By James Robert Watson, PhD
Why the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is not yet ready for the big leagues
The art museum in downtown Oklahoma City does have some excellent shows, and the facility is a huge improvement over the former museum on the fairgrounds. But they still need to work on some things:
1. Weak logo.
2. Thoughtless graphic materials.
3. Incorrectly mounted exhibit work.
4. Exhibit installations: Requiring museum guests to exit a major exhibit through a single fire exit door is just tacky. The exhibits need to be laid out so that the viewer can return to the main exhibit entrance and exit back through the double doors. It may get a bit crowded there but that's better than exiting through an emergency exit door.
The weak logo
The OKCMOA logo consists of two parts sitting side by side - the initials stacked on 2 lines and the full name stacked on 3 lines. The logotype for the full name is quite strong - the lines of type changing in point size can symbolize motion and growth as each line gets larger, the line containing the word ART is the largest, and the mark is orderly and organized with the justified margins. While it still needs some professional tweaking in its alignment and word spacing, it works quite well.
But the mark of initials - not so good:
1. Letters that few will say. Some companies that use initials (AT&T, UPS, IBM, etc) have changed their names to those letters, therefore, those are no longer initials but official company names. As a museum member who visits regularly and socializes with designers and artists, I have never heard anyone refer to the museum as OKCMOA. It is not very effective to propose letter symbols for a company that no one is likely to ever use.
2. Too little consistency. The extended stroke of the K is not matched by any other stroke treatment, the point size of the letters are different, and the sizes of the counters in the 'Os' are each a bit different.
3. Just too much chaos. Great design creates order out of chaos (definition: disorder and confusion). The design here increases the chaos. The elements do not relate well to each other. They are the same font, but there is not quite enough alignment or placement to convey a comfortable sense of order.
Enjoying art is about an experience - a connection that impacts the mind with images that are both familiar and innovative. Experiencing art can sometimes result in chaos, but, most often, it results in a feeling of enlightenment, inspiration, and joy.
Sometimes chaos in logo design is appropriate, like in Punk and Deconstructivist work, where it can be a good fit for that specific audience. But, most often, design is about creating order to better communicate a message. The target audience for a major Art Museum is typically people with money who desire an aesthetic experience and inspiration. Granted, logos for art museums are tough - how to best represent the diversity of art and distinguish the museum from others. Often, designers will turn to the name, relying on typography and letterform relationships. But that puts a huge burden on the type treatment to be memorable, unique, appropriate, and accurately represent the art experience.
Tip: alignment and consistency help create order. Order, not chaos, most often clarifies understanding of a mark's meaning.