Design Museum identity (2003, 2016)
The British institution gets a new home and refined look, but still speaks with that Swiss/German accent we’ve grown to love.
In 2003, Graphic Thought Facility designed an identity for the Design Museum of London. The typographic aspect of that system has held remarkably intact ever since, even after an update that was announced last week. More about that news later, but first, the type.
The logo comes from FF Schulbuch, a typeface series derived from the various standards of German schoolbook authorities. The core of this design, especially FF Schulbuch Nord, is very similar to Helvetica (besides Schulbuch’s “early reader” forms of ‘a’ and ‘l’), but FF Schulbuch Süd, which serves most of the Design Museum identity, has several distinctive shapes (‘G, I, J, M, R, t, u, y’) based on German writing models. The uppercase ‘I’, with a horizontal bar and a ‘J’-hook bottom, is the most unfamiliar form for contemporary readers, which is likely why it was replaced with a more conventional ‘I’ in the logo.
The Design Museum incorporated this and other substitutions in a customized version of the FF Schulbuch fonts which they have used consistently in all their branded collateral since 2003. You can even see them in action on the museum’s Flash-based website that was active until 2006.
2016 Identity Update
This week, in advance of the institution’s big move to Kensington, West London in November 2016, the Design Museum identity got a subtle update:
Studio Fernando Gutiérrez brings the museum’s custom typeface – or at least its spirit – into the logo and other accompanying wordmarks. The designers did make some adjustments to the type: “the” appears to come from Neue Helvetica instead of FF Schulbuch.
The original “DESIGN MUSEUM” mark has been revised as well, with the most apparent change to the ‘G’, which now curves inward slightly at the edge of the horizontal stroke, and has a rounder, more balanced feel. That old Schulbuch ‘G’ does seem to lean forward a bit, calling attention to itself, and if the point of this identity is to embue modernity, but not stand out too much, these little changes make a lot of sense.
Of course, some might say that Helvetica roots are too Swiss for a British institution, but after 13 years of speaking in this particular typographic voice, the Design Museum would sound strange using any other dialect.