From Pentagram’s blog: “The identity coincides with the arrival of Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s next music director, and acknowledges the orchestra’s long heritage of distinguished conductors by taking as its inspiration the graphic line of the baton.”

New York Philharmonic logo

Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest active symphony orchestra in the United States.

New York Philharmonic logoPrevious NY Philharmonic logo.

Legibility suffers in the previous logo, especially at small sizes, with the graphic overlapping the text. The new design is instantly more professional.

New York Philharmonic logo

New York Philharmonic logo

More contextual images and project info on the Pentagram website.

A little more about legendary designer Paula Scher.

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January 13, 2009

Comments

Right there with you David… for a logo that is to be associated with a premier musical organization you’d think they wouldn’t go with something that looks like the soundhole on a guitar with 5 broken strings.

Pentagram continues to show the effectiveness of well-thought-out simplicity. The applications for this identity are beautiful. I suggest everyone checks out their blog for more images.

Bravo.

Like Maryland Institute College of the Arts’ identity, California Academy of Science’s signage, and Bobby’s Burger Palace’s identity, the works from Pentagram continue to surprise me. They always have out these very simple logo with minimal distortion and questionable graphical element inserted in that you at first “don’t get” its significance until you see them in used and then you (or at least me) just went WOW.

And all of them show just how much thought have been put into the simplicity. Like the small red line representing a conductor’s baton. Now that is bold.

Has anyone here heard of a company called MunnRabot?
According to their site, (munnrabot.com) they were awarded the New York Philharmonic account? Can anyone here confirm this?
I thought Pentagram was doing the branding/advertising work…right?

Awful. And “professional” is not the word that comes to my mind when seeing it. Applicattions look good, but it’s the context not the logo per se that makes them beautiful. The old one has legibility problems I agree, but its more “musical”, the new one looks like al aspirin. Awful.

I’m no pro, but I absolutely hate this new logo. The old one could have done with a slight fade on the artwork to make the text stand out more, but the new one looks like it was made with some logo generation software that you can pick up at any software store for $10.

Seriously, upside-down text on a logo that’s supposed to be readable? Absolutely dire.

Quite the polarising mark. For a moment I second-guessed myself. But it’s much more adaptable and scalable than the previous logo. Distinctive, too. Have you seen the stationery? The layout of the letterhead is unusual and helps it stand out.

I can see what they’re trying to do, but it just doesn’t say music to me … looking at the old one at least that did…

As a logo on it’s own it’s poor, let’s not beat around the bush here. Has it now come to the point where a logo needs to be fully explained in order for the ‘minions’ to “get it”? The stationery is good, but not great. And I know the idea is that it’s part of the current trend of identities that grow and adapt and so forth, but for me it just doesn’t work. The rotational feature, for example, only succeeds in making me read it incorrectly – at one point I thought I saw ‘moronic’, just at a glance, such was the way the logo had been rotated. It was obviously ‘monic’, from ‘Philharmonic’, but like I say, at first glance…

There is definitely no ‘WOW’ factor about this logo.

Methinks this is a case of a huge agency’s reputation preceding it.

PS Bobby’s Burger Palace was shockingly bad, even, dare I say, lazy.

It’s a great concept although i’m not overly keen on the typeface used.

I think to fully appreciate the logo you have to look at the Pentagram blog and at all the addition stationery, promotional material and other media. It brings the logo to life.

Again, Pentagram (Paula Scher) thoroughly thinks about the project and successfully executes but not thrilled of the use of type and its angular feel.

I like the idea of the baton as the core of the design, although not exactly rocket science and I don’t really get on with the italicised type. The thing as a whole just doesn’t really look right to me.

But, as we previously discussed with the Reel logo of Why Not’s, the application kinda saves it. I REALLY like the idea of the whole logo rotating and the secondary text sitting at the tip of the baton, which is a very nice idea and the logo image isn’t compromised.

