Logo Design Love

For graphic designers and all who love logos.

Stedelijk Museum

A new logo for Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum.

Stedelijk Museum logo

The Stedelijk is a museum for classic modern art, contemporary art and design. It is housed on Museum Square next to the Van Gogh Museum and close to both the Rijksmuseum and the Concertgebouw. The original municipal museum was founded in 1874, but developed into the present museum after a 1909 decision of the city to collect contemporary art and accept donations of work made by artists of international acclaim, Georges Braque and Wassily Kandinsky being among the first to enter the museum from outside the Netherlands.

Above info excerpted from Wikipedia.

Stedelijk Museum logo

Stedelijk Museum logo

Stedelijk Museum logo

Stedelijk Museum logo

Designed by Linda Van Deursen of Mevis & Van Deursen.

Stedelijk Museum logo

Here’s a short video talking (in Dutch) about the new logo.

At the moment the museum is closed for the final phase of construction and completion of the building renovation and expansion project. It’s due to reopen on 23rd September 2012.

Stedelijk Museum

Stedelijk Museum
Photo via Wikipedia

Stedelijk Museum logo

Via @AisleOne.

Update: 03 May 2012
More photos of the building on the architect’s website: Bentham Crouwel.
(Thanks, Richard.)

Update: 10 May 2012
Michael Evamy, author of Logo, wrote a piece for Creative Review about the new identity and its background.

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, second edition

45 appreciated comments

  1. I am loving this direction in design. There’s something very empty and unassuming about the choice of typeface, but so maximalist in the approach. I am amazed that the vertical and horizontal spacing is as balanced as it is, well done!

  2. It is certainly memorable. Even if a viewer has difficulty reading it (which I don’t really), the simple graphic form and conceptual nature will make it recognizable. Props to the client as well for approving such a direction.

  3. Luke

    Ok I’ll start with what’s good here and that’s the overall idea of creating a typographic form out of words. I don’t know anything about the museum and if it suits their direction, but the idea isn’t bad.

    What I despise here is the execution. Bland font choice. Some might say it’s not bland but “minimal” but in a logo design that’s already minimal in form, a more expressive font would have added some character to it.

    The spacing of the letters looks awkward. When you remove the baseline, all organization is gone. If the disarray of the letters was the focus here, it could have worked. But because the designer tried to organize it, it doesn’t work. Maybe if they went with a monospace font and kept it evenly spaced… but some of these characters are too close to each other… why are the I and J together?

    I’ve seen comments that the readability here is good but I disagree. People read top to bottom and left to right. This is basic readability and this logo breaks that.

    I must be missing something. I must be. Maybe this branding is supposed to be “ironic” or some new hipster thing. But this seems like a month-late april fools joke to me.

  4. Interesting to hear your comments from a non-Dutch speaking point of reference. In Holland the logo has been a tremendous issue, the old designer had to be paid off because it didn’t suit the expectations. The ‘S’ logo was then put in and has been a constant debate on legibility, typeface issues and more.

    What I’m reading in the comments is that you (non-Dutch) seem to think the logo is fine and rememberable, which is a good thing I guess.

  5. This has to be one of the worst “professional” logos I’ve ever seen. No amount of explanation or hidden meaning is going to make this a good design. It’s boring, poorly executed and just plain unappealing. I can only hope that it was one of those good logos gone bad and that the designer was at the mercy of the client who didn’t know any better. Sorry but I agree with Luke.

  6. I’m more concerned about the GIANT BATHTUB that is the museum architecture. I’ve seen this shape before, at Home Depot in the plumbing dept.

  7. am

    Hey Luke, full acknowledge. Look at the forth photo »WALKS« The whole thing is designed and branded by head, not by instinct.

  8. The building looks like a giant sink/wash basin.

  9. Seems I’m joining the minority who like this, then.

    I think it’s very fitting for the the museum, especially when considers the art interpretation angle and the collection the museum houses.

    I love (what will become) the signage too. It’s playful and, to me at least, conveys a sense of motion and involvement with the museum, which I think is very well suited to the Augmented Reality tours the museum offers and the general feeling of the place.

