In the heart of Moscow lies AZ Museum, a private museum founded in 2015 dedicated to one man’s collection of over 2000 works. The man is Anatoly Zverev, cofounder of the Russian Expressionism movement in the 60s and a member the non-conformist art movement; a retaliation from the idealised, socialist realism of the time. His extensive collections of unofficial Soviet artworks are now housed in the AZ Museum. Named after the founder’s initials, the museum and its collection represent the free movement of artistic expression under the rule of tyranny, and not wholly indifferent to the current political situation.
Nonetheless, in the face of adversity, artistic expression thrives and Moscow-based Ony Agency has redesigned the museum’s visual identity along with its website. Designed by Sergei Lavrinenko, Linda Kosichkina, Anton Petrov, Dima Rodionov, Andrey Jandarov, Svyat Vishnyakov, Anton Bodryashkin, Kirill Surguchev and Alexander Gruzdev the identity repurposes Anatoly’s initials as the identity’s main graphic element referring to both its founder and the alphabetised categorisation of the museum’s extensive collection.
“All things unharmful for the collection are not prohibited in the AZ Museum," Ony Agency tells It’s Nice That. "You can play, lie around on the floor and gather by the group” in the museum’s galleries. So when it came to redesigning the museum’s identity, the designer’s aim was to capture this freeing spirit in the tone of the work. “Our aim was to refresh the image by translating the mobility of the cultural space through the visual language. We wanted to show off its attributes as a varied collection and the absence of a permanent exhibition.” Because Anatoly’s collection is so vast, the museum operates by frequently rotating its temporary exhibitions, pulling in consistently healthy crowds at the same time.
“The task of the museum as a whole is to create a dialogue between the art and the viewer," explains Ony Agency. “The museum does not just show still lives and landscapes of artists, it tells stories. That is why text plays a key role in the museum’s identity and in turn, typography.” Ony Agency initiates a healthy rapport between the visual language of the typefaces Druk and Akzidenz Grotesk. As a duo, they perform “two tasks at once.”
While Druk is noticeably modern and ideal for “short and perky communications”, the classic Akzidenz provides functionality for captions and lengthy body copy online and in print. “It turns out to be a sprightly but very profound couple," the agency asserts. Due to the museum’s independent status, the visual identity can afford to be relaxed as it reflects the free expression of the collection.
The “new and flexible” typography system can be used in any format, static and in motion. It makes use of the letters angularity in animations to deliver smooth transitions revealing images of the museum’s collection in a consistently blocky way. “It was important for us to design an identity that is consistent and useful through web and animation as well," adds the designer on the matter. Across all these fronts, as well as on bags, t-shirts, business cards and so on, the Ony design team have produced some rather lovely merchandise. And as a designer dedicated to cultural and educational projects as much as possible, Ony Agency asserts on his overall output: “I consider that good designers should support good people.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.