What’s in a logo? 

According to NCMA director Valerie Hillings, in an open letter about the museum’s new brand, it’s a heightened “sense of ownership in the People’s Collection,” the permanent free collection that has been on view throughout the museum since the NC legislature designated funding for it in 1947.

This year marks the 75th since that historic move; according to the museum website, a “cross-departmental committee” has spent two years researching and reimagining the People’s Collection and new museum visual identity, with hopes of highlighting the museum’s sprawling outdoor spaces and community focus. 

An internal graphic design team then spent six months designing the new logo, which riffs on the outdoor Gyre earth-casting sculpture by Raleigh artist Thomas Sayre, which was commissioned in 1999. The ringed, Clemson-hued orange design, which perches atop the museum name set in Arial font, replaces the thickset geometric NCMA logo, which was designed by the legendary design firm Pentagram in 2010 and included a custom typeface inspired by Black Mountain artist Josef Albers. 

Not everyone shares the museum’s makeover enthusiasm. On Instagram and Facebook, dozens of comments ripped apart the overhaul. 

“Y’all ditched a logo from pentagram to one drawn with an apple pencil in procreate? Wild” user @jenna.bs_ wrote on Instagram. 

Other users voiced discomfort at the prominence that the Sayre sculpture has in the new design. 

“Love Sayre but his work isn’t representative of the entire museum,” user @giulio.rose.giannini wrote. “Also let’s be honest, this looks like clip art or a bad paint logo at Jerry’s artarama.” 

“This is a logo for the sculpture, not for the NCMA,” user @pan.joga echoed in the comments. 

Other museums have faced similar criticisms upon the retirement of a beloved logo: In 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City’s rebrand was dragged through the mud, though reactions eventually quieted. 

On Instagram, user @aliapainter implored the museum to take the backlash into consideration. 

“@ncartmuseum is it possible for you to take all the public input into consideration? This new logo and typeface really dumbs down the museum. Please let the design process continue. Our tax dollars are to pay for all that new signage and letterhead.”

NCMA will launch and celebrate the reimagined People’s Collection on Saturday, October 7, and Sunday, October 8. 

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.

Follow Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards on Twitter or send an email to sedwards@indyweek.com