Hat Trick’s new identity for Imperial War Museums

Working with brand strategists Jane Wentworth Associates, London-based design agency Hat Trick has just unveiled a new identity it has created for the institution previously known as the Imperial War Museum…

Working with brand strategists Jane Wentworth Associates, London-based design agency Hat Trick has just unveiled a new identity it has created for the institution previously known as the Imperial War Museum

Now branded IWM (which stands for Imperial War Museums) the new identity looks to unify the five separate geographical sites (IWM London, IWM North in Manchester, IWM Duxford, the Churchill War Rooms in London, and also HMS Belfast) that make up the institution.

“Jane Wentworth Associates discovered that many people don’t realise that the Imperial War Museum is on more than one site,” explains Hat Trick’s Gareth Howat, “so the first thing was to unite this family of museums. JWA also did some work on the strategy and naming of it. Imperial War Museum is a bit of a mouthful so there was the idea that we should shorten it to IWM but also make it clear that this stands for Imperial War Museums in the plural.”

Imperial War Museum’s old logo

“The previous marque had been around for a while but seemed quite specific to World War II with its search lights which create a W and an M,” continues Howat. “IWM wanted to bring the marque up to date and in a way create something timeless. Jane Wentworth came up with the idea of the force of war which has the power to shape people’s lives. It’s this idea that the force of war can destroy something and at the same time create which informed the new logo design.”

“The marque is very simple, almost like a block that’s been fragmented and which pulls out the I, the W and the M,” says Howat. “The angles are taken from the previous marque. It’s a very graphic identity but the idea is it that it fuses imagery from the IWM’s extensive image and object archives.”

As well as the logo, Hat Trick has selected a colour palette for the brand and also the sans serif typeface InterFace (Dalton Maag), and created brand guidelines that IWM’s various in-house teams can reference to roll out the identity over the next two to three years. Interestingly, each of IWM’s five venues hasn’t been assigned a particular colour to identify it – apparently the client didn’t want to use colour to signify specific venues but instead wanted to be able to apply any of the selected colours for use with signage or literature relating to any of the different venues.


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  • darren

    Really love it! Seems a very appropriate and adaptable approach to the identity.

  • Beautiful.

  • Rob

    This is great work. Who said the logo was dead?

  • Tom

    Simple, beautiful, elegant, exciting…

    everything we’ve come to expect from Hat-trick.

    Well done!

  • EmmO

    Lovely. Big fan of hat-trick…But this is very slightly reminiscent of their NHM rebrand – images and logo (window) treatment…..

  • Rich

    At first glance I thought, “Oh, the W’s a searchlight”.

    Only by reading the spiel above did I recognise the fragmentation metaphor. I think it’s a bit jarring having “war” slightly higher but I’m sure it’ll all grow on me.

    I’m a keen patron of the IWM so wish them the best in everything they achieve. I just need to warm to this execution.

  • Not sure about IWM – sounds like an advertising agency and for some reason it seems like more of a mouthful than Imperial War Museum. The identity is excellent although I would have expected Daniel Libeskind to get a mention because the “broken block” rationale sounds a hell of a lot like the “shard” concept behind his Imperial War Museum North design.

  • Geoff Carefoot

    IWM – previously known as Imperial War Museum is now IWM, known as Imperial War Museums!
    Hold me down. This is simply too much to take in!

    This logo is simply a none-too clever “V”, equally specific to WWII, – so-much for “timeless”.

    OK, maybe the old marque had been around for some time but at least the it managed to get ‘W’ & ‘M’ from the searchlight image, plus air, sea and land for the three fighting services.

    Frankly I’m surprised that the IWM have continued with the ultra non-PC words ‘Imperial’ and ‘War’ in their advertising.

    Just like the dire Imperial War Museum North site at Salford – A triumph of design over substance.
    And, whilst I’m ranting. I’ve seen more interesting military museums in the Vatican!

  • Another strong, simple logo and brand identity. Love how the use of angle in the logo follows throughout all elements – this is what really makes a ‘brand’ from the logo.

  • Paul

    I find it out of balance – the first ‘I’ block being smaller. The sense of space around the initials being different somehow worries me – in particular the ‘I’ – it just looks unbalanced, as if it needs to be moved further to the left – quite possibly, if the first block had been the same size as the last the ‘I’ would have looked lost, don’t know – but in some ways the old logo works better for me.

