The State Darwin Museum is one of Russia’s most famous museums, welcoming around 600,000 visitors every year. With a rich history going back over a hundred years, the museum aims to balance both tradition and modernity. However, observing tradition means, among other things, that the museum’s brand identity has seen few changes throughout the years.
As a result, at one point it became clear that the museum would benefit from a rebranding to fit more organically into today’s dynamic digital and physical world.
The Darwin Museum’s trademark logo is an ammonite-like spiral, a nod to the fascinating ancient mollusk. For continuity’s sake, the image had to be preserved; for modernity’s sake, simplified. This combination of principles, born at the onset of the project, set the tone for the rest of the brand design.
Just like the spiral in the logo, the idea behind the branding gathered momentum and unraveled into something concrete yet captivating.
Printed materials form the backbone of the museum’s offline visual identity. Conceptually, they are divided into four categories: permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions, interactive exhibitions, and the interactive educational center.
For permanent exhibitions, there is a basic, all-purpose white ticket with the signature spiral. For temporary exhibitions, there is a special variation of the basic template. Its half-circular image echoes the original spiral, only instead it features a relevant picture functioning as a teaser or a preview.
This template is highly versatile and reusable thanks to its minimalism, which makes it possible to design unique tickets for each particular exhibition.
Clean, airy layouts with a minimalist design and a single visual highlight ensure easier perception of the museum’s essence with no distractions. In other words, what is actually highlighted here is the museum itself with its history, continuity, and uniqueness.
The spiral from the logo unraveled into a circle and gave birth to another key element of our brand design — the kaleidoscope.
The kaleidoscope serves as a metaphor of life’s fragility, reiterating the museum’s message. One careless move may shatter the fleeting structure yet result in something new, vibrant and lively — and no two such structures are ever the same. This is also a subtle reference to natural selection.
Throughout the branding, the kaleidoscope is reproduced in different iterations and on different media. There are several kaleidoscope variations based on the Darwin Museum’s actual exhibits.
To catch the first glimpse of a kaleidoscopic pattern, one need not look further than the staff. The museum employees now sport modernized ID cards with a minimalist design, which gives the Darwin Museum — via the people who represent it to the audience — a noticeable brand identity boost with a fresh, state-of-the-art solution.
Posters are another medium where the kaleidoscope takes center stage. Compared with the permanent and temporary exhibition posters, the ones announcing interactive exhibitions have a slightly more complex design with the kaleidoscope as the bright, eye-catching highlight.
The black version of the same layout is reserved for the interactive educational center. This austere, exquisite color perfectly matches the sophisticated educational environment into which the posters invite the visitors. As always, the idea was to employ posters not just as sources of information, but also as a means of navigation, and these instantly identifiable, uniquely designed signposts are certain to do the trick.
We tried to reflect the multiformity of our world and the richness and continuity of the museum and its exhibits while working on the branding. Our aim was to revamp the existing branding in a way that would better fit into modern reality while emphasizing the uniqueness and the high status of the State Darwin Museum.
The museum now has a collection of impressive, cutting-edge brand identity elements at its disposal, from as small as a logo to as large as poster layouts. All of these elements are versatile, scalable and even customizable to fit every need in the book.
While updating the Darwin Museum’s visual identity, we also had to remember to preserve the museum’s roots, its long and rich history, and its connection with the past. To that end, we decided to seek a solution in something enduring and timeless.
As a result, the new branding of the State Darwin Museum alludes to Art Deco, a style that appeared in the early 20th century, around the same time as the museum itself.
The allusions can be seen in the animalistic and botanical motifs, the ammonite-like spiral, the golden ratio found in the poster layouts. Nature and combinatorics work in similar ways, which is what makes the world around us so diverse in shape and form.
This well-balanced approach to brand design works for most museums and cultural institutions in general. On the one hand, designers are tasked with updating the client’s visual identity, making the institution more attractive and accessible to the audience.
On the other hand, the long history of the institution and its wide public recognition call for a delicate approach to innovation.