This aside I still can’t help but think that if the type choice was different this could have been a great logo.

A lot of hate toward the slanted letters, and I assumed this is because they did not follow the link to the pentagram blog where there are more images. Specifically, the image that shows the logo rotate to different angle.

If there is one thing that is unique about the logo, it looks good no matter which angle it is turned.
I can be wrong, may be I haven’t seen enough logo this lifetime, but most logos with curve letters, even the one with the text being written around in complete circle, there is only ONE WAY to look at it.

We as designers were taught not to distort the font unless we are designing our own, and the sight of the funky slightly slanted but not really italic fonts will rub us all the wrong way, believe me, I feel it too. But it is a lot more interesting than just a simple straight forward font going around in circle, and if designing something that is beautiful from every angle is something that Mr. Scher wants to achieve, I think he has accomplished it beautifully.

This identity does not play it safe. it’s interesting, and it works. With that, I think the creative folks at Pentagram has done it again.

I think this logo is really lame. I am sick of big companies getting paid lots of money for boring and bad designs. this logo is not clever in the slightest. when I think of an interesting use of a musical symbol I think of the swan and treble clef logo that was up here a few weeks ago, if you all remember. There is just nothing clever about this. also, the logo should be great on it’s own, not just within a composition or poster. sorry to be so negative, but this logo just looks like a bad afterthought.

When I first seen the new logo. I instantly didn’t like it, especially the weird skewed type.

But after looking at more images of it and seeing it used in stationary etc it is a well thought out and perfectly executed design.

Sure on it’s own it doesn’ look great which is a mark down in my book but when it’s used in its context, it’s superb.

Eve, I also believe that logo should looks good on its own outside of its used in a stationary because the logo will be used elsewhere where the designer will not have control over. And later in the future, may be on cups, hats, promotional poster, magazine ad, whatever. That’s why I did not like any of the logos from Why Not associates.

This logo looks great on its own. The logo is meant to be rotated when created on a pattern, that’s why when alone it’s stood like that. Like I said in above post, it looks good no matter what degree you rotate it.

Think about it, most logo that have text going around it 360 degree, the bottom half the text has to be flipped, totally ruin the design (I designed one of those before). In this case, they solve the problem by making the text slanted so they can be read from all direction. All this with a simple red line representing a baton. In my opinion it’s nothing short of genius.

I’m reading quite a bit of “higher than mighty” talk here which is unfortunate because it seems certain people haven’t done their homework. (CAPSLOCK) The type is not skewed In any way shape or form. It’s set in berthold akzidenz grotesk. (pardon the spelling) which is set around a circle. Do your homework before talking like you know something. Opinions are like? ;)

I am the biggest fan of simplicity, but take Paula Scher’s and Pentagram’s name off of this logo and no one would be so apt to champion it. The application of the mark across the various forms of media is well executed, but it doesn’t change the fact that the mark is not. The explanation is nice for designers, but I am inclined to believe that the common person will be left asking, huh?

Not too fond of the new design. Though I must admit, I’ve always hated italic fonts placed around a circular path (and the resultant kerning here is wonky). I like the thought process behind the logo, just not the end result.

Some of the usage shown on the blog is tremendous, and the logo does work better in context. As a stand alone – meh…

I hate to even comment on Pentagram’s work since it’s like calling down the thunder, but for lack of a better word, this identity is just bland.

Seriously, this logo is the equivalent of eating dry white toast. Give us some friggin’ strawberry jam Pentagram!

Michael, I’m sorry that I did not know about the font. It looks skewed to me and I thought that they did something to the font. Next time I’ll be sure to know everything in the universe before voicing my opinion.
I don’t understand how it makes my earlier comments moot though. The logo still looks great no matter which way you rotate it.

And I am sorry if I sounded holier than thou. I just like this identity and try my best to defend it.

