The X Factor

By Tk Published on .

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Now that Rudy Giuliani is out of office, set to open in September in New York is the Museum of Sex (see But it's no peepshow, it's a real museum. Just ask Pentagram/N.Y. principal Michael Bierut, whose company handled the graphic design project, starting with the all-important logo, seen above. "The challenge with something called the Museum of Sex is it almost sounds oxymoronic," he explains. "Unlike sex, museums are thought of as formal and sedate. Putting the two together invites a certain amount of incongruity. How do you reconcile them?" Moreover, the debut exhibition "is really a scholarly one," he notes. "It's a history of sex in New York, and the thesis is this city is the one that transformed sex in America. This melting pot of people became a melting pot of attitudes about sexuality. So we're trying to strike a balance; the trick is how you signal that this isn't a nightclub, a store where you can buy dildos, a tourist trap or a joke -it's meant to be serious." So the logo has to be fairly low-key, though of course Pentagram tried out some that weren't. They explored what Bierut calls "the obvious point of view" via a Pentagram-created font called Erect Extended (two iterations of which are seen here), "but we found that those didn't wear very well," he says. "So we took a more relaxed yet more formal approach. But that 24th letter of the alphabet is at the end as a bit of punctuation that reminds you that's it about something different." Bierut also notes that "we're planning to use the X in different ways. When you buy your ticket, for example, the logo is on the ticket and the X is the part you tear off and put on your shirt." But would he have liked to go racier on the overall design? "Not really. Sex is already used to sell everything. It's been exhausted. This is the real challenge; when the subject is actually sex, what's left to you? You have to take the gimmickry out of it and let it speak for itself, though the words are run together for visual stylistic reasons - it helps the X pop out. For a while I was calling that the sperm version - the X is the head and the rest is the tail. This is what happens to your thinking on a project like this," he laughs.
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