Established in 2017 and set to open in 2023, the Warsaw Ghetto Museum will disseminate knowledge about “the life, struggle, and extermination of the Polish Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and other ghettos of the German-occupied Poland” through the collection of archival material, artifacts, and testimonies related to the history of the ghetto. The 2023 opening date is significant as it’s the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising that lasted a month as Jews tried, but ultimately failed, to overtake the Nazis before being sent to extermination or labor camps. The museum will be housed in the buildings of the former Bersohn and Bauman Children’s Hospital, which remained dutifully active for the people of the Ghetto even as it operated under German occupation and remained an active healthcare building until 2014. The museum launched an international graphic competition, organized jointly with the Association of Graphic Designers, in September of 2019 and after working with three finalists* on a paid pitch phase, introduced the winning identity this past April, designed by Vilnius, Lithuania-based DADADA studio.
* In April I posted the identity proposal by Redkroft, a finalist in the competition, but I was not aware that it was a proposal instead of an actual solution approved by the museum. I always check that the work I post on Brand New is real and approved. Sometimes it’s not yet implemented on a website but it will show up on social media and I’m 99% certain I remember checking this one and seeing the Redkroft submission logo on the museum’s Facebook page but maybe not.
* tl;dr if you remember seeing an identity for the Warsaw Ghetto Museum on Brand New, it’s not the real one.
The winning concept of the Lithuanian DADADA Studio translates the mission of the Warsaw Ghetto Museum from the official language into the language of emotions, referring to individual memory. The authors are accompanied by the idea of commemorating specific people, included in the slogan “No one can be forgotten” - we must remember everyone. In addition to the permanent logotype, based on the name of the institution, an algorithm was designed, thanks to which logs can be created almost indefinitely on the basis of specific, historical names and surnames.
The primary institutional logo — this opening sentence will make sense after you scroll — renders the Polish (MGW) and English (WGM) acronyms in a blend of Latin and Hebrew alphabet strokes. This may not be readily apparent to most viewers but I can confirm, as someone that can read Hebrew, I got the effect instantly because the “W” and “M” shape is very similar to the letter “shin”. As a counter-argument, without the ability to read Hebrew or the explanation, it looks like the logo could be for a metro museum but, well, that’s why the full name is spelled underneath, so not a big problem. It’s a good logo but something about it feels unfinished; not sure if it’s the single red color or the stiffness of the hard geometric approach to the acronyms… something’s missing in the end.
The insights and thinking presented in the identity steps far away from graphic design framework. Memotype, not logotype. Memography, not typography. Memoryment, not monument.
Dadada studio focused on the concept and function of memory in the 21st century.
The visual form not only reflects the connection of Polish and Jewish heritage in the custom typeface, but also endlessly pronounces names of people who lived in the Ghetto or are important to the memory of the Ghetto. Designers also integrated the use of the iconic building of former Bersohn and Bauman Children’s Hospital, where Warsaw Ghetto Museum is planned to be opened for public in 2023.
The beauty of the logo, or, well, the thinking behind the logo, is that the acronym can disappear and the initials of one of the hundreds of thousands of names of people that were in the ghetto can take its place and the full name of the museum changes to include their name. It’s a powerful, thoughtful, and moving idea. The initials are rendered in the same style as the primary museum logo, which was developed into a custom typeface and rolled into a logo generator for ease of use for the museum. As much as I love the idea and, for the most part, I like the visual result, there is also something not quite there about the typeface or the logo compositions. Still, the overall effect is quite memorable and makes a strong statement.
A mono-thickness drawing of the Bersohn and Bauman Children’s Hospital adds a welcome graphic to the system that complements the logo and provides some visual texture.
The few applications shown are good. There is not much to say about them other than they all feel appropriate for the museum.
Overall, despite a few personal hesitations to get fully on board with the design solution, this is a very thoughtful design that diverges from expected museum solutions (e.g., all-black sans serif logo or logo-as-window) all while honoring the history that the museum is representing.