As a result, our approach and the visual identity has evolved each season, but always in response to what came before: either to build continuity or signal a bigger change. What has remained constant is the typeface, the logos, and a consistent way of working closely with the institution. There is a visual coherence and a recognizable identity and voice, but no firm rules that we’d be able to dictate through a style guide
For Easterling, knowing how “does not describe a constant, but rather a changing set of actions from which one might assess agency, potentiality, or capacity.” This is the designer that has internalized the complex nuances of an institution and makes work appropriate for each situation, regardless of its relationship to what came before. Knowing that is the branding agency that sets rules for every design choice without any engagement in their execution, assuming it will remain constant forever.
Perhaps it was appropriate for a design museum to be so heavily branded, but this approach didn’t work for more experimental programs, therefore the identity wasn’t capable of growing with the institution.
The fetishization of these manuals—seen in the recent crowdfunded reprints of the New York City Transit Authority, U.S. Bicentennial, NASA, EPA, and British Rail guidelines—is evidence of a misguided belief that graphic design is a problem-solving profession with the ability to create stability in a world where answers are increasingly hard to come by. Truth is slippery, identity is fluid, and traditional social and professional hierarchies are being challenged. But designers can find comfort in high-priced, luxury versions of yesterday’s industrial production manuals, while the publishers reissuing them capitalize on something never meant to be sold in the first place.
By the Seventies, outsider art and mental illnesses such as autism were fetishized by the likes of Robert Wilson