Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum re-opened on Saturday following a major refurbishment with a new name, The Wilson, and visual identity designed by ArthurSteenHorneAdamson.
The name refers to local artist and explorer Dr Edward Wilson, whose statue sits just a few hundred yards from the gallery. Marksteen Adamson, a partner at ArthurSteenHorneAdamson, says it was chosen to better reflect the gallery’s ethos and desire to become a destination venue.
“Back in August, when the architectural work was well underway, we had a conversation with the gallery about the need for them to think about new branding to go with the new building. They needed to think about how they would position themselves after re-opening and how that would be communicated to their audience. We felt that it should be very much reflected in what the gallery is called,” he explains.
Wilson was born in Cheltenham in 1872 and was part of Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic. Some of the paintings he made on the trip are now on display at the gallery. “Wilson had a variety of skills and he embodied creative exploration. That’s very much what the new space is about – it has been set up like more of a workshop or working space than a traditional gallery,” says Adamson. The name was put forward for public consultation but Adamson says it caused “a bit of an outcry.”
“A lot of people felt it should be called other things, or remain the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum. But that’s not a name – it’s a descriptor and one that people will undoubtedly shorten to a horrible acronym. Calling it The Wilson makes it much more about what it stands for, as opposed to what the gallery does,” he adds. In the end, a public majority felt The Wilson was the right choice of name.
The new visual identity was also put forward for consultation but was met with a more positive response. It’s based on a grid system that references the building’s facade. “When we saw the new building [designed by architects Berman Guedes Stretton], we were stunned. It’s beautiful, very open and modern, so we felt the identity should be part of that,” he adds.
The grid has been applied to promotional material, adverts, a soon-to-be-launched website and wayfinding: 3D cubes have been placed around the gallery to direct visitors. “We wanted it to be a three dimensional system and that’s something we’ll be developing in the future. We’re going to create pop-up cubes that bring elements of the gallery and museum into schools. Museums aren’t always the most exciting places for kids so we’d like to create a more interactive experience,” he says.
It has also been applied to merchandise – a rubix cube featuring the new logo is available to purchase in the shop – and visitor hand outs. Traditional leaflets have been replaced by carboard templates which can be folded in to a cube (top).
The colour palette combines black, greys and “fresh, modern” shades of blue, green and orange but Adamson says there is no fixed scheme – a keyline version of the logo that’s almost transparent was used to promote glass artist Colin Reid’s new exhibition.
The typeface, Gotham, was chosen for its versatility and simplicity, says Adamson. “It’s not trying to hard to be distinctive. Good type like this goes unnoticed and that’s a good thing when we’re promoting other people and artists’ work,” he adds.
“The important thing with a gallery like this is that there’s never going to be a lot of money to advertise. The more rigid and consistent the system, the more the organisation benefits. Almost everyone agreed the grid was the right way to go – the tricky thing was convincing them about the name. But if you take the politics out of it, the aim is to create a destination brand that is easy to say and easy to remember. That’s what the Wilson is,” he explains.