The Importance of Branding in Exhibition Design



“Branding" is ubiquitous in our current culture. People have brands like corporations. Corporations are people. And brands have conversations with each other on social media. What a world.

Even a novice would agree on the importance of branding their museum or organization. It’s in any organization’s basic marketing strategy and probably one of the first things approved by your board. Every project after that gets incorporated into that overall branding. I would argue that it’s just as important to brand individual exhibitions as it is to brand the museum that will house them.

Featuring the exhibition subject on your organization’s branding and having it speak for itself is perfectly acceptable in a lot of cases, like permanent collections and displays. But there are some exhibitions that you really want to make a statement. For those, it can be vital to have individual branding.



Having a clear branding for your exhibition can catapult the interest you want your audience to experience leading up to an opening. It can also communicate context for what the information is, where it’s from, and provide historical context. When used in the physical space itself, this branding can act as a gallery guide to lead the viewer through the space and establish boundaries for the exhibition with signage or wall colors.



Now let’s get literal with a case study to explain what I’m talking about:

Your museum is working hard to organize a new exhibition to open next year. You have all of your research and artifacts collected. Funds have been raised and final loans are being negotiated. Some of your biggest donors are on board for this, so you really want it to connect with your community and be a success.

Now think about how you’ll want to spread the word. You’ll probably want to start early with teases about the show. Maybe run a few social media ads to raise engagement. Then you might put some posters up around town a couple months out and run a radio ad. An email blast to your members will invite them to RSVP to the opening. Postcards in the mail will reach the snail mail lovers.

And all that is just leading up to the opening. The potential for your audience to hear about the exhibition from different sources is pretty big, and exactly what you need to drive interest. The best thing you can do is consider branding early on so that every message your audience gets is clear and consistent.

Branding can be very abstract, but for an exhibition, it can be as straightforward as picking a great title, creating a logo, and using consistent colors and type on all visual ads. It can be as simple or elaborate as you want, but maintaining that consistency is going to amplify all the hard work you’ve put into this. Of course, make sure to fit inside your organization’s overall brand and goals, but give this sub-brand its own voice.

Then, go even further and include those colors for any events related to the exhibition. Share photos with the logo on social media. If you have a lot of square footage and multiple exhibits or ideas in your space, it can make or break audience engagement to have visual queues to remind them where they are and where they should head to next.



I worked on creating a logo mark and contributing to brand development for an exhibition for the Mississippi Museum of Art. You can view my process here to see a real-life example of exhibition branding.



There are people whose careers are built around branding and marketing (I should know, I am one!) but it doesn’t have to be hard. Just remember to keep it simple and consistent, and hire a designer if you can. Elevated and intentional branding is worth the investment.w