Pigeons + Pretzels: MoMA Challenges SVA Branding Students

Is the pigeon New York City’s unofficial mascot?

There may be more people who think so following the global unveiling of Destination: NYC, a collection of 200 New York-designed products for sale at MoMA Design Stores. The collection’s visual identity is the handiwork of students graduating from the MPS Branding Department at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), chaired by Debbie Millman.

MoMA officials Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Architecture and Design and Emmanuel Plat, Director of Merchandising — loved their pitch. Now, pigeons, pretzels, graffiti, plastic deli bags and other NYC icons are making an appearance on logos, ad campaigns, shopping bags, storefronts and more. It was only the second time MoMA engaged a student project for their retail division.

Midtown Site Visit Photo Mark Kingsley

Instructor Mark Kingsley says that Antonelli (whom he describes as “direct and sometimes brutally honest”) embraced the campaign and even suggested that some concepts should be made into t-shirts and sold in the store. “She also compared this work against other design presentations she’s seen and said our work was at a superior level of thinking, design and presentation.”

The SVA students worked over six months—in addition to regular coursework and full-time jobs — to create not one, but four logos, as well as product photography, store windows and displays, and print and digital marketing campaigns—even a tricked-out pretzel cart, one of the few student concepts that wasn’t realized. Students also built prototypes and fabricated display elements at SVA’s Visible Futures Lab alongside the MoMA Design Store team.

Destination NYC by SVA MPS Branding 5 Photo Mark Kingsley

“The students’ work has inspired new thinking around our visual presentation of product in the catalog and in-store,” says Brian Bergeron, Assistant Creative Director at the MoMA Stores.

Destination: NYC rolled out a couple of weeks ago and continues through mid-August. New York is the eleventh locale in MoMA’s Destination: Design series, which began in 2005 and has since featured Finland, Denmark, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Japan, Seoul, Brazil, Portugal, Istanbul, and Mexico; some of MoMA Design Store’s bestselling items are a result of the series. You can visit momastore.org to view the students’ work in action.