The Museum of Modern Art’s holiday card program began in 1954 with the introduction of holiday cards created by contemporary artists and designers whose work was represented in the Museum’s exhibitions or permanent collection. Each year, MoMA selects artwork submitted by designers and artists that reflects The Museum of Modern Art, modernism, and innovation in card design.
challenge: Members of the MoMA retail group face a grueling process each year to select the new holiday card line. The committee’s criteria focuses on production budgets and past sales figures, which leads to a selection of cards that is premium but generic. How can MoMA solicit holiday card submissions that interpret the holiday season in a uniquely MoMA manner?
process: The team began by researching MoMA and its history compared to other New York institutions. We asked, “What makes MoMA MoMA?” and compared both the art museum, and its corresponding retail store. To begin writing a call for submissions that was specific enough to solicit cards that fulfilled the modernist explorations of essence, but generic enough to allow for creative freedom, we began listing what the card should and should not be and testing the guidelines by prototyping designs.
the card should:
- Communicate a purposeful intent
- Be visually stimulating or inquisitive
- Play with the idea of the holidays
- Encourage recipients to question their assumptions about art, greeting cards, or the holidays
the card should not:
- Use visual trends in popular culture to draw interest
- Look like it could have been purchased in a mainstream store
- Be a clichéd expression of the holidays
strategy: MoMA can look at the essence of its brand — what attracts millions of visitors annually — to find the unique quality that each card should embody: the superimposition of modernism and art. In the store, fitting products already possess unexpected design qualities that challenge how we perceive and interact with the object. As the last paragraph of MoMA’s mission statement says:
“The Museum of Modern Art seeks to create a dialogue between the established and the experimental, the past and the present, in an environment that is responsive to the issues of modern and contemporary art, while being accessible to a public that ranges from scholars to young children.”
- Direct the request for submissions to schools, professional organizations, and artist collectives whose work aligns with the Museum’s collection.
- Provide a prompt that asks for the right balance of concept and experimentation.
- Identify a list of qualifications to help the selection committee evaluate submissions.
How can a greeting card become an object? What is the essence of a religious symbol? How can holiday intersect?
How can we explore innovative materials and forms? What is given, and received, in the exchange of a card? What conversation can a card inspire?
What is the essence of a greeting?
What is the essence of a letterform?
client: MoMA Store
team: Graham McMullin, Veta Bates, George Mathew, Amrita Advanti, Sarah Fudin
advisor: Mark Kinsley
collaborative role: research, design strategy, design prototypes