Opinion: the Design Museum Shop identity

The Design Museum Shop has a new identity. Build’s friendly, fun scheme has been superseded by Spin’s elegant, pared back approach. Graphic design in microcosm.

The Design Museum Shop has a new identity. Build’s friendly, fun scheme has been superseded by Spin’s elegant, pared back approach. Graphic design in microcosm.

Five years ago, the Design Museum shop adopted a new visual identity system created by Build. “We tried numerous approaches, many of them serious, even a little high-brow,” the studio said of its work on the project. “The end result was much more fun, approachable and of course enticing, to get feet through the shop door at the end (or the start) of a visit.”

Update: see the end of this post for an explanation of the new strategy from Design Museum’s Head of Retail Alice Marsh

That scheme has now been replaced with a new one by Spin (as we reported here) which aligns the shop much more closely with the main Museum brand (merely adding +SHOP to the existing GTF-designed mark) and elegantly employs a simple line as a graphic device to tie the scheme together.

Design Museum Shop paper bags using the old Build identity (top) and the new Spin scheme (above)

There is always more than one route to solve a design problem: in this case, we must presume, boosting sales for a shop within an insitution that caters to a design-literate, or at least design-curious, audience. Do you create a separate identity for the shop thus distinguishing it from the rest of the Museum, recognising the demands of its distinct, commercial, public-facing purpose and building a brand in its own right, or do you exploit the brand of the Museum itself by making the shop visually much more a part of the organisation and aligning the Museum’s various activities using one consistent visual language? Do you seek to make what could be seen as a high-brow institution more friendly and welcoming, your mission to convince that design is for everyone and not just those in fancy glasses, or do you take the view that the country’s only specialist design museum should be confident in its appeal and reflect the values of those whose work it displays? Should the Museum Shop’s own visual identity be as visually stimulating as the products it sells or should it stand back, be neutral and let the products take centre stage?

The Build-designed Shop (top) and Spin’s new look (above)

In many ways the Build and Spin schemes are a microcosm of graphic design. It can be warm or it can be cool: rounded or sharp-edged. It can seek to differentiate or integrate. It can be open and diverse or it can seek order and tidyness. It can bound up to you, tail wagging, or it can maintain its distance and be slightly aloof.

Build-style package top, Spin above

You can find fault with either approach: the Build scheme might be seen as twee, its distinctiveness may date, its style jar with that of the rest of the Museum. The Spin scheme, on the other hand, could be accused of being too ‘obvious’, too pared down, lacking in character, the line too simplistic a device. And that – bizarre to me – criticism that we often get in the comments here that ‘they haven’t done much for the money’ as if the worth of design projects should be determined by ink coverage or the quantity of typefaces employed.

Build bags top, Spin above


And both can be praised: Build’s scheme was a breath of fresh air, it offered multiple opportunities to create ‘own-brand’ products, it was fun and extremely engaging. Spin’s is elegant, appropriate, brings the shop back in line with Museum brand and we all know that doing the simplest thing can be the hardest thing of all.

There are always shifting priorities within client organisations which inform the tone of their communications: at some point the emphasis is on being more approachable, friendly, then research tells them that’s gone too far and they want to be taken seriously again. In times of plenty they may want to be seen to be confident and effervescent, then times get tougher and something more austere is the order of the day. One year it could be all about establishing a federation of sub-brands, the next something more monolithic is deemed appropriate. One year they want flexible and multifaceted, the next iconic. It’s up to the designer to respond to those demands and produce something appropriate. It doesn’t mean what went before was necessarily wrong (although it might have been), more often simply that it might be an idea to try something new.

That’s why what has happened with the Design Museum shop is interesting. It’s far from the biggest or most important redesign we’ll see this year but it’s a good example of how different graphic design executional approaches result from different perceived client needs and of the two parallel tracks that visual communications often finds itself on. The slightly warm and fuzzy, informal and friendly set aside the cool and elegant, formal and intellectual. Neither is inherently right nor wrong and, as this case shows, both can be deemed appropriate for the same organisation at different times. In another five years, we might see the Design Museum Shop switch tracks again.

UPDATE: I’ve just been speaking to Design Museum Head of Retail Alice Marsh regarding the thinking behind the new look. As suspected, Marsh says that “We wanted to bring the shop more in line with the museum in general” as the Museum continues to go through a period of change preceding its move to a new site. “We wanted to pare everything down, streamline it and move forward in keeping with the whole museum.” Spin had already been doing some work with the Museum on membership and so was asked to work on the shop. Marsh says that the Shop hopes to continue and expand its programme of collaborations with designers to produce products for sale. Therefore, they wanted an identity with a more neutral stance that would place the designers themselves more to the fore: that the shop would act as a platform for the designers it works with, almost a blank canvas for them to express themselves upon. “We didn’t want to impress our mark too much on them,” she says. The new scheme has templates which allow for collaborators, including designers and makers, to be credited on, for example, packaging or the Shop’s bags (see type top right on paper bag in the image below).

This also explains the introduction of the + symbol, which will be used to indicate the collaborative nature of the Shop in commissioning designers to produce products for it ie DESIGN MUSEUM SHOP + TERENCE CONRAN.

