Blog: MCA DNA

A Grid Is Not Just a Grid:
Designing the New Identity

By Dylan Fracareta

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All images © MCA Chicago

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When the global design studio Mevis & Van Deursen began conceptualizing our new design identity they started with our physical building, designed by architect Josef-Paul Kleihues, who based his design on the famous square grid that underlies the city plan of Chicago. 

I joined the MCA, last year and literally found the square everywhere: the floor plan is square, the windows are square, the bookshelves are square, even the framework in the spiral staircase is square. Mevis & Van Deursen decided to embrace, and actually exaggerate, the square—making it not only the conceptual basis of the identity, but also the DNA of all its visual manifestations.

I know that a grid as visual basis could feel mathematical, but in application, I think you’ll find we’re ANYTHING but rigid. Here are a few examples of how the square and the visual identity will play out at the MCA.

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Rather than simply “marking our territory,” our exterior signage consists of a series of flagpole banners that make use of the logo and its embedded messaging to welcome visitors

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One of the more recent applications—that celebrates the current Chicago Architecture Biennial—focuses specifically on the grid. As architect’s Johnston Marklee’s title suggests, Grid, Is a Grid, Is a Grid, Is a Grid, Is a Grid,we can even find humor in the repetition of the grid © MCA Chicago

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The Edlis Neeson Theater lobby for MCA Stage is designed with a holistic view of the season and is reflective of our programs’ attitude. It’s also satisfying to see how the versatility of the new identity play out on such a variety of scales

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Internally, the MCA is a collaborative environment and the MCA Members’ Magazine was redesigned to reflect this: It’s now thematically-based, with interwoven content, and sequenced to be both informative to read and pleasurable to look at.

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Our upcoming exhibitions express our commitment to design that responds to content—where the outcomes are able to be both adventurous and meaningful—and not take itself too seriously

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A new late night event, MCA Prime Time, has yet another attitude—inspired by gig and club posters—this poster series demonstrates the flexibility of our identity

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The identity will be present at all touchpoints of a visitor’s experience, starting with admission tabs, a playful take on T-shirts for our guards, and a new members’ tote

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These are some of the first ways that you'll see the MCA's new visual identity begin to appear; watch for more creative interpretations of the design concept as time goes on.