    All in all, I think it’s very well-executed, very fitting work. I love it.

  10. Have to say I really don’t like this identity design. It feels like an idea a 12 year old might jot down, it’s ugly, says nothing about the Museum and is basic rather than minimal, there is a difference.

    Just not doing it for me I’m afraid.

  11. I’m very confused by this logo, due to combatting initial opinions, which are: infantile, because it reminds me of the toddler program Word World (google it), particularly referring to the signage for elevator / escalator. Secondly it feels like a half-assed job done on a stripped WordArt application. But that’s not what it actually looks like on closer inspection (and professional execution, such as plastering it on all the windows).

    I totally agree with Luke’s comment that as soon as you tamper with a typographical baseline, you’re in essence hacking away the foundation of a solid logo. You’ll need fantastic visual sense to construct some other platform to support it (ie. lining it in an S) which I think is hardly an achievement, de facto child play.

    Gentlemen, I think we’ve been had. Modern art, by definition, has always been the centre of discussion or critique (more often than not because it also looks like “child play” – after all: “Modern art = I could have done that + yeah but you didn’t”) It makes sense that its fundamental visual note does exactly that.

    I think this is the logo Het Stedelijk Museum deserves, just not the one it needs right now.

  12. I really like this, it’s incredibly confident, unapologetic in its simplicity and pushes the boundaries of identity design. Imperfections across the type only enhances its unconventional art-house qualities.

    This article only highlights the very basic identity components so it’s likely that this will be a lot more expansive and interesting once it starts to interact with posters and other print material.

  13. TM

    I generally don’t like to criticize other designers work, but that is one of the worst logos I have ever seen.

    The concept, the aesthetics, the font, the awkward spacing on the I J K.

    Sorry not a fan.

  14. I agree with Luke, the choice of typography really lets it down. I like the idea of the signage though, I think it works well as a concept, but I don’t feel the logo works as a logo, I see it working more as advertising what’s coming up.

    I don’t feel any connection or emotion from the logo, it doesn’t spark any interest for me and I believe this is quite important for engaging audiences.

    On the other hand, the architecture is quite an interesting one with choice of material – even if it does look a bit like a sink.

  15. am

    I agree. The idea, to visualise everything only by type, is okay, but the typeface itself is a bad choice. A well chosen monospaced would work much better. And a little graphical accent would sum up the whole thing.

  16. I have caught fontitus from this. Purely shocking. Idea good, execution horrific. I was doing this at 12 years old in Corel Draw. Like to think I’m better since then. Agree with all the above. It looks like font has been substituted as well. Someone was smoking something for sure! Or a case of the Emperor’s new clothes and a decision by committee.

  17. Wow. This is shockingly bad, in my opinion. I agree with all the comments prior to mine about it looking as if it came from a middle schooler. I really can’t say I like anything about it. And the lady talking about it looks so excited about her work (though I didn’t watch the video, just referring to the screen capture).
    Though the architecture is fitting for a modern art museum, I really can’t stand that either, especially next to the old brick facade next door.
    Maybe I’m just a traditionalist.

  18. cherie

    This is one of the worst logos I’ve ever seen, for all reasons listed above by other commenters. I don’t understand why they went in that direction.

  19. Without seeing it all in context it’s difficult to make a judgement. But in addition to the comments already made, It just doesn’t feel Dutch. For a country that probably has the most recognizable style of graphic design on the planet it seems rather odd choice of identity.

    I agree about the building, I imagine people will hate it when it gets dirty. It could be put anywhere, it doesn’t feel Dutch or modern or like an art gallery.

  20. DVM

    Over at identityworks.com you can read case studies on various logo changes. There’s months worth of effort and planning going into each design and a lot of thought on communication through branding.

    Apparently this job took about 10 minutes. “We took the name and made it into an S”. What else is there? The woman holding up the notebook has this glazed expression and seems to be saying “Look what my 3 year old grandson just did! I’m so proud!”

