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The Met

We collaborated with The Met to expand their reach and relevance, with a shared belief that the power of arts and culture should be in everyone’s hands.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded over 146 years ago with the intention of giving everyone, not just the privileged few, a chance to explore new worlds through art. Today it spans over 5,000 years of art, across every corner of the world.

The Met is a New York icon and major global tourist attraction, receiving around 6 million visitors to their physical locations and millions more online every year. But it does not exist in a vacuum. Audience behavior is changing: they are more distracted, exploring worlds online as well as off, and their expectations for participation and dialogue are much greater. The arts can often be seen as non-essential as global crises make the world feel more precarious. Museums everywhere have to think about how they respond to those changes, and get ahead of them.

So in 2013, The Met decided to take action to evolve: engaging Wolff Olins to help them expand their reach and relevance for people everywhere — exploring how to stay true to their original intent in a changing landscape.

For everyone

Audience research clearly showed that the Museum’s great depth and breadth is both an asset and a challenge. People can find the experience overwhelming and hard to navigate. There is a beauty in getting lost at The Met but it can also be frustrating, online or off, especially for those less familiar with museums.

Giving clarity to people on what The Met has to offer as a united whole was a priority because the Museum was soon to span to three physical locations — its famous site on Fifth Avenue, the medieval Cloisters uptown and the historic Marcel Breuer building — and its expanding digital presence.

Working closely with a cross-disciplinary team at the Museum, we created a strategic foundation from which The Met can build a more unified visitor experience across its physical and digital locations: including defining a core set of principles to guide collaborative initiatives and a clear, consistent approach to naming and hierarchy of activities across the Museum. Driving an experience that reflects the Museum’s choice to be more deliberately open to everyone. Moving The Met forward, while remaining true to its DNA.

One, open, iconic

The Met’s visual identity is often people’s first interaction with the brand, even subconsciously — so it had to feel welcoming, while retaining gravitas. Plus, the Museum needed a recognizable design system that for the first time allowed them to flex across multiple user touch-points, communications and locations, without solely relying on a single symbol.

A decision was made early on to use the ‘common use’ name — The Met — because it is more immediate and welcoming to people around the world. Red was chosen as the primary color for the system because of its timeless, cross-cultural symbolism of passion and vitality. 

The logo mark is a bespoke design created as a concept by Wolff Olins and crafted by experienced type designer Gareth Hague. It is inspired by the strategic need to draw connections throughout the Museum, across time and culture, between people and art. The mark connects letters, deliberately combining serif and sans serif letterforms, to acknowledge The Met’s unique ability to embrace both classical and modern art and ideas as part of a united whole.

In collaboration with The Met design team, we created a robust and coherent identity system. The typographic approach uses a serif font alongside a sans serif font, allowing communications to range from formal to friendly. A range of ornaments were also developed — taking inspiration from The Met’s buildings and collections — to be used as patterns or line-work, or to highlight important text.

Decisions were made throughout to create a system that feels more accessible to everyone, not just museum-enthusiasts. For example, the photography and illustration styles were chosen to move away from formal, static composition and emphasize the everyday role of the Museum in people’s lives: capturing art, architecture, the visitor experience and the behind-the-scenes activities in an honest, dynamic way.

Bringing art to life

Making connections was a key principle to guide the activation of the strategy and identity across the Museum. Building on many great examples of connecting across time and culture that The Met had already created — including digital experiences ‘Connections’ and ‘82nd & Fifth’ — we imagined new futures for how the physical and online spaces could be used to make it easier for more people to connect to the art, and connect the art to their lives.

Recommendations included how to use key spaces and digital properties (including the app and website) to help people navigate and interact with art on a more informal, personal basis. That work kicked off more in-depth exploration by The Met and specialist partners to launch a new map, way-finding experience and online interface.

The Met is uniquely placed to be a champion for the vital role of arts and culture in people’s lives. Our work with the Museum is wide-reaching, but with a clear goal that benefits us all: to help The Met be the most dynamic and inspiring art museum in the world, breaking down barriers to allow more people in more places share in the wonder of over 5,000 years of art, from every corner of the world.