A new Science Museum identity to connect up galleries nationwide

Consultancy North has given the Science Museum Group a new visual identity, which will be applied to all five UK museums in a bid to unify their collections.

Consultancy North has given the Science Museum Group a new visual identity, which will be applied to all five of the group’s national museums in a bid to unify their collections.

North has rebranded the Science Museum Group to bring together all five museums across the UK “under one visual language” rather than “focusing on London”.

The Science Museum Group encompasses London’s Science Museum; the National Railway Museum in York; the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; and Locomotion in Shildon.

The sites collectively see five million visitors a year, and have collections and exhibitions spanning science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine.

Gradient-based visual identity

The visual identity project took 18 months to complete and features a new logo with a gradient of colours and type weights transitioning from left to right. This gradient is also used across other visual communications such as posters, business cards and wayfinding.

North worked with type foundry Fontseek on the bespoke, uniwidth typeface SMG Sans, which allows the width of letters to stay consistent as their weight increases. The studio also worked with digital studio Numiko on the new website.

The gradated style is based on the idea of illumination, says North creative director Sean Perkins, and relates to the museums’ concepts such as vision, music and sound.

The gradient is also symbolic of the Science Museum Group’s mission to “inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and their futures”, adds Perkins.

“Illumination was relevant for the idea of speed, media, sound and movement,” he says. “The wash of colour and font is like a light being switched on across the typography. It’s a great articulation of the museums’ specialisms.”

He adds that a wide spectrum of colour is also currently being used in the Science Museum’s latest galleries, such as children’s space WonderLab and the Zaha Hadid-designed Mathematics gallery, which both opened in 2016.

Bring together different collections

Rather than to “attract a new audience” or “boost visitor numbers”, the rebrand was completed to create a consistent look for the five museums, and stress the idea of “shared collections”, says Perkins.

“This is about sharing the assets around the country rather than just focusing on London,” he says. “From York’s railway museum to visitors travelling to Bradford to see rockets, this is about helping people continue their journey through science.”

The project aims to bring the Science Museum Group’s four non-London sites into the spotlight, and push the Government’s goal to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills in the North of England, he says. Virtual visitors can now access all five museums’ collections online on the Science Museum Group’s website.

The new visual identity has launched following the opening of London’s new galleries, and refurbishments made at the Manchester and York museums, and the rebuild of Bradford’s museum.

Controversy surrounding new logo

Science Museum
The previous Science Museum logo, designed by Johnson Banks

It replaces the logo designed by consultancy Johnson Banks in 2010, which was created solely for London’s museum. It featured a sharp-edged, block-based typeface for the museum name, split up across four lines.

Since being revealed, the new identity has been the root of controversy online, with Johnson Banks calling it “a bit of a clunker” on Twitter.

The design consultancy has since retracted its initial comments with a post on its blog, stating: “As for how a design team should react to a change of their logo, well, going straight onto Twitter…is not to be advised.

“Now we’ve had a good look at the ‘why’ – the changes to the Science Museum group and its parts – we understand the reason for the change a little better.

“Our logo had become quickly recognisable as the Science Museum’s – but how would it have coped as the visual link across the group of museums? We’ll never know,” the statement reads.

North’s response: “People are too quick to judge”

Perkins tells Design Week in response: “Anybody who understands how you build identities should realise there’s no change without good reason.

“There are strategic reasons and rationales behind this. It’s not about a logo or what it looks like, it’s there to do a job – it will bring the group together under one visual language.

“The past identity was just for London, and arguably, it signified a sci-fi (science fiction) future. But unfortunately it was stylised, and the more fashionable and trendy, the more dated a logo becomes. It was also hard to read, especially for young people and those of other nationalities visiting the museum.

“There are often immediate, knee-jerk reactions to identities,” he continues. “People are too quick to judge. They should wait and experience it themselves.”

Rolling out in Bradford first

The new visual identity is currently rolling out at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, and will continue to roll out across all museums over the next 12 months.

It will be applied to all digital and physical touchpoints include online platforms, print and marketing materials, wayfinding and signage, uniforms and merchandise.

Hide Comments (2)Show Comments (2)
  • Chris Wood October 16, 2017 at 10:17 am

    The idea of consolidating the look of all five museums is a sensible one, and the decreasing weight of the typography is attractive – but do prepare to end up in Pseuds’ Corner if you’re going to use expressions such as “The wash of colour and font is like a light being switched on across the typography” and “It’s a great articulation of the museums’ specialisms”…

  • Tim Riches October 16, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I was always told that a great identity should be recognised – not read. So I have some sympathy for Johnson Banks here. Their ‘sciencey’ identity was relevant, flexible and hardly had the time to cement long term recognition. If it wasn’t for the organic and fluid colour wash the new ERCOesqe typography wouldn’t be quite as strong or relevant. Big points to North for developing a visually stunning expression which does now consolidate all the museums. I look forward to seeing it rolled out, but I can’t help thinking that a combination of the outgoing identity and new visual expression would be a lot stronger.

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