Opinion by Richard Baird
The New Victory Theatre, located on New York’s 42nd Street, is described as the city’s first and only not for profit performing arts venue for kids and families. It has a programme that covers a multitude of artistic disciplines and draws on traditions from a variety of cultures. Alongside performances and family workshops the theatre also seeks to offer performing arts education and engagement, new work development and furthers paid youth employment and training.
Pentagram partner Paula Scher and team worked to develop a visual identity for the theatre and collaborated with architecture firm H3 to conceive and implement a lobby space that would better engage with theatre visitors. A ribbon motif becomes the foundation of a bright and celebratory visual language. This is expanded upon spatially and materially across signage and a 51-foot-long centrepiece mural made of felt.
The foundation of the New Victory Theatre visual identity employs a simple ribbon motif. This is folded into a V to create a logo and hold the name, and is then built out into a confetti-like graphic pattern and signagesystem that occupies three-dimensional space. The visual language is clearly one of celebration that folds in neatly with the name of the theatre, performance and achievement. It is not unusual, but serves the child and family-centric audience well, and derives its distinction from the creativity of its application throughout the theatre space.
The logo manages to resolve a couple of ideas; the form language of the ribbon and an allusion to the spatial nature of the theatre experience, and employs the appeal of colour and impact of bold typography.
The mural, which spans 51 feet and made of felt, neatly finds a balance between a striking visual expression, the tactile language of soft play spaces and the hands-on nature of the theatre’s educational programming. It is eye-catching and immediate in its use of form, colour contrast, scale and tactility, compelling and appealing for children and sophisticated enough for adults. This is supported by its use of colour; bright yellow and red alongside grey.
The impression is grand, creating a strong link between the space, the experiences it offers and the graphic language. Outside of the space; in printed communication and online, it is likely to serve as a simple device to connect information and brand imagery, although without the scale, tactility and creativity of signage, looses some of its distinction. This is certainly a visual identity that is first and foremost about creating a memorable lobby space and communicating some of the theatre’s hands-on philosophy.
The graphic language of ribbons moves into three-dimensional space in the form of wayfinding. Where the ribbon may be a familiar and transferable graphic device, the signage manages to draw something new from this, finding a synergy between a distinctive graphic appeal tied to an overarching concept of achievement and enhanced functionality (the folds of the ribbon neatly tie in with the directional purpose). This is a highlight. Raising signage off flat surfaces, and enhancing this dimensionality by way of red edging; a ribbon of colour around the surfaces develops the concept further.
There is tension in the choice of type. Not custom but clearly selected for its diagonal cuts, this shares something in common with the folds of the ribbon motif, seeking to develop continuity, however, in weight and letterforms leans more towards the technical and mechanical. Iconography uses a similar approach to derive distinction from common pictograms.
The donations board, a familiar feature of cultural institutions, is reimagined as a wall of colourful and tactile felt panels. These are materially and visually appealing. Again, there is a dissonance between play and the technicality of type, however, raising this adds to the material experience and over continuity of concept. More work by Pentagram on BP&O.