As for the line device, she says “It’s a starting point” and that they will go on to explore it with collaborators so that, for example, a textile designer might produce a piece for sale featuring a stitched line on a scarf.

Marsh stresses that the DM still works with Build on projects such as Young Designers, will still stock Build-designed ranges in the shop and sees the studio as a very important partner. “I loved the Build identity,” she says. “[The new look] is not a discredit to them in any way.” Build’s birdie badge (below), which is derived from the old identity, is still a bestseller in the shop.

As regards the Museum’s impending move, Marsh says that the Shop will have a much bigger space in the new building allowing for even more collaborations.



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  • A fine article which made for a fine read. Thanks for the insights Patrick.

  • Fran

    A re-think was probably a good idea, but this solution is pretty bland.

    The purpose and even the physical position of the shop at the museum are meant to entice and engage EVERYONE, not just those who’ll supposedly respond most positively to the ‘intellectual’ (or in this case, dull) re-design.

    A seasoned designer might look at the line device and celebrate its purity and elegance – Joe Public, to whom the museum and its shop are also supposed to appeal, will see a flat boring line on a cheap-looking paper bag. It’s always difficult to judge without seeing this work first-hand, of course, but I can’t help but think this is a wasted opportunity.

  • nice article – an interesting read.

    i liked the build identity then; i prefer the spin identity now.

  • I like the new identity – it’s smart and clean in these austere times, as well as subjective to the individual. However I can’t help feeling it lacks the sense of fun the original identity had (maybe this is a sign of the year ahead?). Either way, it looks great!

  • Nice to see CR respond so quickly with a more in-depth look at the issue.

  • What’ll be interesting to see is how this is all going to look once the museum has moved – will we see a complete redesign/rebrand of everything. Exciting!

  • Interesting article that gives both approaches a fair hearing. What I would disagree with is your point “…which aligns the shop much more closely with the main Museum brand”

    I think the majority of GTF’s DM brand is the timeless line drawings and as such they designed them as very much part of the marque. A brand is much more than a typeface, which to be honest is all the Spin work has in common with the museum brand.

    This image for me is the DM mother brand — http://www.graphicthoughtfacility.com/media/images/Design-Museum-Cafe-Sign-WEB_.jpg

  • I find the “general public” are generally quite sophisticated.


    when I went to art school we had process white dripped in our eyes if we used the “like” word.

  • Oneofthosepeople

    Wrong is spelt worng in the last paragraph.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    The irony! Thanks for that, changed now

  • Very well done CR, great article and one that will hopefully tame the haters somewhat!

    Like you say I always find it amazing that designers can look at an identity and make comments that ‘they’ve not done much for their money’, Spin are great studio and the Design Museum, for any studio, is a fantastic client so I’m sure endless amounts of labour went into the identity. I find ‘simple and elegant’ are often two of the hardest things to get a client a to buy into, so well done Spin. I like the approach and look forward to seeing it roll out.

  • Patrick,
    Nice read but I don’t think that it really an “opinion” since you couldn’t have planted yourself more firmly on the fence.
    Yes, either direction “looks good” but is shifting 180 degrees from an approachable, soft, quirky identity to a serious, cold, elitist identity a good move for such an organisation?
    I don’t think so. I think it reenforces the stereotype of design as an elitist pursuit. If it was a store aimed exclusively designers then I think the new ID is appropriate (if very expected), but surely that it not all the Design Museum is about.
    I could see my kids and my parents all being drawn to the original brand, I don’t think I could say the same for the update.
    I would have loved to see an updated version of the original (kill the now-cliched twitter birds for a start) rather than slick reinvention.
    Does anyone else see the parallels between this as the famous Saville England Shirt Debate of a year or so ago?
    At the end of the day, this is a small, and ultimately unimportant (but nearly everything is), rebrand, but I do like the larger issues it raises about what we do.

  • I think the article raises an interesting point about the importance of considering the possible reasons and rationale behind the change, which is a really important thing to keep in mind.

    That said, regardless of how good, bad or appropriate the previous identity was and how different this is from Build’s work, I can’t get past the fact that this new approach is simply not very interesting. However much thought and research went into the creative process, the result is largely based around a vertical line. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about it, but I find it difficult to muster any feelings about the work. I would prefer if they did something interesting enough for me to hate.

    I completely understand the fact that a sense of fun might not be the appropriate tone given the current climate, and appreciate that Spin had a brief which we haven’t read, but if the aim was to make the shop an interesting and attractive area within the museum, I don’t think this work does the job.

  • On one of the cups featuring Builds old design the little vector birds speech bubble states “less is more”, Spin has achieved this and looks really cool. It is the Design Museum + the shop and everything has been considered, my favourite being the difference between the design of the shops packages, of which spins design I would be happy to come through my door but builds old package design I’m not so sure of.

  • Lee

    I like both. Not great, groundbreaking but nice. Preferred the Build work but like the simplicity of this.

    I do however have a huge issue with the ‘+’ I don’t see how it makes any sense. It makes it feel like they have renamed the Design Musem to Design Museum Plus Shop. I don’t understand how that was allowed to go through by the client. From a naming point of view it just seems wrong. I have the same problem with Johnson Banks’ recent Virgin virgin atlantic/virgin atlantic virgin (depending which side of the plane your looking at) rebrand. The name confuses me.

