The new visual identity of Het Nieuwe Instituut consists of a continuously expanding variety of designs, held together by a simple label. Graphic designer Maureen Mooren is responsible for the concept. She explains how she developed this new 'house style'.
With what question did Het Nieuwe Instituut approach you?
Maureen Mooren: The director of Het Nieuwe Instituut, Guus Beumer, wanted the identity of Het Nieuwe Instituut to be designed by various different graphic designers. He asked me to act as Art Director and come up with a binding form, through which all these different designs could result in a recognisable identity for Het Nieuwe Instituut. In addition, I am responsible for the selection of graphic designers.
Why was there deliberately chosen not to have one single designer, who creates one recurring, recognisable graphic identity?
Het Nieuwe Instituut is an institute for architecture, design and digital culture. Graphic design is one of the design disciplines. Het Nieuwe Instituut wants to engage with designers in different ways and offer them a podium besides the usual exhibition and lecture programme. The approach of working with different designers is not new. Many cultural institutions work with different designers for specific projects. However, at the same time they have a single overarching identity, designed by one designer. Het Nieuwe Instituut, however, employs this concept as an alternative exhibition form, with which it presents designers in the public space.
Does Het Nieuwe Instituut also want to set an example of its role as commissioner with this approach?
Working with various designers is primarily intended to show current developments in the field of graphic design. We live in a time when fewer and fewer cultural institutions are willing to take a risk in the design of their communication. Even small institutions increasingly hire large agencies, instead of opting for more outspoken designers. We want to offer a platform to designers who approach their profession in an investigative manner. In addition, we give young, upcoming designers a chance to present themselves. Young and old, local, national and international - we will present a wide variety of contemporary designs.
But how do you make clear that all these different designs are related to each other, that they are an expression of Het Nieuwe Instituut?
An obvious way to connect the various designs would be the use of a classical logo, but to my mind it would then seem as though Het Nieuwe Instituut is the sponsor of the project, instead of the initiator and organiser. I have also considered creating a set of conditions, such as the use of one specific colour or font, but realised this would have a very narrowing effect and would impede the freedom and variety that we are looking for with this concept, which is why I dropped that idea. To emphasise the fact that working with different designers is a deliberate choice of Het Nieuwe Instituut, I decided to focus on the name of the designer, and introduce the colophon onto the cover. This way, a label was created, which also contains information on the programme track the exhibition is part of. In addition, each 'label' contains a description of the intent of the project. It does not reveal what the exhibition will show, but rather why. I want to bring all this background information to the forefront, to the label, which becomes a separate element attached to all means of communication (brochures, booklets, etc.). On the posters, the label is an integral part of the design, showing what a remarkably large block it actually is. Here you can really sense the tension between the fixed HNI-label and the varying designs by the individual designers.
The label is quite present, but has a very neutral form at the same time.
It certainly is very present, but this is also necessary. Not everybody knows Het Nieuwe Instituut yet, so it must communicate a clear profile. Despite the different designers and graphic styles, it should be clear that it is an expression of a single institute.I consciously sought for the neutral form. Due to the large size of the label, there is always a tension between the label and the design of a specific designer. The neutral form ensures that the two worlds can coexist. Usually I am not such a neutral designer. Sometimes I wonder if it is still a bit too neat.
Interview Lotte Haagsma