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A Temporary Identity for the Stedelijk

The Stedelijk Museum has opened its doors not yet for the official reopening, but rather a temporary taste allowing and reminding visitors of what the institution represents.  The studio of Mevis & Van Deursen were given the graphic design gig and have come with a modern homage to the museum's past that feels just right.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 09-09-2010

A lot of controversy has surrounded Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum recently – the renovation is so far over schedule that an entire generation of art and design school graduates have never even been inside the building.  Added to that is the recent decision to sever ties with French graphic designer Pierre di Sciullo.

The announcement then that the museum would be opening from August to January was some much needed good news. To communicate this and create the museum’s temporary identity the services of Amsterdam based Armand Mevis and Linda van Deursen (Mevis & Van Deursen) were called upon.

Armand Mevis is adamant, however, that being asked to work on this project has absolutely nothing to do with the controversy surrounding the Stedelijk’s graphic identity  “This is simply a project,” he says.  “We were never approached to create the identity of the whole museum.  People seem to think that, but it is not true.  We were told from the start that this was just for the temporary opening and was not a commission to do anything for the future.”

Mevis says he is not sure why he and Van Deursen were invited to work on this gig, but says that they once bumped into the museum’s new artistic director, Ann Goldstein in New York, which may have reminded  her of their work.

With that said, it would be impossible for Goldstein or any other Stedelijk decision makers to not recognize Mevis and Van Deursen’s good work.

Knowing about all the controversy, Mevis and Van Deursen considered the best way to approach the temporary opening was to not let anything feel over designed.  “We didn't want it to be interpreted as anything other than what it was, which meant it needed to be simple, sober and not too ambitious.”

The final results are a poised and respectful homage to the museum’s heyday of graphic design when Wim Crouwel sat at the helm.  It also refers to the more recent SMCS identity, by Experimental Jetset, which was taken further by Mannschaft  “We like that our work fitted with the past and that some of it can be seen as a reenactment of earlier work,” Mevis says

Research revealed that the Univer 65 used more recently by the Stedelijk was in fact slightly different to the version used by Crouwel.  “We went back to this version to bring the work closer to the original typeface of the museum,” says Mevis.  

The problem was that a lot of different people had ended up working on Stedelijk designs with no single designer able to maintain control over what was being produced.  “Different designers as well as in-house people were working on projects and the result was things got a bit messy,” says Mevis.  “We wanted to tidy all that up and make it precise again.”

The clean font used together with simple pixilated images and overlaid with a big transparent T do create an image of retro temporariness.  “I think it keeps it all tight and reminds everyone that this project will be over in January,” says Mevis.

Most recently Mevis & Van Deuren did the graphic design for the main exhibition at the Architecture Biennale of Venice. 

Photos by Rosalie Peerdeman

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