Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

Brand Identity, Digital Design

Brand identity for the pioneering arts institution on Boston Harbor.

The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston is one of the preeminent museums in the U.S. for visual arts and performance. Founded in 1936, the ICA was the nation’s first institution dedicated to contemporary art, conceived as a laboratory where pioneering approaches to art could be championed. In 2006, the ICA opened an innovative building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro that has helped it expand the size and scope of its exhibitions, programs and audiences.

Pentagram has designed a new identity for the ICA that captures the spirit of the museum in a mark that is inviting, contemporary and accessible. The program reinforces the museum’s position as a world-class arts institution and at the same time supports its mission of community building and social engagement.

In the 12 years since the ICA introduced its iconic building, it has become an internationally recognized landmark and dynamic civic presence, transforming the Seaport District into one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. This influence now extends across the Harbor to the ICA Watershed, a seasonal space in the East Boston Shipyard and Marina that opened in the summer of 2018.

In the new identity, "Institute" and “Art” (as “I” and “A”) act as formal bookends around a small “c,” highlighting the idea that “contemporary” is at the core of the museum’s mission and always in flux. The typographic expression sets the institution apart from similarly named “ICAs” in other cities, and is accompanied by a signature that links the full name with Boston.

Set in stencil letterforms, the identity evokes openness and activity, as well as the industrial heritage of the Harbor. The distinct scale of the “c” is a nod to the ICA’s original 1948 identity, when the museum changed its name to “Institute of Contemporary Art,” becoming the first in the U.S. to use “contemporary” in its moniker and firmly communicating its focus on art of the present.

The mark is part of a comprehensive institutional identity system that includes promotional collateral, animations, the website, and a new program of signage and environmental graphics for the original Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed building and the ICA Watershed. The scalability of the logo allows it to be used effectively for everything from a small emblem on a badge to a supergraphic on the façade of the museum. The principal colors are blue and black, visually linking the identity to the waterfront, accompanied by a secondary palette of bright, contemporary color.

New York
Abbott Miller
Project team
Kim Walker
Kirsty Gundry
Wenjie Lu
Cristhian Sabogal
Steven Merenda
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