Sunday, November 15, 2015

Why have museum brands become commodities?

Recently two major art museums in America presented their new and exciting visual identities: SFMOMA, under a major renovation (re-opening day as May 14, 2016) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Both projects bring a lot of buzz for the museum sector and, at the same time, reminds us of the challenges from the standpoint of strategic brand management. 

As a design project, the SFMOMA is great. A coherent change for a 20 year old logo. Fit for an open platform approach, is best used when it’s in the “expanded” version that pushes the three parts of the logo to the edges of any layout. And yet you can also relate it to the "frame" graphic trend that envelopes whatever is inside.

"Just as our new building is much more open to the city, the new logo is deliberately porous, providing multiple points of access. The organic configuration of the three parts echoes the idiosyncratic, free-thinking culture of the Bay Area, which is known for its nonconformity and diversity", said the SFMOMA in-house design team, "In short, the logo is designed to be as versatile and dynamic as the program of the institution".

The same could be said about the brand new MCA Chicago new identity, a powerful typography and grid oriented design, from Mevis & Van Deursen studio. It's a game that opens up a conversation (with a friendly HI and GO upfront) and also keeps a direct relationship with the contemporary art they display. As posted of the new museum website: "The identity features a grid, which refers both to the city grid of Chicago and the limestone and cast-aluminum squares that form the facade of the MCA; a color palette of black, white, yellow, and blue; and a new logo. Keeping the concept of a grid in mind, French designer Karl Nawrot created the typefaces by combining squares to form a series of fonts that range from playful to classical and evoke our institutional values and our diverse programs".

Both projects are just a starting point. The institutional practice will show if all the associated metaphors will come to life or if they are just visually cool. Considering the museum's recent history, there is a lot to expect.

And that always makes me think how much we, in the museum business, are aware of creating create sleek, unique, even name-free logos that are still instantly recognizable. And more: that not only "evoke" or represent the values and dynamics but also push those institutions forward. In Dec 2014, Damian Borchok, CEO of the Interbrand Australia, presented the talk I have nothing to say, and I'm saying it on the Communicating the Museum conference. Check the video where Borchok argues that contemporary brands, whether in retail or culture, ended up falling into the trap of becoming "commodities". 

That’s a good point to discuss. Cultural organizations have gradually adopted a series of those market conventions where the visual dominance in any medium should only be attributed to the content. The museum that is presenting should be hidden - except for the presence of that little logo on the corner that your boss always asks you to make bigger. But size is not the matter. That means a missed opportunity to show the connection the organization have to content. The logo is there but it do not speak out. In most cases you can easily swap the logo from an institution to another and that could give the same result. You won’t even notice it.

This is especially true for cultural organizations that have done branding programs following a design trend type that does not necessarily reflect something of the nature of these organizations, their views or the causes they support.

To Borchok, the way of building strong brands in museums begins by having something to say and actually saying it ("put on display").
What are your thoughts about this? Has your museum brand also fallen in the same trap? How does the print and digital work you do for your museum authentically speak up in context of the organization's mission?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Make your own Big Ideas video

The short videos circulating on the MCN Twitter feed were produced using the following remote capture method. We're sharing this tutorial and tips to encourage more presenters to take on creating self produced videos telling us about your session at MCN in November. If you do, be sure to tweet it to @museumcn!

Remote interview capture for Mac users 

1. Smartphone/iPhone capture. Built-in video recording software is great, to improve quality look at the lighting and sound tips.

2. Recording with a Mac with iSight:

  • Open Quicktime Player
  • File > New Movie Recording
  • To select external camera or microphone click arrow next to record button to change settings
  • When ready click record in Quicktime
  • Once the file opens make sure to save it!

  • 3. There some good free software and tutorials for PC recording out there as well, just not tried and tested by us so not sure which are the best. If you know one, please share in the comments!

    Lighting tips

    Set up so that you are not in front of a window, instead face the window for full, even lighting.

    Turn down brightness on laptop and turn on a desk lamp to avoid the blue glow of the screen.

    If there is a little bit of a color cast over the image, this can be fixed by working with more even colored lighting; using just daylight, or just incandescent artificial light.

    Sound tips

  • Use external microphone: An external mic is always better, if you can borrow one, even a low-end microphone will help reduce ambient sound. If you have a newer laptop with one “headphone jack” for sound you can use an iphone style headset with a speaker to get more isolated sound.
  • Sound Check: Test out your set up first by doing a test recording, make sure your setting is to “Built-in input.” If your clip doesn’t have any sound proceed with using the built in mic on the computer.
  • Reduce ambient Sound: It is important is to record in a quiet place, so close the windows, turn off fans, children and refridgerators. Play back your test recording at high volume and listen closely for background noises that you can fix.

  • If you want to buy a microphone because you have now become obsessed with making your own vlogs these are all going to be a step up from a built in laptop mic:
    • Cheap ($16):Cyber Acoustics CVL-1084 USB Desktop Microphone
    • Better ($40):Samson Go Mic - USB Microphone for Mac and PC Computers (Silver)
    • Way better ($55): Blue Snowball USB Condenser Microphone with Accessory Pack (White)
    • Awesome ($160): Rode NT-USB USB Microphone

    Saturday, September 26, 2015


    This blog was created to provide a space to informally share ideas and projects with the museum video production community. We can’t say we have sustained the initial excitement: we had 26 posts in 2013; 4 posts in 2014 and none so far this year. Most of the posts with no comments at all. But hey, see how we care about metrics and evaluation?

    Maybe it’s the right time for you and me to give the blog a second chance. With the freshly rebranded Media Production and Branding SIG and the Educational and Interpretive Media SIG it’s the perfect time for a reboot. (Side note: be sure to get yourself officially included in the SIG by signing up via the form link on the above linked SIG page that you want to be involved in)

    Personally, we are excited about this change and look forward to seeing how this fosters expanded conversations about the media production process in context of the institution and its story (MPB) or the context of interpretive and educational tools found within and beyond the gallery (EIM). We also look forward to the inevitable collaborative opportunities we will have with one another as well as with other groups like Metrics and Evaluation. I look forward to hearing your ideas for collaboration and discussion topics here on the blog and at our upcoming annual meeting, more on that soon!

    The official communications for the MCN Special Interest Group on Media Production and Branding will (like all the others) continue on the MCN list-serv. This blog is an informal place for capturing our conversations that can be easily shared throughout the community. So we look forward to continuing to hear about projects, technologies and provocations about the production of media content for museums here, but it’s only gonna be fun if you're here.

    I am working on a post about the real scriptwriting process, not the idealized one we reference when describing our production process at conferences. And Luis is working on some interesting stuff about branding to get the conversation going on this new aspect to our group.

    It’s gonna be FANTASTIC.

    Let’s rock and roll.