Tacoma Arts ThoughtMatter

How new wayfinding is helping Tacoma Arts Live rediscover its purpose

Using elements from the centre’s existing branding, the designs for its new home seek to remind audiences what first made them fall in love with the arts

The performing arts sector has been forced to adapt or die in recent years. Facing increasing financial pressures, only exacerbated by the pandemic, a whole raft of venues are refreshing their image in order to attract new audiences.

One of Washington state’s largest performing arts centres, Tacoma Arts Live, is no exception to this trend. But its recent move to a new venue in the city made it even more vital to reintroduce itself to the local community.

Tacoma Arts ThoughtMatter

New York design studio ThoughtMatter is well-known for its work with cultural institutions such as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Its relationship with Tacoma Arts Live dates back to 2017, when it renamed and rebranded the organisation, which was previously known as Broadway Center for the Performing Arts.

“Tacoma Arts Live was in the midst of some of the largest changes and opportunities in its history, particularly the change to embrace its new home at the Tacoma Armory,” says ThoughtMatter strategy director, Phillip Lauria.

Tacoma Arts ThoughtMatter

“The focus of the organisation had to change, but there was also a huge opportunity to reintroduce Tacoma Arts Live in a bold way – ingratiating themselves within a new neighbourhood.”

The new designs are rooted in a desire to reignite what made audiences fall in love with the arts in the first place, blending wayfinding, signage and posters with existing brand imagery from the centre’s 40-year history.

Tacoma Arts ThoughtMatter

“Once we landed on the positioning of ‘Inciting the Spark Within’, recognising the graphic spark at the heart of the current brand mark, it felt like a huge moment of realisation,” says ThoughtMatter creative director, Ben Greengrass. “Using that spark symbol as the catalyst and focal point of the system, we went about creating a more expressive campaign for the invigorated organisation.”

The ‘spark’ – a four-pronged ‘star’ symbol that sits at the heart of the logo – has been repurposed to give the wayfinding new vibrancy, while arrows are built from deconstructed elements of the geometric brand symbol and physically direct viewers to the new building.

Tacoma Arts ThoughtMatter

ThoughtMatter also used the existing red brand colour in new ways, pairing it with a vibrant palette of green, blue and pink, and introduced a new typeface that visually echoes the brandmark.

“It was great to confirm how strong the original brand was in the first place, allowing it to be the foundation of this new campaign,” says Greengrass. “Things may be changing in the arts, but this new expression of their brand proves that change can also open up all kinds of exciting creative possibilities.”

Tacoma Arts ThoughtMatter