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Eye on Hong Kong Museum of Art : Birth of the Logo

Tang Hoi-chiu
Former Chief Curator (Special Projects), Hong Kong Museum of Art

What is a logo? Is it just a pictorial gram, a typo image, a symbol or even a brand name? A logo not only serves practical function
representing the nature, characteristic and image of an institution or company, it is also a propaganda tool to get the corporate image of an institution or company into the mind of people and command their recognition and respect. In the modern era, logos are not only widely used by the commercial sector, but also adopted by public institutions, community groups and even individuals, showing the role of logos may parallel to that of national emblems.

In recent years, in order to enhance the image of the Government, various official departments and institutions create or improve the design of their logos to pronounce their missions and images. One of the first initiatives of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department when she was founded in 2000 was to have its own distinctive logo designed. All of the department's major museums then have their logos created: some are pictorial symbols of the museum architecture while others are abstract images suggesting the distinctive missions and roles of different museums.

Founded in 1962, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is the only municipal museum, which collects art objects with the core collection focusing on Hong Kong art. She also devotes to academic research and promotion of arts in our city. In such a way, the museum itself is already a symbol that signifies the arts and culture of Hong Kong. In designing the museum's logo, Ms Winnie W.K. Kwan, senior technical officer of the museum and her colleagues not only take into consideration the aim of the logo is to enhance the museum's image, but also its aesthetic appeal and the message to be instantly delivered to the public. Then she and her team began conceptual design by using the form of the two English letters 'M' and 'A' as the abbreviation of the full name of the 'hkma'. With this concept behind, our designers developed variations of the logo based on aesthetic consideration, cultural context and popular appeal.

1. Vitality of an Everlasting Cultural Tradition

Logo 1
Interweaved lines form a composite logo with the letters 'M' and 'A'. The form is derived from a knot - a traditional Chinese decorative motif as well as one of the eight precious emblems of Buddhism, which carries the auspicious meaning that fortune and life last without end. Therefore the logo symbolizes that the museum will continuously pursue the mission to pronounce the majestic tradition of Chinese culture for the enrichment of city life through museum services.

2. Hall of Art and Cultural Treasures

Logo 2
By combining the letters 'M' and 'A' in a stylish manner, the logo resembles the appearance of a grand hall that suggests the museum is a treasure house of arts as well as spiritual and material cultures. The lines on both sides embrace to represent that Hong Kong is a metropolitan city where Chinese and Western cultures meet. It also suggests that the museum's functions are aimed to intermingle with people's life – a role that shall be actively pronounced in the new millennium.

3. Harmony of Art for a Brilliant Life

Logo 3
With abstract modulation of painting and calligraphic strokes, the letters 'M' and 'A' are merged in a vivid and animated form, showing the harmonious assimilation of Chinese brush strokes and English letters and in turn reflect the distinction of Hong Kong as a place where Chinese and Western culture mingle. The red dot amidst the strokes is derived from the Zen painting of the renowned master Lui Shou-kwan who initiated the New Ink Painting Movement in the 1970s. In fact it is a symbol of the flame – a philosophical icon to suggest life is ever-changing and brilliant. In showing the identity of Hong Kong as an international city, the logo at the same time stands for that the museum always pursue new explorations and progression to cast brilliance on the city life of Hong Kong.

Museum's curators then reviewed the designs of the three logos and reached a consensus that logos 1 and 2 are rather conventional and stereotyped whereas logo 3 is more contemporary and has great aesthetic and popular appeal. The three proposed logos were then submitted for departmental choice and finally logo 3 was recommended for use as the official logo of the Museum of Art.

To further project artistic merit to the logo, the museum invited Mr Yip Man-yam, a noted artist who won twice in the "Hong Kong Art Biennial" exhibitions for his calligraphy and seal carving to write the logo. Subsequently the best one was chosen from over 10 samples and adopted by computer for different uses. The museum believes that the logo will serve as a successful museum's icon to obtain public recognition of the missions and functions of the museum.

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