In 2020 we were hired to design a new identity for the Hans Erni Museum. The museum is situated in the Verkehrshaus Schweiz in Lucerne and was initiated by the artist himself. It shows the works of the artist and additionally its curator Heinz Stahlhut initiates exhibitions with contemporary artist in the context of Hans Erni’s methodologies, ideals and formal language.
The development of the identity began with a deep dive into Hans Erni’s multi-faceted work. He was extremely prolific during his life, and due to its length — Erni was 106 years old when he died in 2016 — he was inspired by many artistic as well as political movements. Our goal was to root the identity in the history and story of the museum’s initiator, while looking for contemporary interpretations and ways to look to the future with the museum.
We were especially interested in Erni’s posters and his philantlistic works: In many posters Erni used the letter V instead of the letter U. Which on the one hand, reinforces the recognition and identity of the poster; on the other hand it references the development of the Latin alphabet, where the U developed from the V. The idea of playing with the U becoming a V and vice versa hunted us; this in-betweenness seemed very suitable to Hans Erni’s personality and body of work.
Therefore we were looking into further examples to reinforce our idea, and found Erni’s own typeface in which every letter has been reduced to its basic features in using very few straight lines, hence the U became a V as well.
Later, we came across a beautifully designed stamp made for the opening of an exhibition that was extremely relevant to Hans Erni's career. — Here we found the U, which was exactly what we needed: something in between, not yet a U, but also not a V. The original stamp is stored in the PTT archives in Köniz, Bern. We used it as a template to digitalize the font.
The digitized font has the characteristics of a stamped typeface, i.e. the “ink traps”, but it still retains an in-between. Hence the sharp corners of the typeface in contrast to the “ink traps”. The typeface is now used as the main tool for the identity. It also generates the new logo.
Hans Erni's mantra was “Panta Rhei”, which meant to him that you have to be in dialogue with the ancient thinkers and history in order to be able to communicate with the present and develop your behavior. With the aim of honoring this, we did not want to forget or throw away the museum’s old logo, and it now lives on all printed matter as a reminder of this mantra.