“Mix and Match”
Established in 2016, The Main is a museum in Los Angeles, CA, with the mission “to engage the public with the most important ideas of our time through the art of Los Angeles” but it won’t do so fully until 2020, when its building — a merging of three historic, early twentieth-century structures in LA’s Old Bank District — is complete. In the meantime, during construction, the museum has been holding pop-up programming — under the “Beta Main” moniker — as their space allows. When complete, The Main will be a non-collecting museum and a big point of distinction, aside from a focus on local art and artists, will be a residency program. In preparation for a large phase of construction, The Main recently introduced a new identity designed by local firm Use All Five.
The redesigned logo uses two typefaces: Dala Moa by Commercial Type and Danzza by Heavyweight, with custom treatment to the ‘M’ letterform for clear legibility. The typefaces are fluid in their usage across the museum’s public-facing materials. For headlines, we offered these two different typefaces that could be mixed together, as an effort to visualize two languages coexisting. Offering both Spanish and English, translation is a vital pillar of the Main Museum’s values and communication strategy.
The only way the old logo could have looked like any other museum in the world is if it had been black and even then it had as much personality as an easel. The new logo has a visually awkward presence with thinning, disappearing letters on each end and two thicker letters in the center. It’s not necessarily pleasing but it is engaging in that it forces you to do a double take and try to figure out what’s going on. The effect is more interesting in the Beta Main version of the logo where, simply, there are more letters to shift between styles and create a more convincing effect. Still, in the “Main” wordmark alone there is a distinct feeling of two different notions/ideas/cultures/whatevers coming together and coexisting.
In the identity guidelines, we created a simple underlying grid structure for seamless collaboration with current and future designers. This grid can adjust to essentially any format or proportion. Leaving it up to the designers discretion, we gave them the tools to choose how to activate the grid with type, image, and color. We encourage keeping the grid structure visible as it illustrates a prototype-like process, displaying how the museum continually composes itself in a variety of creative ways.
The visible 4-by-4 grid provides a good, flexible system for any kind of format that has the potential to become recognizable for the hard angles created by the × that spans the width and height of all applications. The grid and the logo don’t have much synergy though… there is no clear interplay between them or any interesting ways of anchoring the logo to it.
The combination of typefaces is interesting in that, like the logo, it signals that there are two levels of information at play but, for now, it’s unclear what purpose each typeface serves: is Dala Moa English and Danzza Spanish? Is Danzza meant to highlight something as if it were bold? Or is the use of each completely aleatory? I’m not saying the applications are right or wrong but I feel like the mix of typefaces is asking for an interpretation with the problem being that there is nothing to interpret. Still, there is a interesting tension created by the combination of typefaces, the visible grid, and the color palette that do convey a sense of excitement about the new museum and the possibility of it offering new ways to look at local art in its many forms.