsive, but what does that do to its branding?

Experimental Jetset did respond to critics:

“Now, as some of you might know, the ‘single-image’ approach is a practice we usually wouldn’t prefer. In fact, we come from a more ‘Benjaminian’ ideological background, in the sense that we feel that the whole gesture of reproducing an artwork (especially with the context of promotional material) is diminishing the power (or the ‘aura’) of the artwork rather than increasing it (to put it very briefly). We regard this whole idea, of using a single (often full-colour) image of an artwork as a promotional tool to advertise an exhibition, as a rather unfortunate development.

So in the beginning of the design process, we did try to convince the Whitney of a fully typographical (‘text-only’) approach. When we didn’t succeed in that, we proposed a ‘multi-image’ approach – which is the idea of consistently using several images, instead of one single image. After all, the use of several images would shift the nature of reproduction away from a ‘iconic’ approach, towards a more documentary approach (at the same time, this ‘multi-image’ approach would also refer to the specific salon/studio-way of hanging artworks during the early days of the Whitney).


Read more from Experimental Jetset


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