New York City Opera Will Make Its Mark with Big Black Dot

big black dot.jpgThe New York City Opera is in turnaround mode. Since February, George Steel, City Opera’s bold new general manager and artistic director, has been working to right the plucky 66-year-old cultural institution, which until recently lacked everything from a venue (renovations) to a leader (last-minute abdication), not to mention a fiscal strategy and a clear identity. Among the items atop Steel’s lengthy to-do list? Rebranding. Enter 2×4, the supersmart design firm founded by partners Michael Rock, Susan Sellers, and Georgianna Stout that is behind City Opera’s new graphic identity, which made its debut on the revamped nycOpera.com. The look is clean and graphic, with a black dot in the starring role.

Writer Justin Davidson, who profiled Steel in the pages of New York, helps connect the dots. At a meeting about the new identity, he watched Sellers unfold “a poster bearing a new City Opera logo: a big black dot, meant to represent inclusiveness, enduring presence, and powerful modernity. It looks uncomfortably like an abyss.”

The dot triggers a philosophical discussion. City Opera is a bare-bones operation that produces spare versions of a luxury product. In theory, that could make it the ideal cultural entity for this lean age: What better way to forget about your troubles than to watch people sing about worse ones? “Luxury needs to engage ideas,” Sellers says. “Opera deals with darkness and schizophrenia, and in a time when we’ve been so deluded, that directness is reassuring.” She stops talking. The black dot sits ominously on the table, and for a moment no one speaks. Finally, Steel smiles, and the room relaxes. “I love the graphic strength,” he says. “I love it. We have a swell season, and we want it to be, Bam! Bam! This is what we’re doing: You got a problem with that?