Redesigning the London house that was home to Handel and Hendrix

Pentagram partners Harry Pearce and Naresh Ramchandani have led the branding of the Handel and Hendrix in London museum, at numbers 23 and 25 Brook Street, Mayfair.



Pentagram partners Harry Pearce and Naresh Ramchandani have led the rebrand of Handel House on Brook Street, Mayfair, which will now be known as Handel and Hendrix in London.

The name change has been prompted by the opening up of Jimi Hendrix’s flat – at number 23 Brook Street – as a permanent attraction, and the launch of an accompanying exhibition.

1960s musician Hendrix and eighteenth century baroque composer George Frederic Handel were neighbours who lived, wrote and played some 240 years apart.

Although the Handel attraction at number 25 Brook Street has been open since 2001, the Hendrix experience will not open until 10 February 2016 so the application of the branding is still in development.

Modern No. 20 typeface

A Pentagram spokeswoman says: “The Handel & Hendrix in London graphic identity has been created to promote, identify and distinguish the museum. The identity is brought to life through vibrant colours, dynamic typography and powerful imagery.

“The primary typeface is Modern No. 20 with the secondary typeface being Akzidenz Grotesk. Handel and Hendrix are two extremely different artists, who are united by their incredible impact on music. Because of this, each artist has their own colour palette that reflects their own unique musical styles.”

Exhibition design has been led by Outside Studios, which has been working with the client since 2013.

The Hendrix project began following the success of showing the flat for Open House weekend, which gave fans the chance to see the space where he lived for two years from 1968 until his death in 1970.

£2.4 million restoration project

Outside Studios creative director Catherine Halcrow says that the primary focus of the two-year £2.4 million restoration project has been recreating Hendrix’s bedroom.

Halcrow says: “The challenge was using photographic and anecdotal evidence to frame the story of his life there without initially having any artefacts. The room was empty.

“He always lived an itinerant life but this was a place he was filmed in, photographed in by people like Barrie Wentzell, wrote songs in and practiced in. It was his home and his office.”

Outside Studios held focus groups and spoke to people who were part of Hendrix’s life, including his former girlfriend Kathy Etchingham and engineer Roger Mayer, so that details like curtains and furniture could be accurate.

Hendrix soundscape

A soundscape has been created, which features a guitarist emulating Hendrix’s acoustic arrangements, street noise and talking.

“We hear it was generally a quiet space although he did blow a few amplifier cones but there weren’t really any neighbours at the time,” says Halcrow.

Handel lived at number 25 and Hendrix next door at number 23 but internal walls have been knocked through to make the visitor experience seamless.

What was Handel’s attic has been made into a “microhistorical” Hendrix exhibition, which focuses on the last two years of his life and the late stages of his career before Electric Ladyland was released.

“It’s a graphic exhibition so we present a lot of images and text and try to show what was happening at the time like his Albert Hall gig [in 1969], which many say was his best ever,” says Halcrow.

Listening points

It also contains artefacts such as the acoustic guitar he wrote with in the flat and there are listening points so you can hear what he was working on.

There is a second room in the flat and little was known about it, so it has been designed to showcase his record collection and give an impression of what he did every day.

A new learning and performance space – The Studio – has been introduced and a roof extension added for offices where Handel and Hendrix London staff can work from.

Update: Last year designer Mike Dempsey published an account on his blog, which stated that he was asked to free pitch for the Handel House project. He details his exchange with the client here.

The issue has also been raised in our comments section and we have asked the client to respond to this.

Handel House Trust chairman Alistair Stranack says: “The Handel House Trust conducted a fair and open tender process. The first stage invited a range of designers and agencies to tender for the work.

“We asked for details of staff who would be undertaking the project, a resource schedule and their approach to the project. No artwork was required but examples of previous work could have been provided.

“Submissions were shortlisted down to four companies who were invited to an interview with the Handel House Trust to discuss their approach further. We felt that this approach to the tender did not require a fee.

“However, if we had requested initial design or concepts at the shortlisted stage we would have paid for the work involved to do this.

“The company that won the pitch, Pentagram, understood our brief and the challenges behind our unique offering.”

You can read further comments from Dempsey in our comments section below.

384A_8. Jimi Hendrix at 23 Brook Street, 1969. Credit (c)Barrie Wentzell
imi Hendrix at 23 Brook Street, 1969. Credit (c)Barrie Wentzell
Photographic portrait by Richard Keith Wolff of Jimi Hendrix, musician, guitarist, standing in his flat, 23 Brook Street. Mayfair, London, UK, 7th of January 1969. Obligatory credit Richard Keith Wolff
Photographic portrait by Richard Keith Wolff of Jimi Hendrix, musician, guitarist, standing in his flat, 23 Brook Street. Mayfair, London, UK, 7th of January 1969. By Richard Keith Wolff.


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  • Michael Smith November 6, 2015 at 10:55 am

    As always, Pentagram have done a great job. Harry Pearce is a great designer and they’ve done well to tackle the peculiarity of this museum’s offer. But I do wonder if this was a properly paid, commercial project.

    People might remember that Mike Dempsey blogged about being asked to free-pitch for the rebranding work last year –

    It might not be the case in this instance, but as someone who runs an agency in the culture and heritage sector, I am tiring of so many clients being offered free consultancy work by big name agencies.

