Whitney Graphic Identity
by Experimental Jetset


Dutch graphics studio Experimental Jetset has redesigned the logo for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York as a slender W that changes shape to respond to its setting (+ movie).

Whitney Graphic Identity by Experimental Jetset

Experimental Jetset developed the graphic identity around the concept of a "responsive W" that forms both a symbol of the Whitney and a framework for accompanying text and images.

Whitney Graphic Identity by Experimental Jetset

"We came up with the idea of the zig-zag line, with the zig-zag being a metaphor for a non-simplistic, more complicated (and thus more interesting) history of art," say the designers.

Whitney Graphic Identity by Experimental Jetset

"We think the line also represents a pulse, a beat - the heartbeat of New York, of the USA. It shows the Whitney as an institute that is breathing (in and out), an institute that is open and closed at the same time."

Whitney Graphic Identity by Experimental Jetset

The designers specified Neue Haas Grotesk - a redrawn version of a 1950s Swiss typeface - for any text positioned alongside the logo, while any images can be positioned underneath.

Whitney Graphic Identity by Experimental Jetset

"We began to explore the possibilities of the W as a frame to put work in, or a stage to place work on," they explain. "The lines [of the W] can be seen as borders, arrows, connections [or] columns."

Whitney Graphic Identity by Experimental Jetset

The new graphic identity replaces the Whitney's thirteen-year-old logo, designed by Abbott Miller of Pentagram, and marks a period of change that will see the museum relocate to a new building by architect Renzo Piano, set to open in 2015.

Whitney Graphic Identity by Experimental Jetset

Other logos designed in recent months include one for the estate of Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson and one for Nivea designed by Yves Béhar. See more graphic design on Dezeen.

Photography is by Jens Mortensen.

Read on more information from the Whitney:

As the Whitney approaches the opening of its new building in 2015, museum staff are taking stock of all aspects of programming and operations. While much of this work is happening behind the scenes, one very visible aspect of this focus is the Whitney's graphic identity. While the museum has changed considerably in the thirteen years since it introduced the word mark designed by Abbott Miller of Pentagram, even more extensive institutional changes will come with the move downtown.

Two years ago, Museum staff began a thoughtful internal dialogue regarding the Whitney's graphic identity and selected the design studio Experimental Jetset to develop an approach which embraces the spirit of the Museum while serving as a visual ambassador for our new building. The result is a distinctive and inventive graphic system that literally responds to art — a fundamental attribute of the Whitney since its founding in 1930. This dynamic identity, which the designers refer to as the "responsive 'W'" also illustrates the Museum's ever-changing nature. In the upcoming years it will provide an important point of continuity for members, visitors, and the public during the transition to the new space.

  • whiny_designer

    Why wouldn’t a quintessential American Museum identity be done by an American studio? Or for that matter, an NY museum identity done by a New York studio.

    The States has such bad self-esteem when it comes to design. We always seem to look to Europe for our design-identity. The last summer Olympics in London was a great celebration of Britain’s design and architectural vision. If the games were hosted in America, we would have probably used the same European firms. This goes for the majority of major projects done here. It’s a real shame for those that practice here.

    • iag

      I’m sure there are plenty of American, and in particular NY designers who could have delivered a suitable response.

      However – should being local ever be a primary reason for selecting someone to produce a creative solution? Or should the selection process consider first and foremost “who could deliver the best possible solution” for any particular challenge, whether they are located across the street or on the moon?

      It’s nice to keep things local for economical reasons, but it’s sometimes (not always) interesting to get an “outsiders” creative view – often their eyes are fresher on the subject. “Can’t see the woods for the trees…” and all that.

      Anyway, as far as this solution goes – good job Experimental Jetset, clear simple and strong.

    • H-J

      We Europeans are just better at it, more luck next time!

  • johan

    Very contemporary, very well designed, very experimental jetset – but the changing W is rather pointless, very gimmicky (IMHO of course).

  • Greenish

    I really like the W, gimmicky or not. Why shouldn't a logo interact with the other stuff on the page? It's fun.

  • Sam

    Very clever, graphic direction. Similar to the branding Stefan Sagmeister did for Casa de Musica in the way it changes and adapts to the content. Plenty of American studios who could have done great jobs, but who cares.

  • I thought the point of a logo was to aid in communication (brochures, letters etc). If the logo changes with each piece doesn’t it affect ones ability to communicate effectively and quickly?

  • amsam

    Maybe I don’t get out much, but since the whole idea of logos is they’re exactly the same everywhere you see them, there’s something nice and radical about breaking that idea. Curious to see how it plays out.