The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded over 146 years ago with the intention of giving everyone, not just the privileged few, a chance to explore new worlds. Today it spans over 5,000 years of global art, and receives around 6 million visitors to its physical locations, alongside millions online. However, audience behaviour is changing. People are more distracted, and expectations for participation and dialogue are higher.

In 2013, The Met decided to take action. It had to expand its reach and relevance for people everywhere, stay true to its original intent, and remain essential in a changing landscape.

For everyone
Audience research showed that the Museum’s great depth and breadth is both an asset and a challenge. People can find the experience overwhelming and hard to navigate. There is a beauty in getting lost at The Met, but it can also be frustrating, online or off, especially for those less familiar with museums. As it was soon to span three physical locations, clarifying the offer in a holistic sense was paramount. Working closely with a cross-disciplinary team , we created a strategic foundation from which The Met could build a unified visitor experience across physical and digital locations. We defined a set of principles to guide collaborative initiatives and developed a clear approach to the naming and hierarchy of activities.

“The logo represents something simple, bold, and indisputable: The Met is here for everyone”

Spokesperson, The Met

One, open, iconic
The Met’s visual identity is often people’s first interaction with the brand. It had to feel welcoming and accessible while retaining gravitas. and needed to flex across user touch-points, communications and locations. The ‘common use’ name — The Met — was used in the logo because it’s more familiar and immediate, and red was chosen as the primary colour because of its timeless, cross-cultural symbolism of passion and vitality.

The logo mark was crafted by type designer Gareth Hague. It’s inspired by the strategic need to draw connections throughout the Museum, across time and culture, between people and art. The mark connects letters, deliberately combining serif and sans serif letterforms, to acknowledge The Met’s unique ability to embrace both classical and modern art as part of a united whole.

The typographic approach uses a serif font alongside a sans serif font, allowing communications to range from formal to friendly. A range of ornaments were also developed — taking inspiration from The Met’s buildings and collections — to be used as patterns or line-work, or to highlight important text. Photography and illustration  move away from formal, static composition and emphasize the everyday role of the Museum in people’s lives.

Bringing art to life
The idea of making connections guided the activation of the strategy. Building on great examples, we imagined how the physical and online spaces could connect more people to the art in future. By refining the approach in key spaces, we showed how visitors could interact on a more informal, personal basis – ultimately connecting the art with their lives. Our recommendations sparked in-depth, specialist exploration of the way-finding experience and interface.

The Met is uniquely placed to be a champion for the vital role of arts and culture in people’s lives, and our wide-reaching work with the Museum has had a positive impact so far.

Visitor base is the largest and most diverse in the Museum’s history, with attendance increasing year on year. It’s hosted critically celebrated and highly attended exhibitions by diverse artists, including Kerry James Marshell and Rei Kawakubo. And The Met 360 Project – immersive short videos that invite viewers around the world to visit the museum – has been viewed 11.5 million times and won a Webby Award. The Met is truly achieving its goal – to allow more people to connect through the wonder of art.