Micheal Thompson-

If a group of graphic designers reading a blog about a logo haven’t heard of your berthold akzidenz grotesk and just think that the font looks ‘off’ or ‘skewed’, I’m positive the people that this logo is targeting will do the same. My point is, the fact that you have a name for it is of little consequence; the text (particularly on the beginning of the Philharmonic on the right side) simply does not work.

On a more positive note, it is definitely a step up from the old logo. However, I don’t feel the sacrifice of identity makes up for the gain of readability. The stationary looks brilliant, however that has nothing to do with the logo.

Not to be arrogant, but I do believe a lot of amateur designers could have done a better job of this than what is presented here.

i have my 2 cents input on my blog. all the comments here have their own pros and cons. enjoy reading it. learn a lot too. :)

my comment, i’m not a fan of the new ‘logo fashion’ trend tht’s growing–the need to have the logo suits any application possible. i felt such thought process made the logo looses its core. (not a fan of the new Pepsi logo and definitely not the new Duane Reade logo.)

the application doesn’t really stand out either…looks messy. too many different shape created from the letters and crossing it with the red ‘baton’ line just doesn’t work for me. makes me feel like the music is in a mess. the only thing i love most is the application on the invitation card. beautifully design.

i personally love typography and definitely not a fan of such treatment. i still think a typeface has its beauty the way it is, and if one can understand and feel it, one can successfully apply it beautifully in a design?

(do pardon my english. do correct me if i said anything offensive. thanks!)

It’s confirmed. At least from my detective work via google. Pentagram may have designed the initial logo and example standards, however a company called MunnRabot is doing their advertising and collateral work. Interesting…has anyone ever heard of this company? http://www.munnrabot.com ?

This is the problem with the written word sometimes, people take what is said as though it is a personal attack on them.

I think it’s awesome that there is mixed opinion on here, that’s how it should be. I am not a fan but can definitely see the what’s and why’s about it. The more I look at it I can’t bring myself to ‘love’ the logo but there are some neat tricks in there, the italicised text is wrong looking but seems to help the rotation idea and it does look a little more than just text on a circle. To be honest I can imagine there was a decent level of tweaking going on to make it look good, text on a circle can so easily look horrendous so you gotta give credit in that respect. Yes, the overall image of it still doesn’t scream ‘great logo’ to me but we as designers can surely appreciate the merits.

Another problem with projects like this tends to be the follow through. I’ve worked on some big branding guidelines and the trick is to really make the design rulings you apply workable, as though you are explaining them to someone who really doesn’t have any clue. If the guidelines were created well enough then the application of the logo will be ok, but, as we have often seen when the handover from the branding creators to the appliers happens, things could go horribly wrong especially with the logo itself not being a simple ‘brand slapping’ friendly image.

We’re talking Pentagram though so the guidelines really shouldn’t be an issue. Will they?

I see there’s many against this logo, and some ‘for’.

As for me, I think this logo is terrible. With a complicated word such as “Philharmonic”, the last thing I would have thought any respectable design agency would do is display it upside-down. Tut-tut.

Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of oblique sans-serifs, circles, or type set on paths. All things considered, I should HATE this logo.

But I don’t. Rather, I think it works VERY well. I can’t say I love-love-love it, but it works. It’s memorable, different, out-of-the-box, and although a dramatic departure from Scher’s other Lincoln Center identities, it manages to fit right in.

All in all it’s rather brilliant, and it’s no surprise that a majority of people are so turned off by it. But that’s almost a testament to how unique and surprising (in a good way) it actually is.

I agree with David Airey… my first impression: i liked it. Reading all of the comments made me doubt. But definitely support what David comment about it:”..I find the layout of the letterhead unusual, which helps it stand out.”

@Michael Thompson, I went to http://www.munnrabot.com, but they resized my browser window, which, I’m sorry to say, is COMPLETELY unacceptable. Tried to close the window and it crashed Firefox. Double pissed off, and mannrabot will NEVER get a visit from me again.

