On December 2011 The Hellenic Ministry of Culture organized a design contest concerning the “united image and identity of the Monuments and Museums of Greece”. The brief required the design of a symbol and a system of logotypes for the unification of the image of all archeological sites, monuments, public and private museums of Greece, various applications of the logotype on printed matter, a complete set of pictograms and a system for interior and exterior signage of the sites.
The project seemed monumental in size and context, and at the same time extremely interesting, but required the collaboration of many minds and hands, so Panayotis Haratzopoulos, Yiannis Karlopoulos and I, joint forces to participate.
We had several conversations concerning the appropriate overall style and form of the identity, since it ought to fit in every single period of Greek architecture, design and art. We needed a passe-par-tout, a hybrid style that could fit with the archaic, the classical, the byzantine, the modern even the contemporary form. The typeface that we decided to use is the evolution of an experimental work of Claudio Piccinini, from 1996, and has not been commercially released. The archived designs were revisited and many of them were redesigned, in order to support all the historical references needed to fit the richness and diversity of Greek culture.
Panayotis developed a regular and a bold weight, plus small capitals and non lining figures. These are the caracter sets.
These are a few examples of the greek letters and their relation to various period styles: I - ancient columns, Θ - archaic form, Μ - Roman inscriptions, Ω - Uncials, Ε - Byzantine scripts, Υ - Renaissance, Ο - geometric modern form.
When the typeface designs were finished, we were ready to start testing it with the various ideas for the symbol. We chose to use the form of the letter “M”, as the common signifier of monuments and museums, for it is the same in both the greek and latin alphabets. We experimented with the concept of merging the doric lines with the byzantine archs, the golden section, the evolution of the form of the letter “M” from upper to lower case and the idea of the symbol as placemark.
Considering the informative use of the work as the most important factor of the project, we decided that the placemark symbol was the most appropriate one. The “pin” shape could work as a mark that unifies visualy the sites, and besides it's welcoming simplicity, it could function well in contemporary digital culture, as it has a direct reference to the digital maps' placemark. We finally used the capital M of the typeface, slightly altered, and made some corrections on the proportions of the shapes. The final symbol has a classical quality and yet a modern spark.
Containing in total not less than fifty characters, the bilingual logotype was a hard task to overcome. We split the text in three lines, and placed the symbol in the middle, dividing the text blocks. We added some tone and color with the use of small capitals for the articles, an ampersand and a “και” ligature deviated from an Athonite script. The rest of the variations are aligned flush left and, and on the two-lined logos the text block is aligned with the engraved “M” of the symbol.
The use of the typeface as a graphic standard for the naming of the various sites and museums, and the pairing of the design with private museums logos, produces a cohesive identity system, that can be used in various applications like signage and promotional materials.
Concerning colour, earth brown, that is internationally used for the signage of archaeological sites, seemed to be the perfect match for our project. Following the collective unconscious knowledge of the brown colour as a sign of cultural heritage, we used it as the one and only colour. A rather reduced palette, based on the idea of simplicity that, nevertheless, helps constrain production costs.
A pattern, using the symbol on a light brown tind (the only exception in colour use), was designed for use as background for tickets.
For various applications, like museum shop packaging, wrapping paper, t-shirts, mugs, notebooks and other printed matter, we designed an inscription style letter pattern of the full bilingual logotype, and also used extreme crops of the logotype, to achieve a dense visual identity.
Otto Neurah's Isotype system, the abstract painting of Yannis Moralis and Otl Aicher's Olympic Games pictograms, are the reference and initiative force of our pictograms. Our goal being the pictograms' successful matching with the letterforms, we designed figures derived from the international standard forms, but at the same time, have a unique character and relate with the colour of the typeface.
We conducted a research on the graphics and signage systems that are curently applied on greek monuments and museums, only to find out that graphic anarchy rules the field. An almost endless variation of materials, sizes, colours, typefaces and logos is utilisized randomly – the examples pictured need no more comments. We believe that the design of a rational design system, in a way that could be comprehended even by the most elementary educated signmaker was necessary. With the use of our unique typeface, the single colour, specific sign and type sizes and grids, this could be achieved.
For the production of the signs, we decided to choose from a wide range of products designed and constructed by the company Modulex. Founded in 1963 by the Lego group, Modulex is a leader in signage and wayfinding systems. The exterior sign systems are characterized by high durability and a superior paint quality. The modular system makes it easy to put together individual solutions and make changes. The rugged aluminium and galvanised steel design make the system the perfect choice for outdoor areas that are accessible to the public. The interior signs are based on a simple and light design where the panel has only been secured at the bottom. This creates maximum freedom for panel shapes and material.
We designed models for directional road signs, and a monolith that functions as a placemark on the location of the sites. Throughout the signage system, the regular weight of the typeface is used for the second language.
For the entrance signs, where a large amount of information must fit, we use an easily adaptable modular system, either on double posts or mounted on walls or fences. The central axis that is being used, gives the design a formal look and the variation of sizes and weights of the type provide the necessary colour and an overall vivid look.
On the signage system for the interior spaces of the museums, the colours are inverted. The information is printed brown on a white backgroung, thus we have a more sublte look and feel, that can be integrated easily in any museum's interior environment.
Finally, we designed a series of exterior informative and directional signs that can be used in archaeological sites. Either projected on posts, or mounted on walls and fences, these subtle designs don't interfere with the site environment but still, can help and direct the visitor.
During our research on what is going on in the rest of the world, I made a list of my favorite projects. Here it is:
- Philipe Apeilog's logo for the Museums of France
- Gerard Unger's typeface for Rome
- Experimental Jetset's work for 104, a French cultural institute
- Pentagram's identity and signage system for New York City Parks