What’s In a Name — Often Your Brand’s Identity

I recently visited the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York City. Formerly known as the American Craft Museum, MAD changed its name in 2002. Originally dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary objects created in media such as clay, glass, wood, metal, and fiber, the current institution also embraces architecture, fashion, interior design, technology, performing arts, and art and design-driven industries.

While on my way to visit the museum I started to think about how the name, the “Museum of Arts and Design”, had played a part in my interest to visit the museum. The role a name plays for a company, product or service can be significant, and the same is true for museums. In the case of the American Craft Museum, the increasing need to compete with all the other stimuli in the world as well as their neighbor, the Museum of Modern Art surely played a role in shaping the direction of the museum and the need to have a name that better reflected this.

As with creation and management of a companies brand identity, the same challenges exist for museums. The organization’s name, logo, brand… their image, directly impacts peoples perception about it and how their products and services are valued. The same is true for museums. Consider this, think about going to see the same exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum and then at the American Craft Museum. Without giving a specific example of an exhibition you’re probably already forming opinions.

But let’s take this one step further, can a museums brand image affect people’s perception, meaning and message behind the actual artwork on display? This is probably not the intent of any museum, but on some level this may be unavoidable depending on the environment the artist intended the work to be seen.