  • I love it. I love particularly they way the negative space works when used in conjunction with the photos shown above on the iPad and on the postcards. I’ve never seen the W and M in the old searchlights. The M being too ‘stringy’ and yes all a bit WWII. ‘Disjointed’ and ‘displaced’ are ‘jarring’ are good things for a logo about war. (In my opinion).

  • sorry, but i think the reason for choosing those shapes is really tenuous. the design is bold and strong and rebranding to make the name plural is subtle but effective, but i would be amazed if joe public looked at the new logo and said to himself “ah, it’s fragmented, just like the effect war has on society”.

  • I absolutely love this work. Simple, striking and spot on for the client.

    One of those ‘I wish I did that’ jobs.

  • Paul Scott

    i would be amazed if joe public looked at the new logo and said to himself “ah, it’s fragmented, just like the effect war has on society”.

    Couldn’t agree more Emma. That’s the kind of w*** that clients buy into

    Hat-trick didn’t keep me on after placement, mind, so I’m always going to remain bitter.

  • Benjamin Franklin

    ‘Ok kids, lets head out to the IWM.’ – no response
    ‘Ok kids, lets head out to the Duxford Air Museum.’ – ecstatic response.

    Replace ‘kids’ with ‘Dad’ etc, similar response.

    ‘Ideal for the client’ ?? Really? I’d be curious to see the visitor verbatims that drove the design development on this. I love design spiel but this one went a little to far and successfully pulled the wool over the clients eyes. They were then wowed with graphic executions that disguised the lack of stretched concept.

    The original logo needed updating, not redesigning. It had all the components and the subtlety a logo needs.

    I guess a V for victory for this team.

  • Andrea Caucino

    Absolutely great, strong and campaignable

  • Reeaaalllly like it. Very nice!


    “The original logo needed updating, not redesigning. It had all the components and the subtlety a logo needs.”

    my thoughts entirely. I liked the old logo, it was clever.

  • I love how it’s reminiscent of the old design, but brings it completely up to date. The new mark makes the old one look sooooo old fashioned – definitely was time for a rebrand. Agencies always spout out waffle that the public will never pick up on – the important thing is that it looks strong, fresh and is a good fit with the organisation, who have a difficult job appealing to old soldiers and young kids alike. If they’d got it wrong, there would be a war on their hands! This is spot on.

  • G

    Old logo: nice, it worked and was of its time.

    New logo: nice, bold, confident, strong, it works. Nice to see it updated and revamped in such a strong way.

    The whole new identity works really well – I especially like the die-cut leaflets, hopefully the client will see those through when it comes down to paying for the print on them.

    Anything in the world can be nit-picked, especially branding and graphic design, we’ve all had it done to our work before, but overall, this is a really well executed job.

    Good to see that work is still out there for design agencies in the ‘current climate’, especially in a sector where people would be inclined to think ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

    It’s also a small, niche, highly competitive sector so ‘hats off’ to Hat Trick for winning this job.

  • Jamie

    Paul Scott I don’t want to get into an online bitching match with you as it’s not exactly mature or appropriate but I do think someone should say something about your negative comments. This is an online forum where lots of people look at the new work from the top design companies and your comments seem to come from bitterness rather than critical review.
    I had a placement with Hat-Trick this year as well and it is by far the best and most friendly placement I have been on so far. It is also listed as the top design agency int he UK at the moment so they tend to not just keep people on after their placement. They are a massive company with a tiny staff team and they seem to be very selective about who they employ. Unfortunately you have probably just shot yourself in the foot for any future placements/job prospects with this company by openly voicing your bitterness.

  • Very nice work. Wouldn’t expect anything less. Very nice logo and, extremely interesting and visually vibrant use of the logo, photography and color palette to produce a great brand. That’s the way to do it. The logo can still contain an image but this is just one element, not the be all and end all.

  • bob bobson


  • Very well done! I followed this article with great interest as I had quoted & proposed a logo
    for a similar client here in Malta some years back.

  • The whole museum is built upon the premise of ‘war shapes lives’, and the fragmented, broken nature of the marque clearly represents this. Whether the public take this as an obvious metaphor, or a subconscious level that something is broken – is neither here nor there… It works, it’s bold and contemporary.