    Feels like the Sky pro cycling team brand. In execution.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Mark
    It’s ‘Opinion’ as opposed to a straightforward news story which our original post was. An opinion (‘viewpoint’) about this work in the wider context of graphic design rather than an opinion (‘judgement’) on the merits of the work itself.

  • I prefer the new identity, given the context. The shop should feel integrated with the museum, not separate, as with Build’s work (which I also love). The shop should also appear secondary to the museum itself, which I think is achieved here in a sophisticated manner. Ok it’s not as ‘exciting’, but perhaps that’s the point; plenty of excitement can be found within the walls of the building itself.

  • So come on Patrick, which one do you like best?

  • Mark M.

    Nice read & opinion.

    In all honesty, I disliked the original. I found it looked more like a toy store or sweet shop and not conveying the feel of a design museum.

    Spin have taken the original and created an elegant design that focus’s on the shop and a platform where now Build’s bird and other designers can express their own style on mugs, t-shirts and other media.

    Well done Spin, well done.

  • Chris

    I can appreciate the concept behind this work, but it doesn’t engage me on any level.

    I understand that “first physical articulation of a design, whatever the discipline and technology, is often a humble line” but why not begin to show us what a joyous thing a humble line can become?

    In any event most work doesn’t begin life as a humble “straight” line but a line with much more expression. A beautiful curve, a slightly wonky hand drawn pencil mark, an inked line in a sketchbook that has a fat dollop of ink where the designer has perhaps paused to consider his/her next move, a child’s first mark with a big fat crayon. “humble straight” lines are nearly always more interesting than computer generated perfection.

    The concept is a good one, it’s just a shame that all the promise of that “humble straight” line has been stripped out.

  • The new identity is more than a little reminiscent of a pharmacy – it feels overly clinical and un-inclusive.

    I have to agree with Lee in that the the ‘+’ mark seems extraneous.

  • Rob

    This is certainly an interesting one — a very niche and relatively small scale project that is bound to be highly divisive. I’ll state my side of the fence now: I don’t like it. I think its extremely dry and I don’t “get” the use of meaning of the line (a very reductive criticism I know, but one i feel none the less).

    The argument rests on this interesting part of the article: “Do you seek to make what could be seen as a high-brow institution more friendly and welcoming, your mission to convince that design is for everyone and not just those in fancy glasses, or do you take the view that the country’s only specialist design museum should be confident in its appeal and reflect the values of those whose work it displays?”

    For me, I feel quite strongly for the former. I agree with the criticism that Build’s effort will certainly date (although I don’t feel that that time has come quite yet) however, for an institution that touts itself as a museum i think that making it a place for anyone to go, learn about and be interested in design (especially the younger generation and kids in school who might be interested in graphics but know little about it) is absolutely integral to keeping it interesting and relevant.

    Asking if “design museum should be confident in its appeal and reflect the values of those whose work it displays?” is also a very interesting point and for me raises a more general criticism of the museum itself. I think justifying Spin’s design with this argument suggests that a place which is so broadly named as the Design Museum should only reflect such a narrow set of creative values is well….a little bit disappointing. Should the Design Museum only exhibit the work (and therefore only reflect the values) of famous designers like Wim Crouwel (don’t get me wrong that was an excellent exhibition) when a designer like Roman Cieslewicz or Tadanori Yokoo is just as important and exciting a poster designer while exhibiting opposite creative and cultural values which cannot really be compared (and certainly one cannot be considered “better” than the other.)

    Anyway, I think for a museum full of exciting interesting things – and indeed a shop full of books talking about those things as well as some intriguing, innovative products, this design is very boring.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Jim Davies
    Personally, I liked the strategy of the Shop being more fun and inclusive (most of the products in it are of that nature – T-shirts, prints, mugs etc) and the way in which Build articulated that – minus the bird which is a bit twee and I guess has now been superseded by Twitter. But, if the DM thinks it needs a different approach then my personal taste doesn’t really matter: what matters is how successful the new scheme is in responding to that new thinking (which is the wider point I’m trying to make in the piece).

    We’ve approached the DM to try to find out a bit more about the brief and will update the story as soon as we hear anything

  • A thoroughly interesting article which I’m sure I’ll be turning over in my head for the rest of the day.

    I admire both approaches really and I’m looking forward to seeing how the new Spin identity rolls out, from personal experience I saw how Builds identity engaged a wider audience, my own little sister (11) took to her ‘Young designer kit’ with much enthusiasm and gave her an awareness of design, it was great to see the Design museum reach out in an intelligent way through design to different audiences via it’s shop. Saying this though I can easily imagine in the roll out and product extension that Spin’s work could connect the dots full circle to the GTF / Kam Tang illustration work, or perhaps to new areas entirely.

  • Thanks Patrick, this is a really refreshing article which highlights something that any of us who have been around in design for some time have to face – our work is rarely definitive and what works today can quickly become tired and unfashionable.

    When we think of the iconic brands that have survived decades with small tweaks they are, actually, few and far between. Many companies are too quick to rebrand and assume design to be the cure for more profound ailments which need to be tackled first. On the other hand retail is much more reflective of fashion and on the high street five years is the average time for a brand to survive unchanged.