    (I don’t mind the ugly bathtub shaped building in itself, but it does completely ruin those fine classical pieces next to it)

  21. It’s very difficult to see the building in those pictures, so I’d recommend looking at the architects’ website: http://www.benthemcrouwel.nl/portal_presentation/museums/stedelijk-museum

    It’s very bold and very minimal and not to everybody’s taste, but many people (including me) like it. As such, I still feel the logo is very suitable.

  22. To be fair to the stedelijk museum, the ‘awkward spacing’ TM is referring to in the I J K is wholly justified since in the Dutch language, IJ is considered one letter (causing much grievance to Dutch typographers).

  23. TM

    Thanks David Wieland

  24. Eric Serre

    You have gotta be kidding. All rules of typography out the window. Looks like a receptionist using a Word or CorelDraw program hatched this.

  25. Frank Cruz

    I don’t hate it however I am really not impressed with it. Either this is exactly what the museum wanted (designer’s hands were tied) or this had to be an incredible presentation.

  26. Rory

    “Modern art = I could have done that + yeah but you didn’t.”

    This logo is not modern; I DID do this, when I was 13 years old.

  27. This must be the worst logo ever. And indeed it looks like the work of a beginner who experimented with adjusting text on line. You cannot call it undesign, because it does not have any attraction.

  28. I love it. Super simple and nice. The whole word Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam fits into the logo and doesn’t need an extra space. The style can be adapted to all kinds of media (elevator, exhibitions…). When I saw it while riding by in the tram I was amazed.

  29. Andy Wilkinson

    Yuck, what a tremendous step backwards from Experimental Jetset’s temporary branding. (http://www.jetset.nl/archive/smcs-logotype.html) This looks exactly like my early experiments as a 13 year old fresh to Photoshop. Disgusting.

  30. Oh gosh, I feel rude for saying it, but I think that is just dreadful on all levels.

    The first level being that it looks like someone knocked it up in Word and then printed it out on A4 sheets before whacking it up in the window to create a ‘shop closing down’ effect.

    Another level being that I’d be surprised if anyone can make that look good and ‘work well’ in other marketing collateral. The designer that can make that work in marketing collateral, is talented indeed.

    Emperors New Clothes anyone?

    I’m not surprised considering it’s for a museum of modern art, and I think this hilarious blog sums all that up just perfectly; http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/im-sick-of-pretending-i-dont-get-art

    Sorry to be so incredibly scathing :S

  31. wilsonality

    the one thing that is hard is to be completely honest with your opinion after reading the comments

    so I’ll go with what came to my mind first.

    “HUH?… is this for real?”

  32. Like most modern art, people will either love or hate this. I’m in the latter camp, although I’m trying hard not to ‘hate’ it if only because I realise that someone has spent work on it.

    I agree with most of the comments above about the letter spacing and that it’s ‘basic’ rather than ‘minimalist’.

    Also, I wonder if the designers (Designed by Linda Van Deursen of Mevis & Van Deursen) have gone into hiding due to criticism, their website doesn’t seem to be accessible at the moment!

  33. correction: *spent ‘time’ working on it*

  34. Ok it’s a bit basic but there is some thing timeless about this logo. It’s like the style is not important but the concept is what you are supposed to focus on. So, with that in mind, perhaps this is genius!

  35. This logo is an epic fail, to say the least. I can not imagine how they can use this logo as part of the building signage. One of the best example of using logo as building identity signage is the New York Times Building. But for this museum, someone got to be a genius to pull this off.

  36. I think it suits the Stedelijk as a glove, perfect! This museum is a total failure the last few years, baseless, totally lost in it’s own identity.

  37. Janne Wolterbeek

    @Luke, May 1st 2012:
    The I and J are put together in the Netherlands to form the Dutch equivalent of the letter Y. Just like “dyke” would be written “dijk” here. And it is always phonetically similar to the letter i. When this is the case, we learn to write the letters i and j together: IJ. See also the river crossing the city of Amsterdam where this museum is located, called IJ.

  38. Luke

    @Janne Wolterbeek
    Okay well it’s up to the designer to find obstacles like this that don’t work with the design, and find a new solution to make it work.

    Solutions are better than excuses.

