How to Design a Museum Exhibition Logo: My 3 Step Process

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Last month, I gave the 101 of Exhibition Title Lockups; what lockups are and what pieces make up a whole mark. Here, I’m sharing my process on how to design a museum’s exhibition logo. The questions and steps listed below are what I use every time I approach a new exhibition branding design.

 

Lockup – the final form of a title design, with all of its elements. For example, the final lockup version of your title will include exhibition title, subtitle, any supporting graphic elements, as well as main sponsors or funding program, and museum name or logo.

 

How to Design a Museum Exhibition Logo

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Step 1: Research

Like any branding project, your exhibition logo design will tell a story. So the first step in the design process is defining and articulating that story. I use the following questions as a guide for collecting and organizing this research into a cohesive narrative:

 

What is the exhibition about? What tone should it set?

Is the exhibition playful or serious? Is it about science or history? Is it exploring one person’s work or a collection of ideas? You title logo can be the first point of contact a visitor has with your exhibition. The way it looks should clearly reveal the tone of the show.

 

Who is the exhibition for?

Think about who will be in your space. Odds are you want to appeal to the largest group possible, but try to focus on a core group that would respond most to the content of the exhibition.

Age can be the most common difference we can introduce to design. An exhibition targeting children may be more playful than one that focuses on engaging with adults.

You may also want to keep in mind the level of familiarity a visitor may have with your museum or the exhibition subject matter. Are you expecting a lot of newbies for this show? That could affect how you want the title lockup to look. Don’t underestimate the heavy-lifting your logo can do in prepping visitors before they even enter your space.

 

What’s the ultimate goal of the exhibition?

Is your goal to build upon what your institution has already done? Or is your goal to break into a new territory and engage with unfamiliar visitors? Defining clear goals for your exhibition can inform design decisions.

 

Is there any precedent?

Whether in culture or in your museum’s history, is there any visual precedent to connect with? Don’t reinvent the wheel when incorporating visuals your audience is already familiar with will jumpstart their understanding of what your new exhibition is about.

 

What time period is the content or subject from?

This is when I have the chance to get nerdy. If your exhibition is about a person or subject with historical content, find ways to introduce that to the exhibition logo design to give little unconscious cues about where this fits into history. An easy way to place something into history is to research what typefaces were popular or what kind of printing techniques were developed and used during the time.

 

What framing elements will need to be included?

Always keep in mind the eventual lockup. Your Museum’s brand and any donor/sponsor information will appear next to your title in many instances. Each element, title, museum logo, donor info, should look great on its own and when viewed all together.

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Step 2: Design

Once you have a clear understanding of the exhibition’s “brand” or story, start sketching out some ideas of how to visualize that in your exhibition  logo design. I make a point to always start on paper to explore and brainstorm before getting on a computer.

 

Shape

Start by thinking about the overall shape your exhibition logo will exist in. For a longer title, you may need to stack vertically to fit the entire design on your title wall. Even if your container shape isn’t a literal line around your title, thinking about the whole logo design as one shape may help fitting issues with the rest of your lockup.

Knowing your overall shape will also inform how you introduce other visual elements to your mark.

 

Typography

Type is key because the title is the most important piece of your exhibition logo. Select a font that is readable and clear. Varying weights, sizes, and fonts between main title and subtitle will establish hierarchy and highlight the main title. Pay attention to how letters fit together and don’t forget to kern, adjust spacing between letters, when needed.

 

Imagery

Additional imagery is not a requirement for a exhibition’s logo design, but it can be an effective way to convey tone or audience and add visual interest to the mark. If you do decide to introduce any imagery, keep it simple! Remember the title is the most important part of the logo design.

 

Colors

Always start designing your exhibition  logo in black and white. Using the right color palette will take your deign from great to perfect, but if it doesn’t work in black and white as shapes and text, it doesn’t work. 

When you do start developing color palette options, use the research you now have on tone and time period and connect with the exhibition’s curators. Chances are, a palette has already been approved for the physical space of the exhibition. Utilize that palette or build upon it for the main logo design.

Don’t forget to consider all potential environments your logo will appear in when choosing colors. Will the lockup be viewed most often next to a hero image from the show? How can the addition of color or lack thereof highlight the logo design next to marketing images.

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Step 3: Collaboration

Chances are, there is a long list of people that need to approve this design before you can order the vinyl for the wall. Take advantage of that! Ask questions and get feedback from colleagues and other professionals working on the exhibition. They may be able to bring a fresh set of eyes or new facts to help your process of designing the exhibition logo.

 

 

Examples of museum exhibition logos

These examples of museum exhibition logos are from a month-long, personal design prompt I’ve been following this month. Each real-life exhibition title featured was awarded Excellence in Exhibition by the American Alliance of Museums. Each logo design was created with a time limit of 1 hour.

To create each exhibition logo, I followed the basic process I’ve outlined above: research the exhibition, define a tone, establish an overall shape, refine type, and add visual elements when appropriate. I purposefully did not make many color decisions and kept each design’s color palette minimal to emphasize the exhibition logo design.

You can see more info about these and other examples on my Instagram.

 

3 Steps to Design a Museum Exhibition Logo

Copy and paste these three steps to reference and build upon your own process of designing an exhibition logo:

Step 1: Research

What is the exhibition about? What tone should it set?

Who is the exhibition for?

What’s the ultimate goal of the exhibition?

Is there any precedent?

What time period is the content or subject from?

What framing elements will need to be included?

Step 2: Design

Shape

Typography

Imagery

Colors

Step 3: Collaboration



Your exhibition logo design is most likely the first point of contact your audience will have to a new exhibition. It could be seen it on a poster, an ad in a community paper, or on the title wall in your space. So it’s important that the exhibition’s logo design is clear no matter how it is viewed and that it communicates the tone of the show. The above steps and questions have helped me keep focused and create interesting and appropriate exhibition logos.



Your exhibition’s branding is more than a logo. See Mandalu’s branding package to get all the support and assets you need to make the best impression or reach out for a custom quote based on your unique needs.


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