American Folk Art Museum



Practice Area


American Folk Art Museum


Project Vision

Pentagram was commissioned by the American Folk Art Museum to develop a new institutional identity and environmental graphics for their new building on West 53rd Street. The building is built out of a rich, minimal/modern combination of materials including tombasil, concrete, wood, and terrazzo, each treated in a way to bring out the natural color and texture of the material. The above ground floors total about 5000 square feet, so signage needs were mainly donor acknowledgement and floor and room identification. Additionally, the architects banned applied signage or banners on the façade of the building, so exterior identification was limited to vinyl lettering on the entrance doors.

The signage design had to satisfy both the architects and the building committee. Furthermore, it was important to design and place the signage in a way that it would not be confused with the works of art and their identification labels.

Overall design intent was to harmonize with the building and to reveal a “sense of the hand” that marks any individual work of art. The donor recognition walls epitomize this approach, consisting of signatures sandblasted in a limestone wall on the first floor and names sandblasted onto salvage wood planks hung on a wall on the lower level. Floor numbers and donor names for floors and galleries are cut from the same tombasil as the building façade.

Project Details
This project demonstrates one of the most beautiful and appropriate integrations of graphic identification and signage into an architectural setting. The marriage of content and the choice of 'materials' for its expression evokes a pure emotional response, leaving me fully satisfied.
Juror 1
I loved this the minute I saw it! Then I realized why. It shows – at every step – the sign of the human hand, without sentiment or lapsing into a maudlin mood.
Juror 2
Design Team

Woody Pirtle (Principal in Charge), Tracey Cameron, Chris Dunn, Daisuke Endo, Deborah Short

Design Firm



Dale Travis Associates