6 cultural, creative and charming identities for museums, featuring North, Base Design and more
Looking for some museum-branding inspiration? You’re in luck. We’ve curated a selection of our favourite projects that reimagine the image of museums; from North’s boxy screen-focused identity for ACMI to Happening Studio’s vibrant and versatile visual language for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD). We hope, like us, you are pleasantly inspired and can take the studio’s insights forward into your own research.
When the international design practice of Karen and Masato Nakada, aka Happening Studio, were invited to rebrand the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD), they knew that creating a sustainable long-term solution would need to come from outside the box. Countering the traditional, static approach to institutional identities, their proposed identity – highly adaptable, yet contemporary and diverse – was formed as a result of understanding the dynamic and multi-faceted role of MCASD within the local community and beyond. With a diverse group of visitors in mind, the cohesive visual language maintains sincerity and clear communication, even in uncertain times. For one, Happening opted to break the five-letter acronym down into smaller parts, in order to make memorising it easier. In addition to an inclusive and non-hierarchal wordmark, the brand’s colourways are drawn from MCASD’s two locations; the city and the beach. Red comes from The Trolley, San Diego’s light rail system, beige and blue come from the beach, and the deep leafy green represents the palm trees. The colours, which can be seen in vibrant and complementary groupings, are designed to mix and match all the ingredients from its surroundings.
In the face of its prestigious reputation and the neoclassical architecture of the space, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) had become somewhere intimidating and inaccessible to the average Joe, despite a shift to community initiatives and the diversity of their art. Seeking to better convey this, international creative firm Base Design redefined MFA as a place for everyone and not simply the elite; leading its revitalised identity with the maxim ‘Here All Belong.’ Embodying the institution’s reality, Base imbued MFA’s identity with a fundamental warmth and humanity, resulting in a welcoming, inclusive visual language. This achievement comes from the studio’s powerful combination of type and colour, turning towards a bold, flexible palette that allows for bursts of vivid hues and vibrant shades. At the core of the brand is a bespoke typeface designed by the studio, which aims to communicate the personality and welcoming spirit of MFA, somewhere which is both forward-thinking and academic, whilst ultimately shaped by human experience.
First opened in 1904, the University of Oslo’s Historisk Museum is home to Norway’s most substantial collection of historical ethnographic artefacts, contextualising the country’s remarkable history with its contemporary culture. Tasked with developing the museum’s identity, Oslo and Vienna-based design studio Bleed turned to the building itself for inspiration, fascinated by the variety of monograms adorned across the museum by its architects. The resulting monogram combines a calligraphic finesse with pragmatic contemporary sensibilities to craft a stoic mark, exhibiting the true promise of what it represents. The palette used throughout the identity acts as a vibrant counterpart to the lack of colour found across the museum’s site. To make the museum more visible, Bleed deliberately opted for colours that would contrast the facade, in the hopes that it would become more recognisable to the public eye. Continuing this direction, Bleed opted for Dinamo’s ABC Diatype as the primary typeface, utilising its modern concept and construction to convey the museum’s role as a contemporary storyteller, whilst providing a powerful contrast with its corresponding monogram.
Following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010, Te Uaka (The Lyttelton Museum), had lost its building and has undergone fundraising efforts to construct a new site. With a new name as part of their rebuilding, the historical museum, dedicated to preserving the stories of Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour), reached out to Christchurch-based design studio McCarthy to deliver a fresh identity. At the forefront of the new look is a charming, concept-driven and striking display typeface created from a modular system of circles and squares. As the primary typeface, Nizar Kazan’s Lausanne, a powerful workhorse, perfectly complements the eccentricity of the logomark. The identity’s colours – burnt orange and brown – were chosen due to the prominence of the colour combination in the rusty boats, ships, buildings and houses of Lyttelton itself. In addition, the specific brown colour pigment is found commonly around the area from natural sources and has been used extensively on buildings and structures, as well as the use in the pre-colonial art of the area.
In May 1963, a hundred years after the artist’s birth, Oslo City Council opened Munchmuseet in eastern Oslo as a celebration of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s (1863-1944) life and work. After a growth in popularity over the following decades, the museum eventually outgrew its premises. Accompanying its new space which opened in 2020 – containing 11 exhibition halls spread over seven floors – is a look created by London-based agency North that aims to be a “contemporary interpretation of Munch’s ethos.” The new graphic system is centred around a custom typeface, designed in collaboration with type foundry Radim Peško to mirror both Edvard Munch’s eccentric character and the building’s architecture. Respectfully bowing towards the city of Oslo, architecture firm estudio Herreros’ design was in part inspired by a photograph of the artist in Warnemünde, Germany. The typeface, just like the building, features a back slant in homage to his inquisitive pose. The severe 20° angle creates a memorable typographic expression and recognisable voice for the museum.
In time for its post-COVID reopening, Australia’s national museum of screen culture ACMI turned to renowned London-based design studio North, to give new life to its brand and provide a refreshing new image. Rather than residing in the corner, the new wordmark is front and centre with a strong geometric look inspired by the defined rigid restrictions of screens. Now at the heart of brand outputs, the bespoke typeface also boasts flexibility adapting in colour and size depending on its use. With much of the museum’s content being screen-related, it was only fitting that the supporting typeface be designed with the screen in mind. Optimo’s Px Grotesk – a typeface designed for, and thriving within, the screen – was therefore the perfect choice.