It’s no mean feat to create designs that work just as well across a small architectural structure, a baseball cap, mugs, keyrings, and pretty much anything else you’d care to find in a cultural center giftshop. That’s why we’re mighty impressed with New York agency Small Stuff’s latest work for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, for which it worked on a new collection of products inspired by the architecture and “cultural vibrancy” of its campus.
Small Stuff partnered with cultural retail strategists Lakeside Collaborative and Lincoln Center’s marketing team on the project, which launches this summer at a retail kiosk designed by architecture firm LAMAS. The idea behind the launch was to “develop an enriched visitor experience through the development of retail products and souvenirs,” according to the agency. Much of this involved evolving and developing the incumbent identity, created by 2×4, which is based around a concept of “White + Light + Transparent,” and shows the Lincoln Center name in monochrome Univers font.
According to Small Stuff partner Joe Marianek, the brilliance of the existing identity lies in its simplicity. “This enables Lincoln Center to have a confident tool that unifies the entire campus and builds coherence between the individual cultural institutions,” he says. “The problem is that the institutional identity sometimes becomes lost between the 11 or so cultural organizations it so quietly represents.”
The beginning of the project saw Small Stuff take on a mammoth research task, delving into the Lincoln Center’s archives where it “discovered a joyful, eclectic history of visual design and messaging that proved to be varied, and at times, risky—full of life and energy for the place and the performing arts, and not bound by a rigid set of rules or guidelines,” says Small Stuff partner Dinah Fried.
So Small Stuff created a huge range of new products and souvenirs. Many of these bear the Lincoln Center word mark in new configurations that aim to suggest the movements of dance. “Sound, voice, vision and movement—each present in performing arts—are embodied in dynamic and expressive modulations of the name,” says Small Stuff. “The resulting abstractions and word textures are representative of soundwaves, the movement of a baton, or the steps of a dancer. An interactive version, which is reactive to sound, was also developed in the process.”
Some variations of the wordmark use other keywords relevant to the performing arts, injecting a certain humour and playfulness: hats and buttons show “Diva” or “Maestro”; keychains “stage door,” a water bottle reads “Water We Going to See at Lincoln Center?” or “Lincoln Center Fountain Water* *Not Really.” According to Small Stuff partner Joe Marianek, “Tote bags, shirts, and pins can trigger memory and build enthusiasm… we wanted to make humble souvenirs that would let people take Lincoln Center home and share it with the world.”