Medium Post: Reactions to Whitney identity

1. What was your initial reaction to the Whitney identity system after reading the first article?

After reading the article, I think that minimalists like Experimental Jetset and the like are ballsy. They push to have designs that are near-painfully simple that it causes people to lose track of the essence of simplicity in them. Heading to their website, you see a bravely blank and boring expression of design that underlays a major role in graphic design as a whole.
But Alex, what do you mean by this? Is all design open-ended to a degree?
I argue yes. open-ended design is incredibly effective and unique, but ever-changing. Observe Experimental Jetset’s earlier works (circe 2000) and you will see a design that was hyper-minimal back then, but much more current now.

2. In your own words, describe what responsive design is. What are the pros and cons of applying responsive design to an identity system?

Responsive design is design that is malleable and fitting for more than just one scenario. I’m going to avoid talking in terms of web design because I don’t want that application to be what I’m talking about as much as I’m talking branding, here. Responsive design is pretty much exactly as I’m describing below—perceivable to all in their own way, with no one-exact sense of it. There are great pros to designing this way of designing in identity—it’s unique (duh), ever-changing, artistic, contemporary, and witty; however, there are equally dulling cons. A responsive design could be niche, which in some sense can be a good thing, but when you’re trying to appeal to mass, it’s very hard (but not impossible) to do so. Other aspects to consider with responsive design is concept, which may also get lost in translation. As a matter of fact, translation is probably the most difficult part about responsive design. If your vision doesn’t make sense to the mass population, it will not be taken seriously (or however you want it to be), but we are designers. We are supposed to find solutions for translations, are we not?

3. The new Whitney identity has been criticized as boring and duplicitous due its simplistic, open-ended design. Do you agree or disagree — why? Are boring and simple one in the same?

I do believe it’s a bit boring, but only if you perceive it that way. Pretentious and artsy people know what I mean… but do you understand why? IT IS SUBJECTIVE. Just because something is minimal does not necessarily mean it is boring. It’s blank to fill space in your mind, to come up with your own clarities and concepts. To place simplicity and boring in the same space is to put a mindset mixed with a concept. They are not the same. Another example of this is in how we perceive a logo that is super busy. Designers with trained eyes will look past it instantly—it’s the simplistic ones that you’ll think about because they’re made to be that way.

Part I: Rebranding a Museum

Rebranding a museum isn’t easy, to say the least. You need to be careful about your audience and especially understanding of the dynamics of both the museum and the subject of the museum. In that, you don’t need to be affluent in the subject matter, but you need to understand well enough how and why some things are the way they are. Imagine using a wrong symbol that spells out “tits” for the “Scandinavian Historical Museum” or something to that degree. As I said above, Translations, homie. Except in this sense I guess that’s a bit literal.

Which Museum?

This is a bit tough to think, you know? On one end, I want to go full on Death and like do the Museum of Death or Voodoo, but on the other hand…. I also kind of like the Devil’s Rope Museum. It seems pretty tough and I could do a lot with the rope sort of looking like devil horns. With the museum of Death, I feel like I’ll just end up doing exactly what I don’t want to do—make it look cheeky.

So few that I’ve seen have chosen this, and I think it could be fun.

Part II: Research

RESEARCH | Beginnings

Looking at their website, I instantly see trains (again, duh). Fortunately at one point I used trains, so I have a good little background on it (translation!) and I also think I could push the idea of using certain benchmarks and pastiches to make some good-looking style that adheres to that style. Honestly I’m pretty glad that I did not have the capacity to show up for class, because I think I can come in with a different approach when I (finally) get my thumbs going here.

  • I instantly think of Massimo Vignelli’s metro maps and his style approach
  • Other people that could have a great look-in is Aaron Draplin, George Bokhua, and maybe freakin Paula Scher.
  • There’s a bit of Swiss design at hand–look at “The Power to Move You”, for example
  • That very same font also screams post-industrial—a potential route that this could be taken in
  • Colors are strong and complementary—plenty of room to work with in terms of the Orange, White, and Blue.
  • Other avenues to explore could include time tickets and industrial rust-belt factory fonts (like that one on 12th Street in Erie)
  • Business information: existing identity/branding system, location, contact info, any tag lines, mottos, sub titles, secondary names, etc.
Current logo for NMT… hm, NMT is kinda cool
  • Business history, mission statement
  • Summaries/reviews of recent exhibitions, articles, visitor reviews
Some social media posts to show some more variation of subject matter involved. This does not just cover railroads, but also other forms of transportation: Bus, subway, and car.
  • Images of interior/exterior, any other existing imagery you can find
Although primarily railroad-centered, I wanted to show alternative means of transportation covered (but mainly just railroad)
Welp, this exists
  • Existing design as inspiration
Massimo Vignelli Boom! Someone made a little board of designs that I pretty much find could be appealing here, but the obvious examples would be City Hall Station and the famous Vignelli up top and on the right. Basically, the subway stuff works great here.
As one of the most important and first official logos in the world, it would be hard to not mention or utilize this for a transportation museum.
Although I’m starting to get sick of Aaron Draplin, I think that there’s notes that are similar to what we’re seeing in their designs as well. I think that incorporations of Japanese dots and dashed lines that we’re seeing here. Sans-Serif seems to work great with transportation, as well.
The Legendary Vosburg Tunnel of Tunkhannock, PA— Which just so happens to be in the front yard of my family cabin. Wild, right? It’s fun to drink a beer and watch the trains go by!
I chose to include this picture not for the stupid, cheeky people in front, but because I liked the typography in the top as well as the patterns on the wood. When I think old railroads, I think stuff like this. Living around the picture above this one, I have been around this stuff my whole life.


Although I don’t necessarily find Mind Maps super useful, I still am doing them to show a thought process in which I may follow that relates to this museum.

Part III: Logo Drafting

DRAFTING | Logo Exploration

Part III: Digital Render

BONUS: Other Bullshit

I did these during class crit, and I started making a font, so thanks Ashton for the whole Sing Sing thing thing.

Scott, can you help me make this a thing? I’m kinda vibing with it and I think it could be a really cool little guy to work with. (as a separate thing, of course)

Part IV: The Next Step

The class has spoken. Although I think that in their own right each of these logos are capable of logo-age, I think that the important aspects to consider is the client. A Museum. So, for the next look, I ended up pushing some more ideas of what I have for variation in terms of type and icon for my first chose (the squiggly T). I made minor changes to the spiky letters on the third one—all I did was change outlines so they were consistent in black and in white. I was quite happy with every other aspect of it… but I did also try to incorporate an arrow in some way. It didn’t work (lol)

Again, just made the line weight on the outlined areas of overlap the same, so averaged out for consistency’s sake.
I tried different variations of how the “roads” work, but I am still vibing with the symmetry personally.

Part V: The Final Step

I decided to keep with my original look with a variable mix of typographies explored to get a less contemporary feeling towards the logos. I also chose to show both the in-color and b/w along with my image of inspiration. The usage of a less condensed but still-clean font in TRANSPORTATION gives heavier emphasis on the word, which is the primary subject matter.

In color, with badda bing and badda bang
Black + White, also with badda bing and badda bang
Amtrak was my primary source of inspiration for the linear elements that the original logo uses. They unfortunately shift logos a lot apparently, so that weird windows-y one is on there too. I was looking more at the lines though, which signify much more than trains. It signifies point A-B, and shows flow.



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Alex Herr

Alex Herr

Graphic Designer and Graphic Design Student