When the board of trustees approved the Baltimore Museum of Art’s new mission and vision statements late in 2018, they cemented the direction in which Christopher Bedford was already leading the Museum: to a place of social justice, equity, reciprocity, and artistic excellence that is relevant to Baltimore and resonates in the world at large. These are the values that drive our work, and we decided our brand should be re-imagined to reflect these values.
Where We Started
Members of the Marketing and Experience team at the BMA spent four months in 2019 interviewing colleagues, trustees, docents, volunteers, Museum visitors, Baltimore residents, and tourists to arrive at an understanding of how the BMA is perceived. We spent a lot of time in the neighborhoods around the Museum, at our Museum branch at Lexington Market, at the Inner Harbor, and at Penn Station talking to people about the BMA. We wanted to know what motivates people to visit and the pain points they experience when visiting, what compels them to seek out art, and what artistic encounters they remember most vividly.
We took everything we learned to develop a new framework for talking about the Museum. At the heart of this framework is the Museum’s personality, defined in four traits: honest, vibrant, empathetic, and fearless.
We took everything we learned to develop a new framework for talking about the Museum.
Partners for the Work
With our brand language in hand, in early 2020, we partnered with design studio Topos Graphics and Baltimore-based graphic designer Bruce Willen to create the brand visual identity. We found them to be the perfect team, with Willen bringing his years of experience creating within the Baltimore community and Topos their understanding of museums and cultural spaces.
What We Built
I. A Color System
In each of the key components of the new brand identity, the design team leaned into not only our brand personality, but how the BMA conducts its work. They started with a color system that reflects our personality and honors our process-driven sensibility.
First, to connote honesty, we looked at where the BMA began, with the gift of a work called Mischief by William Sergeant Kendall. Topos calculated the average color value of the work and the resultant tan hue became the starting point for our institutional color system. From there, they developed a color value for vibrant by fully saturating the honest hue. The orange-red is arrived at by relating to the mischief color, and the orange-red color became the color equivalent for vibrant. Empathetic, a warm purple, is represented by an analogous region on the color wheel to the vibrant color.
Finally, for fearless, a rich, brilliant blue.
Because it’s a color system rather than a color palette, the logic governing each color selection can be applied to special exhibitions, events, or other Museum initiatives. The colors are relational and react to one another – not unlike the way communities react to one another. The blue is a constant, and we determine a value for honest by finding an image that rings true as a starting point for the project.
II: Haptic Backgrounds
The design team created a visual interpretation of the BMA’s haptic and collaborative approach to programming and interpretation. Calling them haptic backgrounds, they serve the utilitarian purpose of providing a base for all manner of collateral, from brochures to stationery to the new website.
III: Logo Instrument
The BMA’s logo is constructed in two parts. First, at its base, a text treatment situated beneath a dashed line, effectively setting up the Museum as a stage for creativity.
Above it, the letters B M A, written by Museum visitors and collaborators. The handwriting marks featured in Museum collateral will always change, drawing from a repository of submissions from visitors, staff, and anyone who interacts with the Museum. The number of handwriting marks will vary in each application, with some selected for recency and others because they resonate with a specific application. For example, staff business cards feature staff handwriting marks as the topmost layer of markings.
Beginning Wednesday, May 5, visitors at the BMA will be able to share their own letter marks using an iPad app in the East Lobby. Letter marks will be submitted to the repository of all community marks, and visitors will soon have the opportunity to design a postcard with their mark and print it at the museum.
We wanted not just to represent, but to create a means for a multiplicity of voices to come together.
Why This Logo
We wanted not just to represent, but to create a means for a multiplicity of voices to come together. The logo celebrates the richness of the BMA community. The logo becomes more legible when the marks overlap and join together, and there is strength and beauty in the cacophony of hand marks.
We hope you find that our logo embodies our commitment to being a platform for creativity, to evolving with and because of our community.