  39. Caitlin

    I just returned from Amsterdam and got to see the building and the logo first hand. Never having been to Amsterdam and not really seeing it from a Dutch point of view.. and not seeing it from a total strangers’ point of view either… this logo does the job.

    I am 27, so maybe I’m more “hipster” than most, but the awkward spacing totally makes this logo. It’s a basic idea, carried out with a few imperfections that makes your eye wander around it. When you look at it up close behind the glass windows the right word is “Unapologetic.” As another commenter described. The familiar flow of the S is also extremely comforting seen printed in medium sized stuff like posters and books. It will not be easily forgotten, that’s for sure!

  40. QM

    It isn’t seamless and I like that, it makes you a bit aware of the tools, rules and decisions behind it in a Richard Hollis sort of way. This sort of design is much more friendly, playful and Dutch than the ‘professional’ design that some are invoking by calling this logo ‘amateurish’ which in my mind bumps elements around and adds gradients until you get logos appear to have come seamlessly from outer space. I don’t know much about this company but a google search showed one of the partners teaches at Werkplaats Typographie and you can definitely see the influence of WP. I would love to see more large scale projects done by WP alumni (which I am not, by the way) and I hope that people come around to a less narrow idea of virtuosity in design (and there is virtuosity here, in the craft of an otherwise obvious idea). People see Picassos and say ‘my kid could have done that’ too…

  41. French designer Pierre di Sciullo and his Qui Résiste design studio won the international competition organized by the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum for the creation of a new visual identity in 2009.

    Graphic designer Lex Reitsma records the process in selecting the new logo in his documentary film, “De stijl van het Stedelijk”. After watching it, one understands why the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, currently has this childishly constructed “S” logo instead of the brilliantly conceived typographic interpretations designed by Pierre di Sciullo.

    Unfortunately, as the film reveals, his work was rudely disgarded by the new American museum director, Ann Goldstein, in favor of this simplistic scribble, by Linda van Deursen, who had designed the Temporary Stedelijk house style. The museum is STUNNING – the logo is simply sad.

  42. Albert-Jan Pool

    When talking about legibility, this logo is almost as wrong as a logo can be. First of all, lowercase letters read slightly better than upper case. But that would be OK with me … Every typographer should know that words do not only consist of black letters but also of white counters and inter-character spaces. The latter has been scarified for the sake of making the logo swallowing up three times as much of space as necessary.

    Stedelijk Museum
    Amsterdam

    is far more compact. Now this may seem silly at first sight, but in the case of legibility, type size is the factor that practically overrides all others. When it comes to typography on posters and advertising, type size is one of the most important factors when it comes to drawing attention and communicating content. For me, this logo is that much wrong that I do not care anymore wether it might be funny or signalizes something. For me there is only one signal left: This logo communicates that the Stedelijk Museum does not understand anything anymore about the typography to says it is traditionally connected with. The Stedelijk used to be a part of the Dutch design community, now it seems that ‘design’ is nothing more than some gimmick for them.

  43. Albert-Jan Pool

    I posted the new logo at Flickr and got some interesting reactions from several colleagues. Including some old Singer posters on which the idea of fitting words into an S has been solved in a better way …
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/68178950@N08/8038443339/

  44. Interesting chat, Albert-Jan. Good of you to drop in and comment.

    Thanks to everyone else who visited, too.

  45. jan f

    I think for most of the American design scene audience this type of design is unapproachable. This is because of the fundamental differences between the US philosophy of design, and the dominant way of thinking in such countries like The Netherlands or Switzerland, for whom the entire culture is so strongly revolving around graphic / typographic design, and who are always in the vanguard of the discipline. Their approach has evolved in the direction of more conceptual and ‘rough’ aesthetics, stripped of cheap wit, and following uncleared paths, and where the term ‘pretty’ is kind of considered diminutive. It is much more about provoking and tripping your expectations, then generating a pleasant feeling. That is why, in majority, the works of such studios as metahaven will usually not be admired and at best considered awkward. This is not to say about all American scene, the above approach is present there too, but much less, and I would not expect a big institution in USA to commit to such idea of identification. I myself think this id is fantastic.


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