Don’t really like the logo either. Won’t repeat anything that others have said, but want to add that it looks a bit 80s (in the not so good way). Maybe it’s like Tracy Emin where it’s so plain and everyday ugly that it becomes beautiful?

Hmmm I’m not sure myself…

Quite like the ‘in use’ example, but I’m not sure it works on it’s own, massive improvement over the original, but it doesn’t really say ‘orchestra’ to me in much of a way.

Not bad, but not brilliant I say.

Seems that it is intended for the old classic concerts lovers. I’m young lover, therefore I hate it. They shouldn’t miss me but they did. Oh, how emotional! (the comment, not the logo.)

I made a corndog today before I realized that there is no mustard in the house… and that’s what this logo was like for me when I first saw it… there’s no mustard. No really, I agree with some of the other comments in that upon initially seeing the mark, I didn’t really get it at first glance… but when I saw the way that the mark is being used, and the versatility of the application, then it started to fall into place. I do think it looks distinctive & works well with the overall design scheme of their ad campaign. That said, I am just not sure that it works as a stand-alone element. Especially for people who are not in the know about the NY Philharmonic or those who are not musical at all, may not be so quick to identify the line incorporated as a suggestion of a composer’s baton… Overall, on it’s own, it’s just okay for me.

I initially disliked this design, although preferred it to the original, but it has grown on me in a very short space of time, I am almost ready to say it is good. It does say orchestra to me.

I mildly dislike the logo. I initially thought it was supposed to resemble a guy wearing a bowler hat, with the red line as the brim. Much of the design seems arbitrary to me. Not everything single element needs to have deep symbolic meaning, but still, I can’t help wondering: What’s the point of the slanted lettering? Why the circle? So the line is supposed to be a baton? Come on. There’s no way anyone would have guessed that on their own. Maybe there should be hand holding the baton. I wish they could have re-worked the music staff from the old logo to create a new design. (That is supposed to be a staff, right?)

I wasn’t sure at first because it was so different (the use of italics on a circle path) but after staring at it for a long time I started to enjoy the nuance and suggestions…

Movement, rhythm, volume (gray and black).. of course the conductor’s baton and then the circle suggesting the relationship between the musicians and the audience. The spacing reminds me of the clutter of music stands and the chairs.

Perhaps because I used to play the cello and have sat in many circles for quartets and full-on symphony orchestras… :-)

It’s definitely an improvement from the previous logo. It seems like I’m one of the few who like it.

Shockingly bad. Agreed, if some small town designer did this, it wouldn’t have had a chance. Just look at the kerning. Even upside down, H A R stands out. I’m rather disgusted Pentagram can get the kind of money they do, and many of us could have done so much better.

@kat neville

It sounds to like someone needs to update their browser/flash plug-in and/or operating system. Stop using that custom made pc. ;) it’s too bad you won’t visit their site since there’s obviously something wrong with your computer. (their site works fine on my end) Its refreshing to see an Ad agency that actually produces GOOD advertising. Compare their work with the cookie cutter advertising $h*t you see being churned out these days. I say congrats to them for picking the philharmonic up as a client. Pentagram has a history that goes without saying. The new mark Is ok… It works for now… But it’s definitely not timeless.

Michael:
Thank you for your comments regarding our work. Needless to say, we are very proud to be working with the New York Philharmonic. We are responsible for advertising and collateral to introduce the orchestra’s new Music Director, Alan Gilbert. The identity created by Pentagram has certainly garnered some debate. The success of this mark depends on how it is implemented. As most of the people on this blog know, if not handled correctly, it won’t work.

Nate, I love your comments and ‘give us strawberry jam.’ I was smiling thinking about it late last night. So true, it’s what we all want to do as artists!

