On Sunday, July 30, the California African American Museum (CAAM) will host an event titled “Looking Forward, Looking Back”–the grand finale of a months-long redesign intended to help usher the 25-year-old museum into a new era of aesthetics and social issues.
The event will not only include the unveiling of CAAM’s new logo and graphics, but will feature conversations between CAAM artists, cherished moments from the museum’s history, and talks with current museum leaders.
The redesign was spearheaded by Deputy Director of Exhibits and Programs Naima Keith and carried out by designer and creative director Julia Luke. In keeping with the theme of looking forward and looking back, the two drew on historical influences while hoping to reinvigorate the museum’s presence in the local community.
As such, their creative process involved, “reading really closely into the mission statement of the museum and trying to make sure that that is all very transparent,” Luke explained.
With this in mind, the rehaul began with the original front desk of the museum. Its orange color would become a motif used in the museum’s new exterior and brochures, with its warmth paralleling the museum’s vision for a tolerant, inviting space, as well as its location in Los Angeles.
The graphics also drew on iconic styles and imagery from the civil rights movement, namely the “I Am a Man” poster. The phrase “I Am a Man” has historically been used by activists of color in order to reaffirm their humanity and liberty. Similarities between the bold typefaces used in the poster and CAAM’s new logo are clearly visible.
In combining historical influences with reimagined designs, Luke and Keith hoped to maintain a respect for CAAM’s past while helping usher the museum into a new era of changing themes and aesthetics.
But according to Luke, museum-goers who are not aware of the graphics’ cultural and historical roots can still benefit from their impact. She and Keith sought to pay homage to African-American history with subtlety, creating a general atmosphere of warmth that could be felt without any explanation.
“I think that even if people don’t recognize the letterforms immediately, to know that care and effort has been put into it and that all parts of our mission were considered, I think should give people a sense of comfort that it wasn’t just arbitrary,” Keith said.
Those interested in visiting CAAM can visit the museum’s renovated website here: https://caamuseum.org/.