National Galleries of Scotland’s branding “opens a portal” into art

DNCO overhauled the visual identity for the Galleries, with an angled typeface and logo to reflect how art can change peoples’ perspectives.

DNCO has created a new identity for National Galleries of Scotland, comprising a portal-like logomark and palette which draws on common colours in the collections’ artworks.

The institution is made up of three galleries: the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Since the Galleries’ offering was quite complex and unclear, DNCO sought to “simplify the brand hierarchy”, says the studio’s creative director Patrick Eley.

Though art can sometimes seem “intangible”, Eley says the new identity adds “clarity” to the brand, firstly through its logomark. The key concept behind the logo was “discovery” and “visualising the feeling that art generates”, he explains.

The difficulty was creating a logo that was “simple and powerful” against other national institutions like the British Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, says Eley. It also needed to provide “an extendable graphic language” to work across all touchpoints, he adds.

The interlocking parallelograms aim to illustrate a “portal” into the art world and serve as a framing device for photography of visitors and artworks, says Eley, explaining that its “optical effect” represents “the change in perspective” that people experience with art. Applying motion graphics to the logo also seeks to increase “depth and perspective”, according to Eley.

One challenge was uniting the “very disparate identities” of the three galleries while allowing them “enough flexibility to be different”, says DNCO wayfinding director Zoë Barrett.

Originally, each gallery had disparate logos that were visually unrelated to each other. The Modern used a monospaced font with a “machine aesthetic”, says Barrett, while The National and Portrait adopted more traditional serif and sans serif stacked logos. The new brand typeface is a sans serif called Caslon Doric designed by Paul Barnes Commercial Type foundry.

Coincidentally, Doric is a Scots dialect spoken in the northeast of Scotland, but this isn’t why DNCO chose the typeface. Eley describes it as having “a bit of a quirk to it” with a “character” and “classic feel” that works across the multiple galleries. Barrett adds that it helps to “attract new audiences without alienating existing ones”.

To give it a level of ownership, Barnes customised the typeface to fit the desired angled style used for the logotype, while the unedited Caslon Doric will be used in comms and body copy. Barnes also altered the letter A, making it single height “to improve legibility”, says Eley.

DNCO aimed to design a flexible brand system, allowing the galleries to vary their tone through brand assets. Using “a huge amount of imagery” helps to differentiate the galleries, says Eley, and each gallery also has its own pair of colours that it will typically use.

From the content to the architecture, each gallery is completely different, according to Eley. To devise the colour palette, the studio looked at the collections and identified common colour threads. Eley says that a lot of work was done on accessibility and colour contrast when deciding what to pair together.

Feedback from visitors specified that “brighter colours give the place more energy”, so the new palette tries to avoid “darker more austere colours”, says Eley. Other considerations were avoiding Scottish cliches, such as tartan and heather hues, and not creating something “more vocal than the artwork itself”, he adds.

DNCO won the work for the National Galleries of Scotland wayfinding design – which is still ongoing – through a separate pitch.

The internal wayfinding is “very respectful” of the gallery content, with a system designed to “educate and inform” visitors, says Barrett. She describes the external wayfinding package as “quite exciting” and very different to the existing wayfinding. There is also a lot of iconography involved, which is currently undergoing accessibility testing before moving into production over the next couple of weeks.

The new identity will launch online today and roll out gradually across every physical and digital touchpoint, from the shop and uniforms to social media.

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