Of course I’m feeling kind of poetic having just watched ‘Once’, a beautiful movie…

I love Paula’s work and Pentagram is my dream studio. But no ‘strawberry jam’ on this one : )

Italicized, plain type on a circle. WOO! Simplicity, thy name is ugly. Nice concept, I agree there, but execution is lacking in my honest opinion. Is this what elegant simple design has come to?
I really find it hard to believe extensive thought went into this. Maybe I’m missing some logo designer mystique. I’d like to believe I have enough experience and knowledge to be able to judge a good logo from a bad logo. Then again I could be all wrong. It does come down to personal taste. Apparently the Philharmonic people like it.

Absolutely stellar work from Paula Scher / Pentagram.

It was a well thought out idea, with even better execution — and its tough to find a memorable and timeless combination of the two.

The logo is extremely powerful and full of loud, emotive noise. It’s represents the content in had perfectly, paired with powerful black and white photography, it’s something that does not disappoint.

I’ll admit, at first I was extremely skeptical of the logo, especially with Scher’s name slapped on to it. I also (admittedly for a few seconds) questioned my own judgment. Design is not easy. It is projected that way to people who probably don’t know much about design, or just don’t care.

Something like this definitely has a nostalgic feel to it, and can be related to “Swiss” design. It’s something that to those who understand it, makes you feel warm. In the design culture of today, where the thought process of design goes as far as “a swan or a treble clef” it’s very unsettling and annoying.

At the scale of this project, one has to look ahead of the symbol and achieve an understanding of the broad spectrum this identity was created. It’s elegant, powerful, and timeless.

Massimo would be proud.

Not to be rude, but its a circle of badly kerned text (check the spacing between the “EW” of “New” for a start) with a one pixel wide red line running through it in the most obvious place.

Now, beauty – as always – is in the eye of the beholder. You could say that the line really is representative of a baton, or you could say that it’s just a line. I’m in the latter camp. It looks and feels lazy and cheap. If I made it for a local company nobody would say two words, but because its the NYP and Pentagram involved…well…oh, my! What a thing of beauty it is!

As for the logo being able to be twisted and the baton repositioned and rotated for print and other uses…is that not defeating the object somewhat? Surely moving it about not only washes over the designer’s “obvious” inspiration and thought about what the little red line should represent (I maintain that it is JUST a line and that you’d have to be looking for it to be a baton for it to actually be a baton), but also proves that the original positioning of the line isn’t perfect in the designer’s eyes?

“This is my creation! Its a thing of beauty! The line represents a baton! Yes, fiddle with it all you want…hell…spin it around…I don’t care.”

I think me and Ken here are on the same page. If it’s Pentagram and the client is the New York Philharmonic, it’s gotta be good. No questioning that small firms, 3 person shops and freelancers would have come up with more creative and better executed logos for a fraction of the budget that Pentagram sucked up.

Meh.

Not one of Paula’s best designed logos. Kerning is off as others have indicated, and without some sort of visual cue of the image of the conductor in her design process, I was left to wonder why the red line had anything to do with the logo in the first place.
It is somewhat unique, as logos go for this realm of popularity, but I still think there is a disconnect with the oblique text and basic quick readability of the entire name.

Exactly, David.

Put honestly, if you put the new New York Philharmonic logo next to…well…pretty much any of the logos I’ve just seen at your portfolio site, I know who be getting the work – and it sure as heck wouldn’t be Pentagram.

When I have any design budget at all, I’ll be coming to you for a logo right away. You clearly have an understanding of what purpose a logo should serve and how it should go about it.

Look closely. There is noting wrong with the kerning. The space between the E and the W may look off, but that is probably because of Flash.

Look through the rest of the comps shown, its kerned properly.

Maybe it’s me but it seems that Pentagram just makes plain bad design

I think they have some good concepts on where the logo can be used but the logo is so conventional that can be adapted to anything

For example:
Ruby Tuesday – Stock font in 2 different colors
Ted – Stock font, simply just typed in Illustrator and rearranged a little
New York City Ballet – Stock font in different shades overlapped
Halfords – Stock font with the letter “O” in a different one
Manhattan School of Music – It’s just an elongated letter M in font Impact

I don’t think they’re good designers of any kind. There’s nothing special to their designs and it never pops out. There’s no originality in any of their designs

I don’t know about anybody else but I think designs should pop out and be noticed rather than just blend in to wherever it is thrown in.

