On Wednesday 3rd August, we considered recent branding efforts for cultural institutions, that draw on graphic heritage to create identities equipped for the future.
With a smart panel of speakers in our Library space downstairs, we considered cultural institutions that have recently relaunched successful identites. We explored how agencies are helping institutions to retain their integrity and equity by building on or refreshing existing brand assets, or by taking inspiration from their graphic history — to remain relevant in an ever-more saturated space.
We were joined by Rob Baker, Chief Marketing Officer at Tate, who gave us an insight into the challenges the art institution hoped to tackle with its recently-revised brand. Originally designed by Wolff Ollins when the gallery relaunched at its now iconic Bankside site in 2000, the Tate’s existing identity had become irregular and unwieldy to work with. A profusion of logotypes and a typeface with multiple weights, coupled with a lack of formal guidelines had meant that elements of the brand that were intended to add dynamism and character, had helped make the identity impossibly inconsistent.
Speaking alongside Rob was North Founding Partner, Sean Perkins, who won the pitch by arguing that the original identity should be revised, rather than completely rebranded, in advance of the launch of its new building. He explained how the studio’s “deep clean” has kept the identity adaptable and expressive — while introducing a much-needed framework that will ensure consistency.
Define challenges not conclusions
Rather than diving directly into a decided solution, Rob explained how Tate Design Studio and the team at North set out to first define the challenges presented by the current identity. Internal interviews with Tate staff and a visual audit on existing elements allowed the teams to reveal the key problems arising from Tate’s identity. Responses revealed concern around tired visuals, an absence of defined design guidelines as well as the burning issue of 75 different logo variations that reproduced poorly on promotional assets. With designers paralysed by choice, a lack of visual coherence across the four galleries, and audiences left to connect the dots to work out if and how something was related to the institution, they were able to identify their key points of address.
There's Equity in History
Throughout the event, it was reiterated that the revision of Tate's identity was more of a "deep-clean" as opposed to a complete rebrand. When the institution did rebrand in 1998, it did something revolutionary; It was the first of it’s kind to take a serious approach to brand identity and, in doing so, helped solidify its reputation as an internationally recognised and respected champion of the art world. Sean explained that there was equity in this history and that the Tate’s strong identity should not be discarded. With this in mind, North decided to build on the existing dotted logo and typeface rather than completely redesign them. The 15 weights of the Tate Pro typeface were reduced to two; the 3,000 dots of the Tate logo were reduced to 340; and the 75 existing logos (consisting of variations in font weight and gallery location) were reducuded to just one.
Keeping up with the Times
As Tate has continued to expand, it has become increasingly important that elements of its identity are able to function across all platforms. Today, Tate is competing in the same market as retail and hospitality brands, making it vital that creativity be applied to all touch points. Gallery merchandise, packaging and even the institutions newest building now feature elements of the updated dot design to reinforce the Tate’s identity while moving beyond the logo and typeface. For its digital platforms, Tate’s logo has been brought to life by animation, adding a new dynamism that seeks to help keep up with the growing prominence of digital content and to fulfil Tate’s current mission of attracting larger, younger and more diverse audiences.
A Continuing Journey
Sean emphasised a key difficulty in working with a cultural institution as the fact that in such a creative industries everyone has an opinion on design; to ensure that Tate’s assets aren't disrupted by this and continue to be produced with consistency and coherence across all of it’s platforms, Tate’s designers have been provided with guidelines that make the process of creating new promotional assets faster and simpler. A new grid-system allows the designers to compose posters, flyers and other promotional material with the freedom to be creative while maintaining the confidence that whatever they produce will be in sync with the collective Tate image.
Thanks to our speakers, and to Sam Bush for the photos above.
Location:72 Rivington St,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:3rd August, 2016 at 6:30pm
End:3rd August, 2016 at 8:30pm