    We have some experience of museum shops. My partner Andrew designed the SCiM logo for the retail arm of the Science Museum back in 1988 and it quickly became the face of the museum. Later we worked on a project exploring a new personality for the National Gallery shop but this opened a can of worms that the conservative gallery establishment won. Its a particularly difficult and sensitive relationship between a museum and retail and the branding solutions that the world sees are only a reflection of the see-sawing dynamics between the academicians and marketeers behind the scenes.

  • John

    It looks like design for designers rather than design for everyone. Builds design injected not only fun but was universal, I used to love getting a package wrapped in tape from DM and visiting the shop many times I really loved how the brand was used on all of their products. This refresh is a step backwards and seems insular which is strange seeing DM is preparing to move to a bigger location but also extend its reach.

  • Brilliant article, Patrick. (and thank you for coming to talk to us at LCC back in March 2011!)

    Like the above commenter, both approaches are greatly admired, and Build’s identity engages a wider (and younger) audience, I have to say that their approach almost seemed a little messy at times, i.e. when there is more than one ‘Shop’ type when it is combined with the DM identity, particularly in a typographic manner; the mail packaging was a bit painful to look at.
    Spin’s approach does indeed ooze out more high-brow engagement towards DM. This is not to say that it is snobby, but remains in line with the rest of the brand in which DM endorses, and allows greater freedom for extension if need be.

    Nevertheless, both great identities, and would be interested in seeing what the next steps would be for both DM, and perhaps the reactions (if any) from the general public.

  • What a fantastically written article, hats off to Patrick for the engaging and balanced debate. It’s pretty clear that both directions have equal merit, both visually well executed and reach the audience albeit in different ways. As a designer I could not say which I preferred, to be honest neither would put me off visiting and I think that it will probably be the same for many others. The question then becomes what is the point of the exercise? Brand alignment, not really that necessary, it’s housed in the museum. Distinctive own branded products? – I think this is a marginally better reason to stick with the original, it wasn’t to far away from the DM aesthetic. Still, nice job from Spin.

  • Ric

    For me Spin’s identity makes more of the choices of materials, e.g. the white paper bags with squigey print repro evoke memories of pre-plastic bag era shopping, such as in John Lewis and WHSmiths. A bit retro then perhas, but the minimal typography, carefully placed in the corners means that surface textures of paper, card or plastic can become a quiet feature of the design.

  • Tom

    The new identity reminds me quite a lot of Pharmacy (think it was Damien Hirst’s restaurant/bar?). Very clean and ‘design’, but I have to say I preferred the playfulness of the old identity.

  • Nathan

    The Cafe branding linked above looks really nice; but I’m really not a fan of that ‘+’, it bothers me. What does it mean anyway? Design Museum AND Shop? Design Museum PLUS Shop? I mustn’t be a sophisticated designer because I certainly don’t get it.

    The single vertical line is a nice touch, but I’d have definitely gone down the Cafe route and agree that based on that evidence this isn’t particularly consistant.

  • I have to agree with James Greenfield’s comment re. what is really the DM ‘brand’. I also always see the combination of typography and sketches in my head when thinking of the Design Museum. If the shop branding is an attempt to fit with the main branding, where are the sketched elements that would bring back some of the fun?

  • Tom

    Does the change to a line from a bird stop you buying a book you like the look of?
    Does the line stop you from entering a clean, approachable space filled with design merchandise that everyone enjoys from ‘joe public’ to the elitist?

    No it doesn’t… so why waste your time hating a line?
    If there is surly one thing a line with some typography cannot do it is offend.

  • Thinking about this a bit more too other points come to mind:

    The culture of museums has completely changed, at the It’s Nice That conference last December I listened to Chris Dercon director of Tate Modern discuss how museums are ‘spaces for encounters’, that many visitors to the Tate aren’t actually coming to see Art at all, they come to meet, eat, shop etc. Perhaps Spin’s work reflects the museum’s need to project itself as a singular institution to also take advantage of this shift.

    Secondly it dawned on me that The Design Museum is moving location in the not so distant future, and to fill in the gap the Spin work signals that the museum won’t be moving away from the overall GTF brand when it moves to Kensington Olympia which in my opinion is still great work.

  • What is the relevance of the little bird?
    ps. Not critiquing, just genuinely interested to know.

  • David Williams

    I am going to put myself in the firing line and say, I cannot see how the new ‘design’ can be so applauded. So it took a design agency to come up with the new concept of adding ‘+ SHOP”. What a complete waste of time, money and little effort to be honest. Also I am disgusted how much attention is being given to the non design to be honest.

  • @ Graphic Design Harrogate

    It’s a mascot that can be used as part of the identity or separated.

    Our comment from the other thread:

    Without seeing the brief Spin were given by The Design Museum it’s hard to comment.
    We can only comment on the brief we were given by the then DM Shop manager Simon Armstrong which was to give the shop character and a voice of its own.
    As we stated in the Creative Review piece ‘A month in the life of a graphic designer’ we tried a multitude of routes from muted/high-brow to characterful before settling on the final route.
    As the DM Shop now has a new manager we can only surmise that they (as is the clients prerogative) wanted to work with someone different. While we naturally feel disappointed that we weren’t selected to work on the rebrand, we understand the possible reasoning behind the decision.