How hard can implementing that design into anything?
I don’t see any creativity here

This new mark stands out on it’s own and is quite unique. Is it aesthetically pleasant no. But it does stand on it’s own. and I like that it uses the elements of a director/ 0 & 1 mathmatical measures of music. My complaint is the patterns are overly busy they don’t do the brand justice on the event signage. But the use of the mark on the print work is well handled.

All in all it’s ok.

The new logo is definitely stronger conceptually, but I find it hard to imagine that they’d been through enough rounds of type variations for the logo, only to have settled on this all-caps, italicized font.

The main problem is that it’s hard to read: the word ‘philharmonic’ is very long and doesn’t read well on a circular path upside down. The all-caps doesn’t help, either.

Paula – you’re a genius at branding – but this one is far from your best work.

First comment here so I’ll keep it short.

Will the target audience/consumers (old people with crappy eyesight) be able to read this? I bet they’d find it hard to read no matter the size of the logo or the rotation of it. 1 inch or 20ft high, it won’t matter.

I can hear my grandmother going;

– ‘My dear boy, what does it say? I try to read it but my neck hurts’…

My very first thought? A circular saw blade. Maybe it’s the italics, or the baton which looks like the thing that’s being cut.

I don’t know much about graphic design, but that’s what I pictured and it isn’t the kind of music I want to hear without ear muffs.

Having said that, the logo should not have any affect on the orchestra’s success. The quality of its performances and the leadership of the conductor will take care of that.

I love the logo – It’s very smart and the stationery looks great, nice and simple and clean.

However, I don’t think it works for the New York Philharmonics.

Personally something a bit more musicy would have been better suited to them.

The logo design used with a business or company would look really smart though, I think :)

I agree with what was said about if this system had been created by any other agency, the “I love the logo” comments would have been scarce and nonexistent. I also agree that I have not seen a single extraordinary thing out of Pentagram in quite some time. Nothing they do stands out. Boring. Bland. Blah. This looks like something the secretary at my local church would have churned out for the Sunday bulletin announcing the musical at Wednesday nights revival. Awful.

To me this logo does not represent “the oldest active symphony orchestra in the United States.” I dont like the chosen typeface, actually I don’t like anything about this. I get the concept but the execution just doesn’t click with me.

at a quick glance, i love the graphic in the old logo right away. i really don’t think a “new” logo is necessary, maybe just some improvement of the original one. not a fan of this new logo…the font, the line in between…i don’t see the “movement” of music like the original logo represents.

Thanks very much for continuing the debate. I’d love to respond to each of you individually, but alas, it’s difficult to keep up with everything sometimes, and for that I apologise.

Stig,

Thanks for the Bleed link. Some very nice work there, for sure.

Come on, man. For anyone who likes this logo, I say you’ve drank the Pentagram Kool Aid. I guarantee that if you were shown this logo without knowing they did it, you’d call it for what it is – an uninspired, awkward cop out. I believe they claim the font, italic Akzidenz Grotesk, emphasizes the dynamism of the organization. I’d be hard pressed to say that font, used as it is, conveys dynamism. While the baton is a great device and not an obvious choice, the manner it is employed is perhaps too stripped down and frankly not an elegant rendering. Sorry for the harshness, but not everything they do is immune to failure.

At first view the awkward skewing threw me off but after understanding the baton reference and seeing it in context, I find it to be a really fitting logo. It gives off an esteemed quality that I can’t really put my finger on, but regardless, it’s fitting for such a organization.

I really liked the combination of the simple baton line and the photo for the pamphlet. With the logo right under the big baton it acts like a simplification diagram for people who don’t get the logo’s baton reference initially.

Great design and beautiful in context.

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