an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

The Met’s New Logo

It’s a disaster, as I predicted here last June in “The Met’s Coming Rebranding: A Puzzlement.” In fact, it’s worse than I had heard. Justin Davidson posted this image on New York magazine’s Vulture site earlier today. Ugh.


Davidson nailed it:

The whole ensemble looks like a red double-decker bus that has stopped short, shoving the passengers into each other’s backs. Worse, the entire top half of the new logo consists of the word the.

MetLogoWhy anyone thinks that is better than the Metropolitan Museum’s* old logo is beyond me.

Now I will go away and try to think of something deeper to say about this huge mistake. In the meantime, please go to my 2015 post on the subject, which tries to provide Tom Campbell’s rationale, shaky though it is.

For a museum, one has to ask: does anybody there have an eye?

*I consult to a museum that supports the Met.


  1. Michael Black says

    This reminds me of logos from the 1970s – not a great decade for design or good taste.

  2. Ok, wait a second. Who are you to call this a mistake? What are your branding/design credentials that would qualify you to make such a judgement based on your FIRST reaction? You’re clearly nostalgic for the old logo, so you’re bias has tainted this whole article. You offer no rationale for your dislike except for your own partiality. Are you uncomfortable with change? So what. Is the new logo making you sweat? Good! Think about that, then get over it.

    You’re judging an entire rebrand on just a logo, but a brand is much more than a logo–we’re only seeing one small piece of the pie here. While I don’t see the new one as “pretty” in the modern sense, I would advise to withhold judgement until everything is rolled out. Give the brand its due and judge it in context of the full experience. The current (old) logo is also a complete disaster in its own right. It’s fussy, is probably a pain in the ass to reproduce reliably across various media, and that someone sees the Vitruvian Man is merely one’s opinion. I see architectural references, myself. In either case, there’s no basis for why those extra design elements need to exist at all.

    Is the new one better? From a mechanical standpoint, without a doubt. And for those who may be unfamiliar with The Met, at least it now has the (informal) name as part of the mark, so it also communicates the “who” far more clearly than the old one. That’s just two non-biased rationales in favor of the new logo. Can you do better in favor for the old?

    • I’m someone who has been following and writing about the Met since the 1980s, and I am judging this mainly from an aesthetic point of view. I have also heard of other elements of the rebranding, not discussed here, that seem to be equally bad. Furthermore, I know full well from internal sources that the new logo is widely disliked inside the museum. Now who are you?

      • People are afraid of (and upset by) change—museums, in particular, are tough crowds. I would place them second to Universities in terms of how worked up their audience can get when it comes to changes like this. Yeah, it’s different. No, it’s not particularly pretty in the modern sense. But that doesn’t mean it’s “bad”–yet, anyways. All I’m saying is, give it some time and its due before firing off a clearly biased rant based solely on hearsay.

        As for me, I’m a professional brand designer with 20+ years of experience. I’ve designed very successful brand identity campaigns for several Smithsonian museums (American History Museum, American Indian Museum, Air & Space Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Freer+Sackler Gallery, and the Smithsonian Castle itself), retail brands, entertainment brands, and more. Needless to say, I am fully steeped in museum culture–maybe more than I care to think about. Of the work I’ve done over the years, plenty have made lots of people upset (and it’s usually those stakeholders closest to the brand)—only for them to settle down, eat their crow, and actually like the outcome.

        Just give it a chance first.

        • For your information, I did not “[fire] off a clearly biased rant based solely on hearsay.” As for “bias,” I’m a critic — critics make judgments. That’s what we are paid to do.

  3. Both are without imagination ..the latest is banality writ large .

  4. How do we know it’s not the Met Opera? The “old” one made for really nice buttons but they don’t need that shape now. This one certainly does not suggest that art is involved.

  5. If the point of a logo is to be instantly clear and recognizable, I think this one fails. (Think of the logos for Google, Apple, IBM–all instantly clear.) Also, I think this one is hard to read: it looks like two “Greek” letters side-by-side rather than the word “The.” And the M runs into the E so that it doesn’t even look like an M. How will it function in the many small sizes it will need to appear in? (That the words are stacked will make it worse.)

    Another point: the Met is a historical institution. Why would a trendy logo be appropriate for it?

  6. Well, these things are always fraught. Years ago, the Clark Art Institute’s director decided to change its charmingly old fashioned logo. He convened a committee on which I sat as a curator and hired an expensive graphic consultant that produced a logo no one liked but he picked it anyway. A few days later, a freakishly similar “logo” appeared on the front page of every paper and the headline story of every TV news show. It was the symbol for anthrax. Back to the drawing board!

