The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University is downtown Manhattan’s premier cultural center, presenting a wide variety of genres including dance, theater, music, film and performance art. Pentagram has designed a bold new identity for NYU Skirball that captures the vibrancy of the center’s programming and celebrates the exuberant spirit of downtown.
The identity launched with the current 2017-18 season, the first curated by Jay Wegman, NYU Skirball’s new senior director. Located on Washington Square in the heart of Greenwich Village, the 860-seat state-of-the-art performance venue originally opened in 2003 and was the first large-scale, professional performance space on the NYU campus. Skirball wanted to raise its profile as a cultural institution and destination for artists and audiences. In his new role, Wegman envisions the center as a place “where uptown meets downtown,” that serves both the NYU community and New York at large, and makes the most of NYU’s global connections to present adventurous programming from around the world.
Pentagram created a distinctive identity that helps NYU Skirball stand out on a campus and in a city packed with offerings. The branding reflects the intellectual and counterculture traditions in the historically Bohemian Village. The designers mined the rich graphic heritage of downtown New York––gig posters, ‘zines, handmade flyers––to evoke the days when Washington Square was the proving ground for a revolutionary American avant-garde.
Overscale graphics bomb the polite campus architecture with a bit of downtown anarchy, and the brash look and feel carries through all the other elements, including the season brochure, printed on an impromptu, ‘zine-like newsprint. Typography is set in the powerhouse fonts Druk and Druk Wide, designed by local NYC foundry Commercial Type and selected for their audacious personality.