How do you create a single logo to represent an institution that collects, presents, and exhibits 5,000 years of art? Here’s a hint: Start with an “M.”
From its earliest decades, The Met has embraced distinctive graphics to convey the scope of its collection and programs. On letterhead; advertisements; brochures, booklets, and other printed materials; and especially on the tickets and buttons handed out to visitors, The Met has always matched eye-catching typography with a logo that bespeaks its mission as an encyclopedic art museum.
An early version of the now-iconic Met “M” came with an accessory: the top of a stylized Ionic column above the simple, slightly serifed character. The hand-drawn volute references the Museum’s association with Classical sculpture—and even fleetingly suggests Richard Morris Hunt’s 1902 Beaux-Arts facade on Fifth Avenue.
A later logo takes the “MMA” monogram to a streamlined extreme. Shedding any suggestion of the ornament seen on the Fifth Avenue exterior, this treatment—strikingly, if somewhat incongruously—positions The Met alongside Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, and other famous examples of Art Deco design.
The Renaissance “M” is perhaps the Museum’s most beloved logo treatment. The design takes inspiration from the “divine proportions” of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Its serifs mapped out with circles as if on a blueprint, this letter takes on a monumental heft that speaks to the Museum’s ambitions. From 1971 through 2013, countless visitors placed this M on their lapels in the form of a metal button—immediate shorthand for the Museum for more than a generation, as well as a collectible keepsake.
The Museum’s current logo, designed by Wolff Olins, replaces the M with two stacked words. Bold and dominant, “Met red” undergirds the brand identity, which can be seen on mailers, shopping bags, banners adorning the Fifth Avenue facade, and more.