North’s severe backslanted type for the Munch Museum mirrors the artist’s “unconventional spirit”
Together with a dramatic colour palette, the identity channels The Scream artist’s work as well as the institution’s new “bowing” building on Oslo’s waterfront.
- Jenny Brewer
- 21 May 2020
A household name, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch was far from a one hit wonder but is perhaps best known for the painting, The Scream. In fact, the museum dedicated to his life and work – originally opened in 1963 – was struggling for space to house his catalogue and rising visitor numbers, so will soon open a mammoth new premises on Oslo’s waterfront featuring a collection of 28,000 works. It’s this building’s “bowing” shape, and the artist’s “unconventional spirit,” which has inspired North’s redesigned identity for the Munch Museum and its next era.
The brief from Munchmuseet simply asked the design studio to “consider their name in light of the museum they were building,” explains North graphic designer Jamie Rickett. “As we understood more about them we realised that their vision had shifted in recent years to showcase the work of Munch to a contemporary audience, often using other artists and art forms as a lens through which to view. Where some monographic museums become a mausoleum for an artist’s work – and a place where you might only need to visit once – the Munchmuseet strives to be a dynamic, ever-changing and open institution. So our creative response needed to reflect and facilitate this philosophy.”
At first tempted to create a direct graphic response to Munch’s work, the studio moved away from being too literal and referential, and towards concepts that “felt like contemporary expressions of his attitude… recognisably ‘Munch’ whilst avoiding pastiche.” The result is a dramatic and confidently modern identity that hopes to reimagine Munch’s ethos for today’s audience while attracting a younger crowd. It uses a severe backslanted typeface, custom made by type foundry Radim Peško for the identity, and a colour scheme employing a daring combination of red and black.
The slant in the typeface is drawn from the museum’s new building by Spanish architectsEstudio Herreros, which looks like a rectangular monolith tilted halfway up, almost like the building is taking a bow. Apparently the architects were in part inspired by a photo of Munch, which shows the artist almost naked, painting another almost-naked man on the beach and “leaning forward inquisitively, just like the building”. This 20-degree angle is mirrored in the font, slanted backwards, a simple but highly effective treatment that gives the word mark an edginess and tension that alludes to Munch’s work. In marketing material, the typeface is used in a range of ways, simply overlaid on paintings or used in more heavily typographic posters. In the wayfinding, the slant is used less in favour of a straight-up, more legible option. All elements of the identity also have animated options, to make best use of over 20 digital screens throughout the museum.
Ready to be rolled out further when the Munch Museum opens later this year, the identity “feels just at home next to The Scream as it does on a t-shirt,” Rickett concludes, not only celebrating the museum’s innovative approach, but also the artist to which it dedicates itself.