    • I can’t seem to find an image on line, but that typeface and shade of red remind me strongly of The Brooklyn Museum’s logo until around 1997 when they re-branded as The Brooklyn Museum of Art (and then re-re-branded as The Brooklyn Museum again around 2004).

  7. Brian Dodge says

    The amount of $$ spent on these campaigns is not inconsiderable. Aside from the direct fees paid to the vendor and the aggregate time of staff spent to review the proposal, I imagine the sum is worth an acquisition or restoration of an object in the collection. In my view, it was fine to do this for the MetBreuer but leave mamma met alone with her looks!

    • Early on, I heard that the number was $3 million for the rebranding. The Met denied that to me, and yesterday when I was doing additional reporting a good source told me that number was too high. Nonetheless, I believe it was in the seven figures.

  8. Brian Dodge says

    Maybe Coca Cola is next because its current logo does not reproduce reliably across various media internationally.

  9. It’s hard on the eyes. I don’t have branding credentials but it’s hard to believe that something the eye cannot rest comfortably on is a good business logo. I loved the old one.

  10. As Andrea Norris astutely put it: “How do we know it’s not the Met Opera?” We don’t. I would imagine that the Met (the opera company) is not to happy about the Met’s (the art museum) new logo as it (the opera company) rolls out its advertising campaign for the 2016-17 season [].

    How about this headline for confusion? “Scattered Staging Spells Confusion at the Met” Which Met? In this instance, it’s the opera company. (The Met [the art museum], recall, also stages musical events.) “The Met,” as a phrase, occurs a half dozen times in the article beneath the headline [].

    So much for the supposed acumen of “professional brand designer[s].”

    Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts)

  11. Hasn’t the Met been using a variation on this for many years, notably on their museum store shopping bags? “The” Met is, in fact, already their brand, not unlike “The Ohio State University, “The [Chicago] Bears,” etc. implying there is only one such entity–sorry Metropolitan Opera but maybe you can borrow the museum’s old logo?! This strikes me as much ado about nothing–except fragile egos and opinions that don’t seem based on anything except other people’s opinions.

    • Personally, I don’t mind calling the museum “The Met” for short, but it still should be known officially as the Metropolitan Museum of Art–the identity that is being submerged in this campaign. What is upsetting people is both the ugliness and trendiness of the new logo, compared with the classic nature of the old one, and the fact that the new one telegraphs nothing about the museum. It does look like a double-decker bus, as Davidson said, where as the old one made reference to Leonardo and the Renaissance–unquestionably a high point in art. The designer may say the new logo refers to Dendur, but it’s ahrd to see that, one, and that temple is a minor artifact, two, hardly in the same category as Leonardo. As for personal opinions, why are they disqualified? Isn’t your comment based on your personal opinion?

      • The Temple of Dendur is a minor artifact? It certainly takes up a fair amount of real estate at the Met and is among the signature works in the collection. And, if the Met’s old logo references Leonardo, then where is their Da Vinci? Sure, opinions are fine and we all have them. However, saying something does not make it so and your take on the new logo seems kind of frivolous and, frankly, does not appear to be based on anything more substantive than the variables of taste. The new logo can be defended as a more contemporary riff on the Met’s singular status as the most recognized museum in the United States. I also kind of like how the negative space between the letters forming abstract patterns reminiscent of Ellsworth Kelly and the world of post-War art that is becoming increasingly important to the Met, especially with their move to the Breuer building.

        • I didn’t have to look very hard to find, in the NYT, for example, a description of the Temple of Dendur as “a modest structure as Egyptian monuments go.” See article Nov. 29, 1974. There were plenty at the time, and later, in which archaeologists called it minor, though perhaps in other words. It is a signature, or more accurately, a popular attraction, but it’s not on the level of achievement as a Leonardo.

          As for your continued cracks about my opinion, that’s the pot calling the kettle black.

  12. Just another quick note…We had a visitor from the Met at the Blanton last Friday. She showed her staff badge for a professional entrance and it had the new logo on it. I casually mentioned how I’d always loved the old one, and she said, and I quote,”Yes, we all like the old one, too.” As to who the “we” she was referring to is, I can’t say. But it didn’t sound as if the new logo has unanimous support among their staff.

  13. Barbara Chalsma says

    When I doodled in middle school, I merged letters in just the same way. Perhaps I missed my calling.

an ArtsJournal blog