    The same people who are berating it now will grow to love it in a year or so’s time, as is usually the case.

  • Not that impressed with the logo itself, as someone has already said, it’s a bit jarring at first glance.
    But I do like the shape/angle of the leaflet cover.

  • I can get used to the logo though I am not as excited as some other posters above, but it does not do all suggested. It says fragmented more than plural sites.

    However my gripe is with the colour palette; from past experience this is far too wide and complex a palette, offering 30 suggested application will not tighten anything up especially as some of these are for different shapes and risks unwinding over time. It looks as though the designers offered the client a selection of 30 and the response was ‘I’ll take them all’. Hey its war.

  • It looks ace. Really good idea and well executed.

  • I think its very impressive work. It may be jarring as some people have said, and the I may look unbalanced, but it works that way.

    Clean, bold and striking. Nice use of colour and image, a job well done!

  • Mark Smith-Hughes

    Not sure about the initials – too much abbreviation in society and logo design for my liking!

    The carry on of the design through product etc is nice… but again toooooooo many colours!

    Will be interested to see if the slashed covers continue or the slash, drop shadow and image get made into a flat printed cover.

    Is this a case of the designers making the brief go in the direction they want rather than considering what is best for the client? IMW – and words – hedging the bet! Should have just been Imperial War Museums – does what it says on the tin!

  • ross

    ‘Marque’? Better than ‘mark’? Much more superior to ‘logo’? Get a grip. Most of the comments below, and the rest of the civilised world (including Gareth Howat’s mum, probably) use a word already in existence. Politicians and business folk snob-up language, let’s not have designers do it too.

  • Mark Smith-Hughes

    Thanks Ross, following on I see Gareth Howat himself calls the original “brand?” a “marque” and the new a “logo” – if he is not sure… well I have no answer!

    Best get back to playing with my crayons!

  • Eric

    a poisioned challice, the old logo is so iconic that it’s hard to see anyone improve it.

    it’s another ‘one size fits all’ piece of branding for me. where’s the clue to the museums offer? where’s the personality of the museum? is anyone really going to decipher a fragmented metaphor?

    the musuem isn’t about ‘war shapes lives’, as has been previously posted – that was only for the Manchester site, so that logic doesn’t fit for a group offer.

    not hat-tricks best piece of work, but like I said, it’s a tough gig.

  • Irwin Greenhoff

    Having read the covers of the leaflets above I’m somewhat confused. Could one of you Brits please tell me whether the IWM Churchill War Rooms (surely a candidate for further abbreviation) and IWM HMS Belfast are still in London? Also is IWM London the one in Lambeth? And where is North? Is that North of London? When I’m next in the UK, should I follow the signs on the M1 to find North? And Duxford, isn’t that a town off the A11?

  • Edward Peterson

    Ponderous and esthetically challenged. Edward

  • G

    @ Eric — I think the clue to the museums offer is blatantly obvious throughout the whole brand identity. Maybe the concept of ‘war shaping lives’ has now, through the rebrand, been taken right through to stand for the overall IWM offer.

    It appears there’s a paradox going on in the creative industries: whenever a piece of work doesn’t stand up to absolute and total perfection, then there is a huge amount of either completely tearing into the work in question, or offering up a lot of tenuous, holier-than-thou comments which are often a thinly veiled attempt to generate a kind of ‘world weary man-of-affairs’ air of the commentators themselves. If all these commentators are such flag flyers of perfection and clearly wouldn’t let anything less than that get out of their studio doors, then how come so much design work never seems to hit that god-like standard?

    The creative industry has a number of jobs to do to survive: put out a good standard of work, sell that work to the client, sell that work to the public and make sure, on the whole, both are pleased, which always always always means some compromise along the way, it’s just part and parcel of the job, a skilled studio knows how to handle compromise well and make it work.

    It seems the hardest people to convince are other creatives, the very people that should be applauding when a well-done job gets rolled out and contributes to the creative economy.

  • Love it. Great scope. Great job!

  • I love the new branding. Modern, striking, sophisticated, well executed and beautiful when applied across various media. Conveys a very clear message with the seemingly fragmented sections.

    The old logo was not bad, but I definitely prefer the new one. Beautiful work.

  • Really like the new identity. It gives the brand a modern and up-to-date feel. I look forward to seeing how it comes to life through online and digital media.