    Michael C Place/Build

  • The re-brand is predictably on-trend. Did the old design exist before twitter?

  • @ Tom

    ‘If there is surly one thing a line with some typography cannot do it is offend.’

    If the best thing this identity can do is be inoffensive then what’s the point in branding the shop at all? Creating work that doesn’t offend is pretty easy, creating work that engages is a bit more of a challenge. One that in this case, simply hasn’t been met.

  • Jamie

    What is the font used on the word ‘shop’?

  • Firstly, this is an excellent and engaging article. I read it all!

    Secondly, I really don’t agree with all the talk about design reflecting the mood of the country or the dark times we’re mired in. Surely, now is the time for design to try and effect a change, lift the mood, give us all something to smile about. Even if it is just for a minute.

    Thirdly, maybe Spin should have put Build’s bird at the bottom of every line so the line becomes a worm the bird has in it’s beak. It might just assuage both sides of the dour/happy divide…

  • Great to see the CR blog flourishing with such an interesting discussion. I think it really helps seeing your voice pop up in the comments, Patrick. Plus, it’s great to see people with inside knowledge of the job (Michael from Build in this case) pitching in too. Makes it feel like a serious industry arena! Well done.

  • I am in two minds about the new design. From a design perspective I prefer the old version. It showed more personality and quirkyness… From a consultancy perspective I think integration of the logo and shop is vital. The shop is as famous as the museum, promoting fantastic design products and books. It deserves to be seen as one, rather than a standalone. However, can we not find a happy medium where people are not going to comment that a design studio came up with a + sign and a green line. It is minimalism taken to an extreme. Good and interesting discussion on this blog.

  • Jonny Summers-Muir

    Great Opinion piece. Comments are.. interesting.

    Both solutions are well executed and answer the brief set.

    It’s really interesting to see an outlet so easily change it’s entire positioning and tone through just a few vinyls and bags (obviously, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for Spin, a lot of thought has gone into this)

    That front desk visual is lovely. Very striking. Whole shop can breathe again.

    I wish more designers had the balls to do work like this, great comment on it —

    “And that – bizarre to me – criticism that we often get in the comments here that ‘they haven’t done much for the money’ as if the worth of design projects should be determined by ink coverage or the quantity of typefaces employed.” Well put!

    I like the ‘line’ motif. ‘All design starts with a line’. awesome.

    Jonny Summers Muir
    Graphic Arts Student
    Liverpool School of Art & Design

  • Lesley

    I think a combination of the old / new would have worked as a transition. I liked the bird from the old design and think it would have been good to work it in as part of the new identity. I do like the plain design of the new id, however the word ‘SHOP’ is standing out as unaligned to me.

  • Jonny Summers-Muir

    @Lesley (and everyone else going on about that bird)

    Your not really seeing the bigger picture here. The update above pretty much explains.

    Jonny Summers Muir
    Graphic Arts Student
    Liverpool School of Art & Design

  • Jamie

    What is the font used on the word ‘shop’?

  • Jess

    Less, but better.

    Dieter Rams.

  • Christopher Kemp

    It’s hard to imagine a less impactful or creditable solution. I agree that the +SHOP appendix defies logic, as does the idea of bisecting the area of a screen, paper bag or address label with a vertical line – like taking a knife to a canvas.

  • IC

    Divide & Rule

  • Michael Evamy

    How long will the straight line last? How long is a piece of string?

  • AJS

    Can we draw a line under this now?

  • It seems to me that museum shops are usually places of creativity. While the simple design leaves room for the artist/shopper’s interpretation and lets the artwork inside the store take center stage, it may be a so simplified as to not excite the consumer/shopper….which is the ultimate goal. I think there is room for combination. Make the line become a playful element where warranted. Let it twirl and morph into shapes, etc.

  • Jim

    I don’t like lines. I was attacked by a lion as a child, and line sounds similar to lion when said aloud. Nor do I like birds as I also fell victim to an attack as a young boy. Needless to say, I do like the colour green, but not that shade.

  • I like the new identity. Great article Patrick!

  • Pat

    With the current weather and extreme winds, I’m amazed the author was still able to sit on the fence – you may want to rename the article ‘Keeping Everyone Happy’ rather than ‘Opinion’.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ ‘Pat’
    Read the comments

  • Great article, a really interesting analysis.

    I wonder what the comments on this project would have been like if you had simply posted it as a new project, with no thoughts as to why it had been re-commissioned and therefore the resulting look.

    It would be interesting to hear more background to projects from the client side from time to time. As you point out, it is the client that commissions the work, and the designers that create the work to their brief. If we knew more about what was asked of agencies, we may get less criticism of the outcomes. Inevitably there will be people who respond by saying that Spin have done very little, that it is minimal, that it is obvious; but what about what was asked of them? You’ve made clear the other crucial side to every design story: that of the client.

  • Biff

    Lines must be the new circles 😉

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Marc
    Thanks. We do try to get client comments on as many pieces as we can but, often, they either won’t go on the record or will only do so in such general, banal terms that there is no point repeating what they had to say. Similarly, there are a lot of projects now where even the designers themselves are not allowed to comment beyond a press statement that has been previously agreed with the client and thus stripped of anything interesting.

