Responses by Paul Tunnicliffe, director, Blast
Background: The Ashmolean Museum is the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, and home to half a million years of human history and creativity. Founded by Alias Ashmole in 1683, the Ashmolean is the world’s first public museum. The main purpose of the project was to align the identity with the Ashmolean’s ambitious new strategic plan. We wanted to widen the Ashmolean’s reach, increasing the size and diversity of the visitors, while enhancing the museum’s reputation and building awareness of the Ashmolean brand. We were briefed to solve various problems with the previous visual identity—such as the logo and descriptor lock-up’s legibility problems. We developed a new identity to help engage these new audiences, while also staying true to its heritage and values.
Reasoning: Our solution is based around the concept of guiding audiences through the museum’s world-class collections and exhibitions. The A logo device with its extended crossbar—inspired by the concept of a timeline—creates a bold symbol for the Ashmolean and a recognizable shorthand mark. This approach creates a distinctive but flexible Ashmolean brand style, with the logo’s change in position allowing the typographic layouts to vary, from left aligned to centered and even vertical.
Challenges: Developing a creative and engaging concept that had a “big idea,” and could also fulfill all the brief’s practical requirements. It was important that the solution not only reflected the beauty and history of the Ashmolean, but also was contemporary and engaging to modern audiences, while not alienating traditional audiences and academics. Another challenge was ensuring that all the staff and stakeholders adopted the new brand strategy as an intrinsic part of the organization’s culture.
Favorite details: How the visual identity solution works on a conceptual level, and how it creates a simple and elegant mark. Also, the way the brand identity comes to life through moving images, working across the museum’s information screens and digital communications. We also developed key messaging including a new strapline: “Inspiring minds, since 1683,” which encapsulates all the Ashmolean has to offer. The strapline is designed to be flexible to help communicate different values to different audiences, such as “Sharing people’s stories since 1683” and “Welcoming everyone since 1683.”
Visual influences: The beauty and history of the museum and its collections; the concept of a pointer on a timeline and the idea of “sharing people’s stories, across cultures and through time.” The vibrant colors of the museum’s galleries, paired with the more subtle colors of the exterior stonework, also influenced the brand color palette.
Anything new: While not exactly new, as you gain more experience, you realize how important the client is in reaching an effective, creative solution. We worked closely with the Ashmolean for eighteen months, from initial research and brand auditing to delivering the new brand strategy and identity. The Ashmolean team was supportive and trusted us to deliver the project, while we trusted their expertise and experience to inform the brand’s development.