    Great work!

  • Eric

    G… my comments weren’t intended to bring the creative industry crashing to it’s knees, more to give a personal opinion about the new brand.

    Creativity is all about opinion, mine obviously differs from yours. But let’s not fool ourselves that a few concept applications makes great branding. 

    From what we can see I’d hazard a guess that this iteration doesn’t hang around as long as the original. 

    See you in 25 years to find out. 


  • JamieJ

    Eric, I think that argument is a difficult one. The industry has changed dramatically in the last 25 years. In my opinion this identity is long overdue, the old logo was clever and iconic but it really did look dated. It looked dated in the nineties.
    In my opinion there will be no such thing as a brand that lasts 25 years anymore. Companies used to have way too much trust in design companies and now society is moving too fast and the clients are way to tech savy these days. The average person now has a much clearer view of what is up to date and what isn’t, they see it on blogs, twitter, websites, magazines etc. I would be massively surprised if Google and Apple still had the same logo in twenty five years but no-one is going to shoot them down for that. Give me two brands that you truly believe will be the same in 25 years… Taking into account that we will probably have a grasp of Quantum Mechanics and will be able to transport things instantly, we will have computers that are see through and fold up into our pockets, we will no longs need phones because we can just think about ringing people… I know I’m being dramatic but technology will move forwards, so will brands, exponetially! So, it’s kind of an invalid argument in my opinion.

    My opinion of this re-brand is that it is striking, bold and gripping. It’s going to pull in new people and the older people will still feel comfortable with it. It’s inclusive enough to accommodate for everyone. Somebody said to me yesterday :If they had a leaflet in amongst a whole bunch of other leaflets would you pick there’s up?”. I would definitely pick this leaflet up, the identity is strong and people need to not hold onto the past too much.

    IWM came to hat-trick because they can deal with this kind of project and do it without making too many enemies. Changing the IWM brand to some people is tantamount to changing FedEx… Those people need to just embrace the branding world and let the professionals do what they’re good at.

  • G

    @ Eric

    “But let’s not fool ourselves that a few concept applications makes great branding.”

    But obviously, that’s just your opinion…

    Anyway I agree it is all about opinion — in my opinion the old logo was well out of date — clever, but aesthetically, pretty naff. But that’s just my opinion!

  • A wonderful piece of work. It’s a strong mark. In the print where the logo is used center of an image, like in the postcards, the logo looks unbalanced. When the logo is used left aligned like in the tall DL leaflets, that is where the logo looks best and because of the width of the ‘M’ element.

  • James

    I like it.

    I also like it that Eric and G sorted things out in the end.

  • Phil

    Shame to see a Minale Tattersfield classic replaced by something so bland.

    Some of the collateral looks ok, but the identity on its own looks somewhere between an American TV station and (rather unfortunately) a tribute to El Lissitzky’s ‘Beat the Whites with a Red Wedge’ (http://www.designishistory.com/images/lissitzky/BeatTheWhites.jpg)

    The explanation about ‘the force of war’ is utter nonsense.

  • Heather

    How depressing. ‘IWM’ should claim a refund and reclaim their identity.

  • alex maranzano

    Nicely implemented applications aside, if we place the old and new logos on their own, side by side which version has more wit and clarity of visual communication?

    Try some researching amongst yourselves.

    I already know the answer.

    Alex Maranzano

  • jason davidson

    I think you are all haters!! This modern design, is sooo sick! I want to go. And I want to get one of every peace of printed material! You can say that, “its not balanced and so much for timeless, but I am a consumer, and I am going to go.. They did their job..

    and a great one..

  • Kate Allen

    Yet another example of the personality and visual communication being unecessarily sucked out of a brilliant logo. Yes the new one is well designed and “modern’ but it could be a logo for anything from shower gel to quick drying crack filler. The original logo conveyed meaning. It communicated. At least you can still see the outlines of the original logo fighting through the new layer of paint on the signs outside the museum…Ha!

  • RAy

    Just been to the IWM north and first thing we saw was the new logo…. NO NO NO, … as a designer i much preferred the old one. looks like the war musuems have been short changed by hat trick, or just plain robbed. Whatever happened to the saying if it aint broke dont fix it. Still we stuck with it now and it doesnt chage the actual museums which are brilliant,. Thanx