Johnson Banks adds crescendo to the Royal Academy of Music’s identity

The Royal Academy of Music’s ‘generic’ conservatoire image has been replaced with a new “future-facing” identity by Johnson Banks

Introduced in time for the institution’s bicentenary in 2022, the updated branding hopes to set it apart from competitors, as well as emphasise the Academy as a place for new musicians to create together.

“Look at the world’s music conservatoires and you quickly realise that they all present themselves in a similar way,” says the studio. “It’s as though they all share the same copywriter – each one say that they are the ‘world’s greatest’ or that they ‘lead the world’. Very few have memorably visual brands and many share an almost identical photographic style.”

Johnson Banks says the identity needed to convey the Academy’s heritage, but in a way that looked to the future. Although the studio had initially dismissed the idea of musical notation, it returned to the idea of the crescendo symbol – because of its suggestion of power and forward motion.

This symbol is now used alongside a three-colour palette of red, white, and black, and alongside the Museo typeface. There’s other subtle nods to notation used across the identity. And instead of the more aloof or intimidating language used by similar organisations, the tone of voice focuses instead on a sense of collaboration, and the idea of what tomorrow could hold. Johnson Banks has also updated the photography style, adopting a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ approach.

There’s a certain elegance to the work that feels right for the Royal Academy, but nonetheless there’s also a sense that this was a bit of a missed opportunity. The identity doesn’t quite push far enough into the future, occasionally feeling too static, and too mired in the world of heritage arts organisations – particularly when compared with something like The Partners’ recent, more dynamic, identity for the London Symphony Orchestra.

Strategy and design: Johnson Banks
Lead designers: Michael Johnson, Alice Tosey
Additional copywriting: Nick Asbury, Asbury & Asbury
Photography: Roscoe Rutter, Michael Johnson
Film: Ian Anderson and Johnson Banks
Website: Whitespace