The Portland Art Museum had a logo, but no one who worked there liked to use it. “People just typed ‘Portland Art Museum’ at the top of the page,” says Rob Wees, a senior communication designer at the Portland-based design firm Ziba. Developed by an interim director, the logo was typographically clever but did a poor job of representing what the institution had to offer. So the museum brought in Ziba to create a new visual identity, one that would effectively connect to the larger Portland community.
“As we were doing our research, one of the things that kept coming up was that people weren’t aware of the many things that were happening,” Wees says. “So we wondered, What if the logo could embody literally everything the museum has to offer.” The new identity centers on a bold P, which can function as a solid logo or as a frame for showcasing the museum’s art, events, and educational programs. The beauty of the system lies in its flexibility: It works just as well on a billboard display for an Andy Warhol exhibition as it does on a pamphlet for an Italian Renaissance show. And in bringing awareness to the museum’s myriad, evolving offerings, it positions the 116-year-old institution as an approachable art authority.
“We don’t want P to be the logo necessarily,” Wees says. “It will be that at times, but it’s really about the experience, framing, and perspective that it brings, allowing visitors to go in and explore for themselves.”