Isn’t this beautiful? The website, I mean. Welcome to the new digital version of the Cincinnati Art Museum. We wanted this site to represent who we are, and how we bring people and art together. We wanted something that was elegant and open, easy to read and full of information, something that would frame the great works of art, exhibitions, and public programs we do in a forceful way, but that would also be easy and accessible.
To design this site, we turned to a local firm, Crush Republic, that has developed ways of helping institutions and companies figure out what people think of them, how they use them or their products, and to improve their communications. They are also aces at building complex sites. They created the backbone you don’t really see. We then engaged Thonik, a design firm based in Amsterdam, to shape the site and make it look good.
I have known the principals at Thonik, Thomas Widdershoven and Nikki Geunissen, for more than a decade, ever since I first worked with them when I was at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I was charmed by the way they created clean, declarative designs, while also giving them a human touch. In their early work, they only used one, very modern typeface, but pictures of Nikki kept cropping up everywhere.
In the last few years, they have become most famous for doing projects that are not just styling jobs, but more conceptual pieces. For a small political party in the Netherlands, the SP, they created a logo and identity, which consisted of a red tomato: it’s a socialist party, and a rather irreverent one, and they liked the ideas of throwing red tomatoes at the establishment. That turned into campaign items such a mobile cart in the form of that vegetable from which the party leader served tomato soup. Partially through Thonik’s help, this party became the fourth largest in the country in the subsequent elections.
In 2008, I turned to Thonik to design the identity for the 11th International Architecture Biennale Venice, which I directed. They translated the event’s theme, “Beyond Buildings,” and the question I asked, which was how we can be at home in a world shaped by technology, into a globe out of which a stylized house grew. By putting that form together, they created tapestries that hung from Venice’s bridges. By isolating the form and making it three dimensional, they constructed markers that helped people find the way to the exhibit. The globes could also be three-dimensional spheres, their houses slotting into each other to form words. Some of those words floated in the Venice canals.
For this website, they turned to the notion of an image carousel, in which the wealth of art we hold for this community or bring here for exhibits floats in front of your eye, while the rest of the images lurk right behind it, as our collections do. They adapted Pentagram Design’s 2007 Footnote system, which you can see in our galleries, to help lead you from the images here to all the information you might need.
We will be working with Thonik over the next year not only to refine this site (and we would love your comments and suggestions here), but also to improve all the ways we communicate with you. You will be seeing new labels, new signs, new ads and heavens know whatever else the Thonikers come up with. I hope you will be as amazed and delighted as I always have been by their work. And that you will watch this space for regular news and views from inside the Art Museum.
Aaron Betsky, Director