  • LaLinea

    See also: Osvaldo Cavandoli’s La Linea

  • Hello CR-Blog

    I was the Head of Retail at the Design Museum from 2005-2010, and I commissioned Build to do the Shop ID as we were relaunching the online shop and launching the first range of DM branded products at the same time – it was a critical moment for a graphic overhaul.

    It is fascinating to see this re-brand discussed here, but more importantly I really like the comments, which raise some l important issues when considering the graphic identity of Museums & Galleries.

    When I commissioned Build to do the shop ID design, one of the key things I was trying to acheive (questionably, perhaps) was to create a ‘sub-brand’ or rather, to identify the shop as a standalone thing, part of the Museum of course, but also a place that could be visited and shopped on it’s own. I wanted the shop to be regarded not just as the cliched giftshop by the exit, but as destination in itself.

    At the time, this was the right thing to do; to ‘establish’ the shop by design, particularly online. So straying from the overall Design Museum visual umbrella was deliberate, intentional, and useful, as it all tied together with the new product range and stationery and so on.

    Now the shop is more established, it is perhaps sensible to pare down the design – I agree entirely with Alice Marsh, the present Head of Retail, that the shop is about the content, not about itself. I also think a lightness of touch, a Rams-ian approach of as little as possible, is best. Minimal interference on the platform, just let the products speak for themselves. Spin’s timely re-interpretation is ideal.

    With Build’s ID we were also looking to add character, playfulness, to appeal to all ages and make the shop less intimidating to people who were not from a Design background. Hence the bubbly font, the bird and the speech bubbles and so on.

    We never did come up with a name for the birdie, ‘Des-Mond’ was mooted I think, but a few months after we introduced him, Twitter became so ubiquitous that now I guess Desmond should perhaps fly the nest, although I remain rather fond of the little fella.

    I like the new identity alot, I think it is considered and works well. The more interesting discussion this raises is how one approaches an overall graphic identity in a Museum / Gallery.

    Most, probably all, Museums and Galleries engage in an ongoing internal tussle around a coherent visual identity. When you have several different departments (eg; Marketing, Shop, Publishing) who all communicate outwards, it can be very tricky to balance scattered priorities. The danger in pleasing all departments is risking pleasing no-one outside, and a re-bRand can easily become a re-bLand. Not the case here though, I think Spin’s ID brings the shop back into the fold, and streamlines the overall Design Museum identity – very important prior to the expansion / move, which I hope will bring about a whole new graphic ID. Which one of you lot will do that job though!? I can’t wait to see it!

  • Johann du Plessis

    Just love the simplicity of the ‘new identity’ – uncluttered and fresh!
    Well done!

  • SimonH

    Don’t like it at all. The old Candice identity was fun, funky and appealed to everyone (though I agree with the poster above that Twitter now owns talking birds and that the DM shop’s bird had to go). This new version looks like it was supposed to appeal specifically to graphic designers who like unity of type and grids except it just looks a bit lazy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the vertical line.

    RE: “This also explains the introduction of the + symbol, which will be used to indicate the collaborative nature of the Shop in commissioning designers to produce products for it ie DESIGN MUSEUM SHOP + TERENCE CONRAN.”

    That doesn’t actually work as with this new identity you would get DESIGN MUSEUM + SHOP + TERENCE CONRAN.

  • TimmyD

    I like the simplicity of the new design, but I think it’s lost the ‘life’ of the previous version that worked so well for the DM retail side. It’s not showcasing the latest exhibit – it’s where people want to buy ‘stuff’. I can also understand why you’d want to ‘let the products speak for themselves’, but I think in this case it’s to the detriment of the DM shop. I loved the fact the previous version wasn’t highbrow and would often bring a smile to my face… until I saw the price! I agree it’s probably time to move on and do something new, just not this solution in this context.

    Also, even though I usually really like Spin’s work (and Builds), it’s not exactly the most original solution or very memorable. Definitely not ‘fresh’! I’m sure Gabriele Skelton would love to hear that. Their use of a + has been working well for a few years now. Maybe DM should team up with them?!

  • Sorry for the late response to this kerfuffle. I am probably writing this to myself at this stage but for what it’s worth…

    It has been fascinating to see contributors taking their positions either side of the line (sorry!), there have been some genuinely thoughtful comments amongst the smart one-liners (oops). I have always thought that designers and illustrators live and die by their opinions and that it is crucial to have them. It’s great that people care enough to want to put down their thoughts.

    Graphic design is a very broad church not everybody is going to like everything, the only comment I really take exception to is that the general public are in some way visually illiterate. The ‘my mum won’t like’ it line (lines, they crop up everywhere) of argument is totally defunct (my mum likes it by the way), please don’t design down to people, that isn’t the way to go.

    As far as the Identity is concerned the plan, as Alice suggested, is that it will be taken on, expanded upon and given a chance to fly (not unlike a little bird) by ourselves and other creative hands. Imagine yourself being given the line as a starting point, where would you take it, how would you apply it? I hope you agree it has some potentially interesting life in it.

