A new identity for the Science Museum

London’s Science Museum has been steadily transforming itself over the past few years in order to appeal to a wider audience. This month a new identity for the institution was unveiled by johnson banks that aims to build on that momentum

London’s Science Museum has been steadily transforming itself over the past few years in order to appeal to a wider audience. This month a new identity for the institution was unveiled by johnson banks that aims to build on that momentum…

The London-based studio was appointed at the end of 2009 to redesign the Science Museum’s brand and identity. According to creative director Michael Johnson, while the much-loved museum has offered plenty of groundbreaking exhibition design, there was a sense it could further its appeal beyond the traditional family audience. The museum’s Lates series of events, for example, have proved particularly appealing to those wishing to experience the many interactive exhibits without the kids.

While we’ll be looking at the project in more depth in the August issue of CR (as our Case Study feature) we asked Johnson to talk us through the work’s development.

“The museum briefed us to search for a more sophisticated visual identity, to avoid the usual science clichés of test tubes and mad, white-lab-coated professors, whilst supplying more cut-though,” he explains. “We were also keen to find a visual style that was much more than just a logo and could plant the museum back in the minds of audiences who might have forgotten them.”

“In identity terms the museum has lagged behind its London competitors,” says Johnson. “They had a simple wordmark and crest in the 80s which was slowly replaced by the ‘Sci M’ device in the late 80s. This was dropped a decade ago in favour of a simple typographic solution but this had struggled for recognition, especially in the competitive environment of cultural posters on London’s underground.”

“After experimenting with several routes, the chosen idea stemmed from research we did on codes, puzzles, patterns and basic digital typefaces, and we found a way to shorten the word science so we could create a grid-like ‘stack’ of the letterforms. We also began to experiment with slightly abstracted letterforms as we noticed that ‘science’ and ‘museum’ were relatively generic words.”

“When we shared it with the client – and with the public in research – it became clear that people read many meanings into it as they ‘decoded’ the letterforms,” Johnson contnues. “Some see it as futuristic, some as scientific. One respondent said it seemed ‘binary, modern and classical at the same time’. This is a useful trait for a logo – it means many things to different people without being overly specific about one aspect of science over another, allowing us to use it on a myriad different applications.”

“From the outset in implementation we used the logo as large as possible, and extrapolated the typeforms into a headline typeface. Early applications see underground posters that feature visitors touching the new logo from behind, or within the poster, and the campaign for the newly redesigned Who Am I? gallery uses a boy and girl’s face that have been ‘debranded’ and covered with the words ‘who am I?'”

According to Johnson, all the banners on the front of the museum have been replaced, as have the elements in the museum concourse. The new design will gradually be run out through the museum and permeate marketing materials, communications, websites and retail products. The Lates posters and communications are also to be rebranded with stronger type and a series of images by photographer John Ross.

More images of the new identity and how the branding has been rolled out inside the museum will form part of the Case Study feature in the August issue of CR.

Design: johnson banks
Designers: Michael Johnson, Kath Tudball, Miho Aishima

Science Museum clients:
Tim Molloy, Head of Creative Direction
Andrea Dearden, Head of Marketing

Brand posters: Lee Funnell
Who Am I? posters: Jan Masny
Lates posters: John Ross

Typeface construction:
The Foundry



To all our readers, a challenge

In the interests of everyone, we want to raise the tone of the debate on this blog.

This is a major redesign for a major institution. In the past, discussion of such projects here has quickly descended into relentless negativity, insult and abuse.

So here is our challenge to you – be as critical as you like but any comments from now on which, in our opinion, are not thoughtful, well-argued, constructive or which do not move the debate on will be deleted.

Improving the level of debate will make this site a better experience for everyone.


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