In search of a new graphic look, The Jewish Museum has gone old — really old. Ancient old, that is.
Tasked with freshening up the museum’s logo and related materials, the New York-based design firm Sagmeister & Walsh took as its inspiration the Star of David.
But in a twist on the iconic symbol, the designers have turned the six-point star around and played with it, going back to its origins to create a new branding for the museum with a very modern sensibility, launching this month.
Jessica Walsh tells The Jewish Week that when researching the image of the Star of David, she and her partner, Stephan Sagmeister, learned that it was drawn on an ancient system called “sacred geometry,” which was also used in a lot of art and architecture. All of the materials and patterns they developed — logo, stationery, subway posters, gift bags, gallery guides, menu in the café, business cards, etc. — were drawn on this grid, with some designs more interpretive than literal.
“One of our priorities has been to refresh the look and feel of the museum and its graphic identity,” said Claudia Gould, the museum’s director.
The main logo on the new stationery features “Jewish Museum” in a newly designed custom typeface, a string of connected letters with hints of hexagonal forms. The look is bold and graceful and surprising. For many, it will take getting used to — it replaces a red square with the name “The Jewish Museum” in three lines in a simple sans-serif type that was initiated in 1993 with the renovation and expansion of the Fifth Avenue building
Others have used the Star of David as part of their logo, from El Al Airlines to Jewish organizations to group of Philadelphia bikers who have superimposed the Liberty Bell and motorcycle images in the background of the star. But Sagmeister and Walsh’s design is altogether different.
The prevalent color is deep blue — inspired by the “tachelet” blue dye mentioned in the Bible — and some of the materials have touches of bright red-orange. Perhaps the most striking element is the back of the stationery, with the designers’ take on the ancient hexagonal grid, featuring small circles punctuating and forming new six-point stars. The page looks like a kabbalistic-inspired design, a meditative tool that looks different with every glance. This pattern will also appear on wrapping paper and other items.
Next month, The Jewish Museum, which did not disclose how much the logo redesign cost, will be launching a completely new website, also designed by Sagmeister & Walsh. The new site — the first since 1997 — will allow viewers to engage with more than 3,000 works in the Museum’s collections, and the goal is to increase that to 20,000 works over the next five years. Also planned are online-only exhibitions, along with live streaming and archival video access.