MOCA Logo Goes Back to the Future


Branding has become such an important part of business that there are now a wide range of words and phrases that refer specifically to this subject, such as ‘re-branding a new logo’. However, there is no word (yet) for a growing trend: re-adopting your company’s old visual identity. The Museum of Contemporary Art is just one company that has decided to go back to the past—and future—when it comes to museum logo design.

Many trends seem to cycle. For instance, in fashion we are seeing many of the neon hues and silhouettes that were once identified as being hopelessly ‘eighties’. Many fashion logos coming out of top design houses evoke retro style in color, shape, and other aspects. For a company with a long history, this presents an interesting dilemma: can an older logo, abandoned long ago, be adopted once again?

Companies wondering if this can be a successful strategy can look to businesses that have tried this strategy for an answer. A notable example of this is the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum recently abandoned their then-current modern art logo in favor of an older one. Until very recently, the Museum of Contemporary Art used a very plain, text only MOCA logo with the initials in bold, black letters and the full name written below in the same typeface. The lettering is slightly rounded but maintains much of its plainness.
The old (and most recently, new) MOCA logo design features elementary shapes and colors, with the shapes carefully selected to be similar to the letters they represent. A lower case C adds to the youthful and informal feeling.

The two logos both represent the same organization, but they give a completely different feeling. The text-based MOCA logo is serious and adult, but also versatile enough to represent the growing variety in modern art genres. However, it is so versatile that it is almost generic. If you substitute any other community name, it would seem as appropriate (or inappropriate). While this logo certainly has worked, it lacks the strong sense of style and brand that a museum demands.

On the other hand, the old/new MOCA logo has a definite sense of style. The shapes and colors are bright and inviting, plus they make the museum feel accessible. Because many people are intimidated by art, especially by modern art, this inviting feeling can be a huge advantage. Plus, they give the museum logo a higher recognition factor. This shape will be easier to identify on signs, t-shirts, and stationary, helping the museum to build a stronger brand.

Whether this and other retro logos are successful in building strong modern brands remains to be seen. However, if your company had a logo that was successful in the past and has the ‘staying power’ to be resurrected, it may be worth a try. Talk to a logo designer today if you are interested in renovating and reusing an old logo or in having a faux retro logo design designed for your company.