Launched in 2018 as an online archive and opening as a physical museum in 2020, MOKSOP, the Museum of Kharkiv School of Photography, is a new cultural institution that serves as a museum, an archive, and an education and research platform for the Kharkiv School of Photography. Not an actual school but a cultural movement, the Kharkiv (or Kharkov) School of Photography in Ukraine, began in the 1970s as an underground movement in reaction to the tightly controlled creative output of artists and photographers in the Soviet era. Experimenting with printing techniques, painting, collage, assemblage, and overlapping of imagery, the movement continued to grow into the 1990s and early 2000s with new artists joining the movement. MOKSOP aims to showcase this output through catalogs, exhibitions, and online archives. Their identity has been designed by Kiev, Ukraine-based Molto Bureau.
MOKSOP logo represents an abbreviation of the Museum of Kharkiv School of Photography. Working on typography we were looking for something new and simultaneously close to soviet style of that era. Headlines of soviet newspapers became the initial point in search of style. Massive contrast typography perfectly described spirits of that time. Having rethought typography of 1970-s, we developed a logo in more simplified contemporary motives, preserving its massiveness, high contrast and proportions close to soviet era. But our search didn’t finish there.
The main wordmark is a deliciously chunky, clunky, bold, condensed, ink-trappy bundle of goodness that manages to convey a subtle Soviet-ness but in a contemporary way. I do realize that that is a weird description but it is a weird aesthetic and approach to describe. I do know that I like it but then again I’m a total ink trap fanboy — technically, though, these are not ink traps but the effect in the “M” and “K” is palpable — and lover of bold condensed typography so this hits a lot of right notes for me. I think what pulls this all together is the “P”, with its long bowl and stubby stem.
For depiction of character peculiar to the Kharkiv School a strong, provocative element was needed that could nicely show wide emotional spectrum typical for KSoP works. We were looking for something emotionally sharp and firm, a logo that would start a conversation with the viewer. At the same time we wanted to save the field for play and development of identity system.
The M sign - this is about life and society, about its various sides and emotional manifestations. The M, as personality, can fall and stand up, feel excitement or disturbance, peer into something or remain indifferent. Playing and filling the style with emotional coloring, the M sign has become a strong living identifier which nicely combines and supplements typographic part of the logo.
To complement the wordmark is an unexpected “M” monogram that has eyes, adding a touch of absurdity and lightness to the identity, while also being relevant to the more serious notion of “seeing”. The monogram can stand, lay down, or lean sideways while retaining its deadpan expression. It’s an odd identity element but I like how it’s, literally, a surprise — I’m betting it’s not something most of you expected to see today when you woke up.
The applications are fairly straightforward but very effectively done with the logo strongly anchoring the movement’s imagery and supported by an unassuming sans serif. The brief appearances by the “M” are entertaining in its serious, minimalist deployment.
Overall, even though this operates within the all-black, wordmark-driven aesthetic of most museums, it manages to squeeze in a lot of personality and a unique design that is relevant to the subject matter and its context — the big bonus is that today we (or at least I) learned about the Kharkiv School of Photography, which I didn’t know of and I feel like the identity of the museum helped me process the work in some small way.