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A Quarterly Conversation

How do you make a magazine that captures the essence of a museum and theater, two historical estates, acres of glorious gardens and grounds, and a soon-to-be art and nature park? This is the question that has been on the top of my mind lately. It’s challenging, yet fun, to envision a magazine that entices readers to toss it aside half way through and come see for themselves. A magazine that demonstrates our mission and shows donors where their money is going. A magazine that the community sees themselves in and readers oceans away find engaging through online connections.


I sat down with IMA Senior Graphic Designer Matthew Taylor last week in the Design Studio to take a hard look at our current IMA membership magazine (Previews) and talk content and design. A bit of history: The magazine has been around since 1988 with its current name.  (Before that, it was called the Quarterly Magazine. A bit of an improvement?) Matt was kind enough to hang out with me for a few minutes after our redesign brainstorming session to answer some questions:

Do you have a design philosophy?
I feel like George Bush in the movie “W.”. You know, when he was asked what he would consider to be his biggest mistake…I’m kidding.  As a designer, you can’t help but put something of yourself into every project. But I think the less of yourself you put into it the better. A piece can be clean and beautiful without shouting “Matt Taylor did that.” My philosophy is stay true to the project.

How does the design department at the IMA work?
The environment of the Design Studio is truly collaborative. We have exhibition designers, graphic designers, a lighting designer and a technical designer. It’s a multifaceted team. Everyone has a specialty, but we work together on projects that aren’t necessarily in our own area of expertise. We work with every department in the Museum to make well-designed, cohesive exhibitions.

What are the challenges of designing in a museum setting?
The biggest challenge we face is over-designing. You are working with a museum brand and an exhibition brand. Everything here is an art form and design itself is art. The challenge is to find a balance in your work. Part of my job is to get people to come see an exhibition, but at the same time know when to pull back and not overshadow the art with my design.

What upcoming design project are you most excited about?
Redesigning Previews magazine, of course. I’m excited about incorporating the new IMA brand that we are rolling out now into the magazine. The old magazine doesn’t live up to our new mission of art, nature and design. I would like the new design to be true to that mission and the new brand, as well as be more engaging and exciting than it is currently.

New IMA LogoIMA banner

Can you describe the new IMA brand? (above)
The new IMA brand was designed by Indiana native Abbott Miller and his team at Pentagram in New York. We discussed our needs with them and why the old brand wasn’t working. They came up with something conversational, welcoming and inclusive. Using two new typefaces, Taz and Brioni, the brand has the flexibility to say the right thing at the right time. It’s got personality. We’re doing a soft roll-out of the logo to be green, economical and smart.

What’s your favorite magazine?
I.D. (The International Design Magazine)—The design is beautiful.  Great layout, typography etc. The magazine as a whole (from design to content) is always fantastic from cover to cover.

Design Inspiration

Design Inspiration

And so the conversation continues… With a content strategy that’s mission-consistent, flexible and collaborative and two full boards of design inspiration, we will bring you a new and improved quarterly IMA magazine this winter. Your thoughts and title suggestions will be considered—please add them below!

Filed under: Design, Interviews, Marketing, Musings

9 Responses to “A Quarterly Conversation”

  • avatar

    I must say, I think the light green color is a bad choice. It’s popping up in all sorts of places, including the new ICVA branding, the Cultural Trail logo, and the Sustain Indy branding. That blue/green color scheme seems to have been adopted from, of all places, IndyGo. That should tell us everything we need to know about it.

    It would be sad to see this limp green color become the city standard, but I guess the deal is done.

  • avatar
    Noelle Says:

    Thanks for your comment. The new IMA brand uses a color palette, not just the light green seen above. A different color will be used with each IMA entity, such as The Toby, Lilly House, 100 Acres etc. And, as seen above on the facade banner, the logo can be black.

  • avatar
    Matt Says:

    The color is actually washed out as it appears above. The color is PMS 368, a much brighter and more vibrant green. Different than Sustain Indy, etc.

    The full color palette was inspired by Alexander Girard textiles from the Miller House in Columbus. As more design is rolled out using the brand you’ll see not only that little nod to Mr. Girard, but you’ll also get a better idea of how many colors are part of the identity system.

  • avatar
    Craig Says:

    Thanks for the post, Noelle. Very excited to see the new Previews Magazine. The cover above is minimal and intriguing. I like.

