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Preview: Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine


Throughout the past year, we have been refreshing the identity of Manhattan’s Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Pentagram’s relationship with the Cathedral, an extraordinary New York institution, goes back ten years. We designed its previous identity in 1999. Shortly after 9/11, the Cathedral was severely damaged by fire; a painstaking seven-year restoration followed, and the interior was reopened to great acclaim last November. The updated identity, which has been slowly introduced over the past few months, builds on the success of the reopening.

The Cathedral’s identifier juxtaposes a drawing of the rose window that dominates the building’s western wall with asymmetrical sans serif typography. The signature is complimented with a new version of Frederic Goudy‘s blackletter text from 1928, which Goudy had based on Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible. In a process that paralleled the Cathedral’s detailed interior restoration, typographer Joe Finocchiaro “repointed” Goudy’s letterforms to ensure crisp reproduction at large sizes.



Earlier this year, the Cathedral hosted a benefit screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary Man on Wire, about the tightrope artist Philippe Petit, a beloved artist-in-residence at the Cathedral since 1982. Michael Bierut and Katie Barcelona designed the a poster for the event, featuring an appropriate quote from Deuteronomy. After the screening, Petit answered questions from the packed house.

The film, by the way, was Bierut’s pick for best design movie of 2008. Don’t miss it.