Southbank Centre reveals first rebrand in 10 years, inspired by Brutalism

The London-based culture and art hub, which is composed of four venues, has been given a new visual identity by studio North, dropping the Wolff Olins branding designed in 2007.

North has designed a new visual identity for London cultural institution Southbank Centre to give it a more “consistent” and less “complex” brand, says the studio.

Southbank Centre, based in Lambeth, is Europe’s largest cultural and arts venue and is one of the top five most popular visitor destinations in the UK. It runs festivals, exhibitions, art installations, and talk and performance programmes.

The previous identity, by Wolff Olins

The new identity replaces the one designed by Wolff Olins in 2007, which looked to bring together Southbank Centre’s four venues – Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery – under one brand.

The result was a visual identity with an all-caps, sans-serif logotype and multiple, changing geometric patterns, which aimed to use “many singular elements” to “create an ever new series of outcomes”, says Wolff Olins.

This aimed to represent a more modern way of considering art, where particular disciplines are not “confined to particular buildings”, “nor performances to a stage or audiences to seats”.

This year’s rebrand follows the refurbishment of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery in 2015, and so is part of an overall revamp for the Southbank Centre.

The new logo features a serif, black logotype set against a yellow background. The typeface is a bespoke version of Noe Display, created by type foundry Schick Toikk, and has been used across communications for events, exhibitions and separate galleries.

The simple branding works like a “masthead” for a magazine, says North, which aims to make the brand “recognisable”, give it consistency and let festivals, performances and shows “be more freely expressed”.

The magazine approach positions the centre’s weekly and monthly programme as “content”, says Sean Perkins, founding partner at North, enabling materials for different events to be individually designed in a similar way to features in a magazine.

The typeface used has been inspired by Southbank Centre’s brutalist architecture, adds Charlie De Grussa, designer at North, defined by the serif logotype’s harsh edges. It is also based on the original identity for Festival of Britain, a national exhibition founded in 1951 which went on to become the Southbank Centre.

The new visual identity will roll out over the next six months across print marketing materials, interior signage and wayfinding and online, replacing materials as they run out to reduce costs and waste, says the studio.

North will continue to work on branding projects for the Southbank Centre, with the reopening of the Hayward Gallery set for January 2018, accompanied by a retrospective exhibition on German photographer Andreas Gurksy.

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  • @a74design June 23, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Although I agree that Wolff Olins’ identity was perhaps a little complex, I feel North’s rebrand looks outmoded – too much of a nod to 1950s Festival of Britain period graphic design as opposed to the progressive modernism of the architecture. I like the bright yellow though!

    • Agnieszka June 23, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Wolf Olins’ identity was deep, multifunctional and well thought through, all it needed was a development, not scrappage for the sake of making a statement. New identity is meaningless and postrationalised.

  • Agnieszka June 23, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Masthead? I understood guys from studio North confused it with “nameplate”!

  • Gavin June 23, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Less legible at distance?

  • Marianne June 27, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    I miss the old identity.
    Find the new one hard to read and it doesn’t flow.
    The previous identity reflected the vibrancy and the eclectic nature of the Southbank so beautifully.

  • Barry Underwood Debsky July 9, 2017 at 3:12 am

    I like the Yellow square umbrellas . . .

  • CC July 26, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I have always loved the Wollf Olins’ design – it is complex, but beautifully executed, clear and consistent. I know with rebrands people always say this at first, but I don’t understand the need to change it. The new identity is *so* poor – it’s identikit, doesn’t stand out at all, the posters look like student nightclub posters – utterly devoid of any features that draw you in. Why did they do this and why did it get the OK from the powers that be?

  • J August 1, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    I think it looks wicked. Wolff Olins’ typeface choice was looking like so much else out there. It was nice, but think the trend of using Din (and Din-like typefaces) caused a lot of other brands to look too similar. This is refreshing. I think it’s punchy. And, most importantly, it’s different.

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