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Cooper Hewitt / PentagramJune 12, 2014

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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum today announces a new name and graphic identity, custom typeface and website to accompany the expansion of the museum, which will open to the public on December 12. Designed by Pentagram’s Eddie Opara and team, the bold identity establishes a flexible branding system for the museum. Opara’s customized characters for the wordmark have been fully developed into a new typeface, Cooper Hewitt, created by Chester Jenkins of Village in collaboration with Pentagram.

Opara and his team worked closely with Cooper Hewitt and Jenkins to develop the identity. Located in the historic Andrew Carnegie Mansion in New York, Cooper Hewitt is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the group of 19 museums and galleries administered by the U.S. government. In a first, the new Cooper Hewitt identity has been conceived as a design that truly belongs to the people: The identity also exists as a new typeface that will be made available free to the public, who are encouraged to utilize it in their own designs. The font has also been acquired for the museum’s permanent collection.

‘We are spreading good design by making our elegant new typeface, Cooper Hewitt, available as a free download on cooperhewitt.org, as well as collecting it as an important example of the design process,’ says Cooper Hewitt director Caroline Baumann. ‘We look forward to seeing how the public uses this new design tool in their lives.’

Comparison of the final wordmark in the Cooper Hewitt typeface with the existing fonts Galaxie Polaris Condensed Heavy, top, and Galaxie Polaris Semi-Condensed Heavy, center. Comparison of the final logotype with the Cooper Hewitt Heavy typeface, above

Iconic, engaging and highly functional, the new Cooper Hewitt wordmark forms a perfect rectangle that can easily be scaled, positioned and colorized without losing its strong visual presence. There is an intriguing relationship between the words COOPER and HEWITT in the new identity: Set normally, the words are different widths. Here, each character has been tailored to help define the overall typographic frame. The wordmark has been expressly designed to serve as the basis for a wide variety of uses.

The identity establishes a flexible branding system for the museum

‘Cooper Hewitt’s new identity plays it straight, with no play on visual or theoretical complexity, no puzzling contradiction or ambiguity, no distracting authorship,’ says Opara. ‘Function is its primary goal, and ultimately the logo is important, but not as important as what the museum does.’