SMCS / Introduction
June 2004

Stedelijk Museum CS

We were asked in the beginning of 2004 to create the graphic identity of the Stedelijk Museum CS, the temporary exhibition space of the Amsterdam museum of modern art. With the original building closed down for a renovation, the Stedelijk Museum moved to the second and third floor of the monumental former Post Office (a one-time mail distribution center), a huge industrial building situated behind the Central Station (CS). The Stedelijk Museum's would stay on this location for the next four years.

We were asked to create the whole graphic identity in just a few months, staying within an extremely tight budget. A few months might sound like a lot of time, but considering the amount of work that had to be done (the design of a new logotype, the creation of a complete new sign system, the redesign of the bimonthly magazine, the templates of dozens of different items, etc. etc.) it was a race against the clock.
Although the actual opening was mid-May, a lot of the designs had to be finished long in advance. For example, between the moment that we were 'briefed' about the official name of the new museum (Stedelijk Museum CS), and the moment the new logotype had to be presented to the press, there were exactly two weeks. So we were working under constant pressure.
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It was an honour to be asked for this assignment. After all, the Stedelijk Museum used to be the ultimate embodiment of social-democratic and modernist values; values which are extremely important to us. The reason why we were asked for this project had a lot to do with the Stedelijk Museum's renewed interest in their own modernist heritage. (Since a lot of our work deals with our own struggle to come to terms with the paradoxical nature of modernism, the Stedelijk Museum recognized a shared interest).
We had worked successfully with the Stedelijk Museum before, on installations such as Black Metal Machine (1998), Modular Meaning (1999) and Display (2002). The way we handled these projects also played a role in the Stedelijk Museum's decision to ask us to do their graphic identity.

After we created the graphic identity, we continued working for the museum for a full year, applying the identity to the institute. After that, we decided to quit. Although we enjoyed collaborating with all the people involved (see the list below), it became difficult for us to cope with the Stedelijk Museum as a whole, which was partly due to the fact that (at that time) the museum was in such an interim state, without a clear artistic director, and without a clear hierarchical structure. Besides, we pretty much felt our job was accomplished, and that others could take it from there. So we handed over our templates to the Stedelijk Museum, who are now handling the design themselves, employing an in-house design studio. [Update: the graphic identity of SMCS remained in use up until 2008, when the museum returned to its original building. After that, the SMCS logo became unnecessary. After all, both in name, and in concept, the SMCS logo referred to a specific location. In that sense, it was always meant as a temporary logo, for a temporary place].

We like to thank Leontine Coelewij, Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, Jelle Bouwhuis, Ben van Heesbeen and Hans van Beers.

(Note: To be honest, we're not really comfortable using the word 'identity', as it seems too much of an 'metaphysical' word for something that is basically a very concrete collection of physical objects. 'Stationery' might be a better word, although it doesn't really seem to cover the whole project. So for now, for lack of anything better, we'll stick with 'identity').

To read all the successive texts about this particular project, click on the 'Prev' button below. The following 14 pages show all the items we designed for SMCS.

Filed under:
graphic identities

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