News: The museum that became a typeface

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum gets its own typeface and gives it away for free thanks to Eddie Opara's bold new identity makeover.

From the Series

Pentagram partner Eddie Opara has created a brand new typeface as part of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s visual identity revamp. Named after the museum, the 'Cooper Hewitt' font is bold, pared-down and accessible.

“It’s a contemporary sans serif with characters comprised of modified geometric curves and arches,” says Opara, who collaborated with renowned type designer Chester Jenkins to design the typeface.

The typeface is the defining feature of the new identity, which also includes a new website. The museum needed a flexible branding system to accompany the expansion of its interior spaces, which will open to the public on 12 December 2014. New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro has redesigned the gallery and visitor experience at the historic building, the only museum in the US that is exclusively devoted to historic and contemporary design. 

In a smart move, the museum has made the font available to the public for free download to underscore its mission of truly belonging to the people. It has encouraged designers to use it in their own designs and typographic artworks and has acquired the font for its permanent collection.

The Pentagram designer also helped develop the museum’s new name. Formerly known as the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum, Opara simplified it by removing the hyphen and the word "National".

Cooper Hewitt’s new identity plays straight, with no play on visual or theoretical complexity, no puzzling contradiction or ambiguity, no distracting authorship. Function is its primary goal and ultimately the logo is important, but not as important as what the museum does, says Opara.

The new website, which is optimised for mobile devices, expands the digital capabilities of the museum and makes use of a modular system that reflects the physical transformation of the museum. The website lists the museum’s activities, collections, programmes and content in an easy-to-navigate manner, making it accessible to visitors as well as people not living in the US.

Download the free Cooper Hewitt typeface here

Watch the Talk with Eddie Opara