  • John

    What a fuz over a crappy museum shop with an ugly counter where you buy your museum ‘design’ shit (everey museum sells the same overprized stuff) and an envelope and a bag tot put it in. You’re writing it
    as it is the rebranding of Apple. The stuff they sell is the same old museum shop shit. Whats the difference, really?
    But i f you want an opinion. The build id was fun, to get an envelop like that with the tape, the colours, the repetitive logo, the fun of it. Would love to get mail like that. Build thought of it as… ok, i visited this overrated expensive museum, bought this overprized design item, at least pack it with fun. Excellent. The new one is depressing in every detail. Even the plus suggest something horrible… oh there is a thought behind this plus and ugly line off centre on the bag… ?

  • Nice one John, a beautifully argued position.

  • Dan


    *as if it is

  • First of all I’m a hater. But this is the best thing I’ve read from Creative Review in a while. More of this kind of balanced, informed writing & opinion please.

    Reading the comments, particularly those of Patrick Burgoyne, Simon Armstrong, MCPlace & Tony Brook has also made it a far more interesting & rounded debate. Its not often we get to hear all sides of the story.

    For me, although meeting the brief at the time, Builds work went too far down the friendly & fun with personality route. It felt too far away from the serious DM marque that the DM had come to be more reliant on in favour of the full GTF brand James Greenfield talks about. The playful shop brand & the serious DM marque/brand felt at odds with one another.

    Which is why I think the Spin identity will work so well. On it’s own it’s deliberately inoffensive & bland, no more than a slight extension of the original DM marque. But like a kiddies colouring book waiting to be coloured in it is still unfinished & yet to come to life. Once that happens we’ll see the new living shop brand in all it’s glory. A brand that lives more harmoniously with the original visual identity GTF designed.

    In my humble opinion.

    Although the Spin identity

  • Ben

    Good article and enjoyed the comments. Will the DM website adopt the new identity, I wonder. It seems to have gone half way in its current form http://designmuseumshop.com/ doing the integrating bit that was said to be a key objective (‘Shop’ in same typeface as ‘Design Museum’), but no sign of the plus symbol or rule device. Surely a key application along with the bags and stickers etc. Or did it always look like that?

    After reading TB’s comment, I am excited to see how the new identity will be developed further (and maybe seeing it come to life online), but it would have been nice to let it hit the ground running, so we could see the potential as part of the big unveil (I know, it will come!).

    So where do we sign up to customise the green line?! That would be a nice campaign for design and non-design audiences alike, I would.

  • Costas

    Like others before me have said, this has been a thoroughly well written piece that has been so interesting to follow and discuss, however small or insignificant a redesign others here may think this is.

    What have been truly insightful are the comments from the “horse’s mouths” so to say; the DM retail heads past and present and Michael C Place and Tony Brooks. As a designer myself, one of the parts of my job I enjoy so much is being able to present an idea to a client and explain how the thinking behind it’s aesthetic answers their brief. I have never known anyone to simply give a client a piece of work without any rationale or discussion. Being able to hear both the cbriefs and rationales here simply demonstrates the merit and success of both designs. As suspected in my post in the previous article, the brief given to Spin was very different to the one given to Build.

    Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion but like with modern art, people are often quick to simply dismiss what they see on the surface and seem to have no desire to find out what the thing they are looking at actually means. I am surprised to see so many judge the new identity here in a similar way. I wonder whether having read all sides of the argument people may see both identities in a different light…

  • JonnySummersMuir


    couldn’t of timed that better.

  • I really like the new design, it’s bold and welcoming and makes the shop look like a friendly place to buy stuff. I think this a really great way to make design seem more accessible. That’s exactly what you need to attract shoppers and visitors. It’s really going to be important for the Design Museum shop to maintain the right mix of products and cater to their wider audience and the design community. Good job :-)

  • It was always a pleasure receiving something from the Design Museum because even though the packing itself looked like it had been taped together hurriedly out the back, the branding was lively enough to hold that all together…

    The new brand however will struggle unless they pack the boxes nicely as they are in the examples above.
    Would be nice to see how the new bags etc look with stuff actually in them.

    Regarding the line, the only thing bothering me with it is that it is not quite centred on the bags or is that the intention as it is not quite ‘out’ enough if so, and that would drive me mad also the line thickness seems to vary in proportion to the weight of the type in different scenarios, that will bug me too

    But look forward to see how it develops and actually seeing in use, rather than staged for press releases etc.

  • Dan

    “We tried numerous approaches, many of them serious, even a little high-brow”

    Get your hand off it.

    “The end result was much more fun, approachable and of course enticing”.

    You forgot “boring”, “unoriginal” and of course “ugly”.

    This “design” is mediocre at best. It was done by a Mac Operator, not a Graphic Designer.

  • Fresh looking rebrand.

    Is there any company or organization that will have their brand identity more thoroughly critiqued and analyzed then a design one?

  • Hranislav

    Back to 80`s

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ ‘Dan’
    No, it wasn’t. If you read the other comments on this strand you will see people making an effort to add something to the debate

  • Very nice post and very nice design. We share it in our blogs, congratulations.

  • steve

    it’s a real treat to hear from all sides, in particular Tony Brook and Simon Armstrong (who’s proabaly in the best position to have a balanced opinion in this debate).

    SA describes why i think it works far better than i can but i will leave everyone with this:

    why do the people in favour of the old identity assume that appealed to everyone and this one isn’t allowed to?