    This year alone we’ve been told by half a dozen well-positioned clients and two huge cultural bodies (big enough to be ‘Royal’) that they are being gifted free rebrands by big name agencies. It happens all the time.

    I can understand the client’s perspective – who would turn down free work from one of the top agencies?

    But it’s undermining and unsustainable. The agency get a portfolio piece, plaudits in the design press, gongs on their shelf, and the ability to properly sell their services for higher prices to their more mundane clients; the client gets the glow of a high-profile launch but an often unworkable brand that they can’t afford to properly implement… and no one wants to pay for design again because they think it should always be free.

    Perhaps I’m just being self-serving or naive but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all charge fairly because our clients knew they were investing in a service that would reap rewards for them? That’s what we all say should happen but then some of us seem to be pushing a very different business model.

    • Angus Montgomery November 6, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment – we’re currently seeking clarity from Handel & Hendrix in London about how this competition was run and will update the story as soon as we have it.

  • Stephane Harrison November 6, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Well said Michael.

  • Mike Dempsey November 8, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    As Michael Smith has picked up from my blog post of March 2014, I was one of the designers shortlisted down to 3 from an original credentials presentation from 12 separate groups.

    I was then told that each of the 3 selected designers would be interviewed by the Board of Trustees, but before doing that one of the trustee members (the then director of communications at the Tate) had requested that each designer submit some ‘ideas’ for the board to consider and apparently added that he always did that as a matter of course as it was very common within the industry.

    When I asked about payment, I was told that there wouldn’t be for this stage. I immediately withdrew from the project and strongly protested about their behaviour.

    The director of the museum wrote to tell me that one of the other designers had also withdrawn for the same reason. So that would have left just one, presumably willing to submit ‘ideas’ on spec?

    I opted to expose Handle House Museum’s behaviour because they are part of the creative community and of all people should care about their creative comrades instead of stooping to such an insulting level.

    You can read the full circumstances, with email exchanges during the correspondence here

  • Mike Dempsey November 10, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Mr Stranack is clearly completely out of touch with the reality of the events which are recounted in the following email exchanges between me and Sarah Bardwell, the Handel & Henrick director and makes it perfectly clear that the Board of trustees were asking for creative work without paying for it.

    Email from: Mike Dempsey
    Sent: 27 February 2014 13:15
    To: Sarah Bardwell
    Subject: Re: Handel Hendrix branding

    Hi Sarah

    All understood but am I, right in thinking that you are expecting ‘creative executions’ for the names you want to consider at the initial proposal meeting in March?

    There was no mention of a fee for this stage and the work does relate to the costing breakdown that I supplied in my proposal.

    If you could let me know the position.

    Regards Mike

    Email from Sarah Bardwell
    Sent Friday 28 February 2014 10:24
    To Mike Dempsey

    Dear Mike,

    Thanks for your email and I understand your concern.

    The committee decided that they really wanted to get as much as a sense as possible about the rough ideas the potential designers might have. Having said that, I was surprised when this was suggested as I realise it entails time and work. Like you I felt that this was asking rather a lot without any fee. However, one of our advisors the Marketing Director at Tate, who has previously worked as the Marketing Director at the Guardian said that this was completely standard and he always worked in this way. He felt that there wouldn’t be much point doing a face to face interview without some rough suggestions of where the design might or could go. He was also by the way the member of the group that particularly championed you for the shortlist.

    Having said that of the four shortlisted companies, one has refused to do this because they say they need to develop the strategy before working on the visual id. So they will be bringing case studies. I have to say I think emphasising the work on the strategy is perhaps not the best decision on their part. The other two have not got back to me about this. I have discussed this with Ella and she has suggested that this is somewhat of an industry problem and there isn’t an easy solution. However, we do not have any budget to pay a fee at this stage. My suggestion if you would like to continue in the process, and I very much hope you will, is to create a very basic rough suggestion and talk us through that when we meet.

    I am sorry I can’t be more helpful. Let me know if you would like to speak on the telephone.

    Kind regards

    Email from: Mike Dempsey
    Sent: Fri 2/28/2014 1:10 PM
    To: Sarah Bardwell
    Subject: Re: Handel Hendrix branding

    Dear Sarah

    Thank you for your answer to my question.

    Firstly I never take part in free pitching.
    My creative thinking is my livelihood.
    I don’t give it away free unless it is for a charitable concern that I want
    to help.

    Secondly this is a practice that various bodies within the design industry are trying to outlaw and I fully support this.

    I am utterly shocked the Tate Marketing Director has said that “this was
    completely standard and he always worked in this way.” It is not and he should be ashamed of himself for having such little regard for designers.

    The Tate is a part government funded organisation and should engage in best practice, particularly with the creative community, which it purports to promote.

    Needless to say, I will not be taking part and wish that this aspect had been made clear to me before getting involved.

    A great pity, as I know I would have brought something special to this


    I think readers will agree that the above emails make it crystal clear as to what the Trust were asking for. Mr. Stranack and his entire board of trustees should be ashamed of themselves and he should apologise for attempting to mislead Design Week readers over this lamentable issue.

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