    I’ll echo Aaron’s sentiment above and expand a bit. I understand the IMA’s position as an international institution and the desire to rebrand in the hands of a firm such as Pentagram, but he is right about the similarities to other local identities. A local designer, (there are many talented and qualified who could have worked with the IMA), might have been more aware of the context of local brands. And to hire a designer who has left (dare I say fled?) Indiana supports the notion of brain-drain rather than supporting our local talent who has chosen to return.

    Everything is going green, literally and figuratively. Those of us in environmental design professions who have been fighting for sustainability for years are perhaps a bit jaded (get it?) by the recent crush of green in advertising and design marketing. It’s a beautiful color, but a fair comment to suggest avoiding it.

    The IMA is at the forefront of change in the world of institutional museums, especially with it’s online content. I would love to see that change continue by really challenging the precepts of institutional identity and the need for affirmation by hiring big-brand non-local consultants.

  • avatar

    Matt, thanks for the info. I presume that’s the color green on the back cover of Previews?

    I must confess, it is still not my favorite. I can understand your desire to draw from the Miller House. However, that green color seems totally foreign to the local environment. One problem I have with these green shades is that they are alien and artificial. They draw nothing from the local context. Green can work. For example, if it created a reference to an agricultural feel. New York City did a great job of this with the green/yellow scheme for the cover of their “Street Design Manual”

    (By the way, note that the graphics used on that cover, while nominally urban, also work as modern takes on agricultural themes and indeed that is one of the key initial impressions they give. Very nice work).

    I also think the dark green color on the stop light and street light masts in the Wholesale District is perfect for the city. But there is nothing “Indianapolis” in that PMS 368 color at all.

    On the other hand, let me echo Craig’s sentiments about the logo itself, and the magazine design. The use of powerful, masculine fonts that are nonetheless modern is exactly the type of logo I think we need. And the red color scheme on the right panel above I think is right on. That’s a great color. Ultimately, if the green is limited to a special exhibit color for the Miller House and isn’t going to feature prominently as a permanent branding color for the IMA, I think that’s fine.

    The use of off the shelf fonts is enough to prompt the question as to why it was necessary to call someone in New York for this. I like the logo. It’s very solid and can hold its own with just about anything. But it’s not groundbreaking or anything.

    On the other hand, I don’t share Craig’s view on Hoosiers who left. Perhaps it’s self-serving since I’ve spent long times away from Indiana myself, but in an ever more networked world, a disapora network is critical to civic success. That means more than hiring famous ex-pats, however.

    And the IMA has just cause to be skeptical of hiring local. The building expansion reminds of why every day. There is a lot of local design talent, people who could hold their own in much larger cities. Unfortunately, this is rarely the talent that is given the opportunity to carry out prominent local commissions. Instead, the work invariably goes to the person with the best connections. The results are generally workmanlike and competent, but that’s the best that can be said for them.

    On a related topic, while I’m far from the most plugged in in these circles, I’m detecting an ever greater degree of dissatisfaction among those very talented designers and such who have made a home in Indiana, but aren’t being given the opportunity to showcase their talents while time and time again we see money spent on either the subpar or the out of towner. I’m not sure all the reasons, but both the Ballard administration’s approach to the creative sector (and let’s face it, as a Republican, he’d have large headwinds to overcome with that community in the best case) and the economy are factors in causing more than a few of those people who chose to take a stand in Indy to rethink their commitment to the city.

    Within the last few months I’ve heard multiple people who I respect as being near the top of their respective creative fields tell me they are either committed to leaving when they are able, or are seriously considering it. I take some of this with a grain of salt. How many people actually moved to Canada when GWB was elected? But it would take less than we think for years of hard won gains in the local creative sector to be lost.

    It well past time for the Indianapolis to show that there is some actual substance to this notion of wanting to attract and retain the creative class by actually taking seriously and using the very real creative talent it already has – while it still has it.

    Someone else said it much better about 2,000 years ago:

    For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

    And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

    Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

    And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

    But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

    After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

    And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

    His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

    He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

    His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

    Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

    And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

    His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

    Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

    Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

    For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

    And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  • avatar
    RBinINDY Says:

    This is a great conversation — but I’d like to know what a “masculine font” family would be? :) (and does this redesign involve hiring any new staff members for writing??)

  • avatar
    Noelle Says:

    RBinINDY- I’m no expert on fonts, but I can say the magazine redesign does not involve hiring any new staff for writing.

  • avatar

    Appears to be going even more minimalistic than the IMA graphic identity already was.

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