The evolution of the identity of Design Museum Gent

2023

The evolution of the identity of Design Museum Gent

Once called ‘Museum voor Sierkunst”, “Museum voor Sierkunst en Vormgeving”, or “Museum voor Sierkunst en Industriële Vormgeving”, the Design Museum Gent has known many names, depending on a different vision of what the museum should be. In the first year, there wasn’t a ‘global’ identity like we know today. Some designers, like Frida Burssens, worked multiple times for the museum, and some templates were used for different exhibitions, like the ones designed by Octave Landuyt.

Changing the name of a museum goes together with a new face. The renaming under ‘Museum voor Sierkunst’ in 1977 made a place for a more cohesive and recognisable identity. In the same year, Piet Vandekerckhove (1945-2015) proposed the logo, which still exists today with some minor changes. The logo is created by combining three diagonal lines in two opposite directions. The lines go until a horizontal point on the left side, while on the right side, the lines are cut at their intersection. The logo is accompanied by the text set in a slap serif font, Rockwell, designed in the ’30s, with a tight interspacing.

In the ’70s and ’80s, the logo has a strong presence in the overall identity. In the posters, the logo is set as a central image of the poster. Vandekerckhove will design with Michel Devos (1974) and Van Zandweghe (who we know very little about so far). The logo is shown repeatedly using different bright colours. The logo is also produced or imitates a specific material according to the exhibition. Produced with different materials: sometimes in a bright colour(s), or it undertakes a material change with a recognisable grid for its title and additional information. Many of the logos have been physically produced, while others are simulated. Vandekerckhove & Devos have shown great versatility in how the form of the logo could be evoked. Over the years, the logo was reproduced in jewellery, ceramics, paper, glass, and aluminium, in three dimensions, in textiles and in sand. The choice of the material was chosen according to the exhibition. Each time a unique image for the ‘Museum voor Sierkunst’ was created, bringing an extra layer to what an identity can be in the hands of the designer who defines it. They can play with their limits and make it grow throughout the years. While not created with the same colours or template, they form a thoughtful and cohesive whole.

Along with every exhibition, the DMG published its square-formed publications. On the cover was the exact image added as in the offices. The title was positioned on a similar composition at the top, with its address and information at a similar angle as the logo is headed.

Inside was a regular grid of vertical lines that divided the columns and images from each other. It is often very rational, but sometimes the grid is challenged by its designer (and content). The flyers/invitation were rather set monotonously in the same grid but with the varied colour of paper.

From 2002, still under the supervision of Vandekerckhove & Devos, a new stricter identity is put in place. The logo becomes smaller and white. It is combined with the museum’s new name, Design Museum Gent. Design and Gent are set in a serif didone typeface while museum, without uppercase, is set in a san-serif typeface. The posters are based on an image, often a close-up studio image of an object on a grey or black background. The title is set at the top of the picture in the sans-serif typeface. About half of the poster is filled with a light grey block, with the name of the museum and the logo in a relatively small size, in the middle and aligned to the left. This identity is used until 2014. The contrast with the former identity is vital, as this identity is a radical change from the previous one. However, the same designers have worked on both identities, indicating that the desire for this serious turn was on the side of the commissioners.