    I personally don’t dislike the Build approach (for then brief) but i don’t love it either. by creating such a stand-out identity in an environment with such stand-out objects is risky. Firstly, it jars with the very products it is trying to promote. Secondly, it tires very quickly to those who aren’t feeling it aesthetically, too flippant perhaps? once bored of it, because of its nature, it doesn’t really take a back seat so you’re stuck with it.

    The new approach on the other hand, while it may not be as ‘fun’, plays the role of providing a visual framework for the shop, whilst not taking centre stage and can be swithced on or off to suit different audiences. I quite like a return to an old-fashioned graphic solution. Its not always appropriate but in this case, i feel it’s wholly appropriate. It is what it is – The Design Musuem + Shop. It has far too much content and attributes to be narrowed to a very specific aeathetic such as the identity it just replaced.

    For those reasons (and a whole lot more) can’t wait to see what Spin other ‘creative hands’ will put on it to see just how long the line goes…

  • Nat

    I like the simplicity, but I feel there is no real connection with the DM; I feel that a designer must try and make some link somehow that appeals and connects with the company, their background and history.
    The bird is cute, but reminds me a lot of the Twitter bird. Birds in this style have been done to death. I don’t feel the link between design and the bird.
    Aesthetically, it is pleasing; sweet and funky but It is also extremely modern looking, which makes me question the longevity of the design.

    I think I would have liked to have seen something more of a compilation of various eras of design tied together into their brand. ie. Each letter being a different font from various design era’s . Bauhaus to Brutalist. Something that would reflect more about what the design museum is all about.

    I could see this design being used for something completely different; like a sweet shop or a baby product store. The design is great in itself, but not for a museum that houses some of the worlds most relevant design.

  • Steve 2

    I think you are about 5 years too late with that critique.

  • Doda

    I think the first design was fun, and although it reminds me a bit too much of Twitter I wouldn’t have changed it quite yet. The second design is simply an existing Dutch Design that, although “clean” and “design” is already over-used to exhaustion (see almost every single book by Dutch publishers 010).
    Last but not least, I suppose everyone in the world should know “the Design Museum Shop” and where it is? (not)
    (I never heard of it)

  • Steve Fisher

    A very strong piece of work and I think any rationale behind it is well articulated in this excellent piece by Patrick and by Tony Brook’s own comment above.

    I think this will divide opinion for various reasons;
    Because it is such a departure from Build’s previous work;
    Because of its simplicity, again in some contrast to the previous design;
    Because it’s for a museum, and work for museums, galleries always gets people pointing fingers and mentioning ‘gratuitousness’ ‘pretentiousness’ ‘sacrilege’ etc.

    Or maybe it’s because people who like Build’s work don’t usually like Spin’s (or vice versa).

    I’m sure the strength of this will be better perceived by the public and designers alike when the dust settles. I’m really look forward to seeing how Spin develop this further.

  • Ian Logan

    Predictable, boring and bland !
    Ian Logan LRW DESIGN

  • Jason Arbuckle

    Quite astonishingly dull. The bird at least had whimsy. I’m sure this new logo will be turfed out before too long but wonder if anyone will actually notice when it goes, it’s so plain.

  • What a great post Patrick, really enjoyed the read and loving the re-brand. It makes sense and could be iconic.

  • What a great post Patrick, really enjoyed the read and loving the re-brand. It makes sense and could be iconic.

  • JonnySummersMuir

    @Steve Fisher

    That was well said.

    I find the whole thing fascinating especially because Build + Spin are such contrasting setups.
    As Steve points out, some just prefer one’s style over another, rather than dissecting the aims and targets of the two different briefs.

    They’ve both been, equally, the most influential studios while I’ve been at University.
    I still find it strange that my peers don’t share the same admiration/appreciation for both studio’s output.

  • Tom

    Im not sure If i like the “shop” typography, appears like a simple pre-made font that was slapped together, and re-kerned. Apart form that the entire identity is pretty nice, Love the various packaging, especially the transparent envelope.

  • keith

    great article – what they may miss with the new look is the potential to support themselves with merchandise which the Build identity proved to be fun, flexible and profitable.

  • sam

    It is indeed fascinating to see such contrasting approaches compared against each other.

    I must admit that I far prefer the older design to the new one. Not on a purely aesthetic level, more because I know that my non-design-museum-friendly friends are drawn in by the fun, inventiveness of the shop and all the goodies within.

    Sadly, I can’t help but feel that in making the new approach a very clean, swiss looking affair, you exclude those who might come in for the shop and then be drawn into the rest of the museum beyond. I guess only time will tell.

  • I’d like to see how this will fit with the overall look/design in their new building.

  • I work in Italy in the same field of promotional items, and I must say that the items offered are very conventional. Certainly the shop to do business and the bags and cups are items that always sell well, but if items must be consistent with the image of the museum, visitors may expect something more .. do something that makes less money, but you need to make the image of the store’s most exclusive and unconventional.
    The term “design” I mean that the object must not be tied to fashion, design and fashion are two very different meanings, I see that the graphics used is the same that was in vogue some years ago (the drawing shows bird) has now passed, and the second reason for this is not very durable, the design is classic, not trendy.

  • The design does look very fresh and clean looking – excellent work.

    May I ask, why 2 clocks in the photo?