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The resulting name, logo, and identity were basically just the two original identities combined, which created a general confusion and misconceptions about the new entity. The century-old museum and art school, AMOA-Arthouse, has changed their name to The Contemporary Austin, along with launching a new identity and establishing a reinvigorated exhibition focus.

The museum uses both their full name and the shortened version, “The Contemporary”. The new vision for The Contemporary Austin will unite the museum’s two major venues, Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center. Last January, the museum’s new executive director, Louis Grachos, set out to re-envision Austin’s historic visual arts institution to better reflect Austin’s cutting-edge culture.

He worked to accomplish this by changing the name, creating a sleek new look, and developing a new identity for The Contemporary Austin. The new logo, visual identity, and color palette has been applied to all stationary, architecture, exhibition campaigns, advertising, and branding. (Press Release)

1 ca before after

The Austin-based contemporary art museum worked with design great, Pentagram, to develop an original brand identity. Pentagram is the world’s largest independent design consultancy that specializes in designing everything from architecture and exhibitions to websites and digital installations. With five decades of experience, they were up to the task at hand. While the original logo was unique and artistic, the new logo is easy to read and places emphasis on the “A” for art and Austin. The font, Boxed, was chosen, which is easy on the eyes and clearly emphasizes the capital “A”.

Partner DJ Stout and lead designer Kristen Keiser in Pentagram’s Austin office began the project by compiling a list of every art museum name they could find. From that exhaustive survey, patterns emerged and it became clear that another acronym was not original enough. Both AMOA and Arthouse had been promoting and exhibiting contemporary art over the years and neither had the capacity to build large collections. The Contemporary Austin is a simple, direct name that clearly states the focus and mission of the new institution. (Case Study)

Pentagram gave additional insight into the new visual identity and unique blue coloring:

“The new brand identity gets its clean, modern look from a generous use of white-space and a spare, uncluttered aesthetic. A signature blue-green color that Stout named “Dani Blue” after the director’s invaluable executive assistant Danielle Nieciag (who originally suggested the aqua color) matches the color of the distinctive glass-bricks jutting out of the downtown Jones Center’s walls when they’re illuminated at night, and also makes reference to the bluish lagoon off of Lake Austin where the Laguna Gloria estate gets its name.”

DJ Stout had this to say about the new logo:

“I’ve always called Austin The Little A. The small cap ‘A’ in the new logotype refers to Austin (which ain’t that little anymore) but it also stands for Art, as in contemporary Art. The simple cap A can be pulled out and used by itself as an icon in some situations, like buttons and membership stickers, and the identity system also allows for an abbreviated version of the new name, The Contemporary, that drops the word Austin altogether.”

He continued, “The key to designing a successful identity for a major cultural institution is to keep it simple and unfussy. It has to be timeless. You have to keep asking yourself if the identity will look dated in 10, 25, 50 years, maybe a century from now. The design solution can’t end up being a fad because it won’t survive the test of time.” (Case Study)