Marc Sklar, Director of Communications at National Air and Space Museum, shares how they’re reimagining one of the world’s most popular museums to be inspiring and more inclusive as well as show off the duality of air and space.
Can you tell us how this rebranding came about? How did that conversation start?
The National Air and Space Museum is undergoing a major transformation of its flagship building on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
The seven-year renovation will completely reimagine all of the exhibitions and the first eight new exhibitions are opening this fall.
While the physical spaces are changing, so is our storytelling and content focuses are adjusting as well. It’s a transformational time so we wanted our brand to reflect that.
How did the rebranding process go? Was it all smooth, or did you encounter challenges?
Of course there are always challenges when undertaking a project like this. The National Air and Space Museum is one of the most popular museums in the world, so there are expectations for continuing to be that beloved favorite people know but also inspiring and forward thinking.
There were also a number of messages and feelings to convey within the clean, inspiring brand we were aiming for.
A big change was to the logo. Can you tell us how it was conceptualized?
The logo mark is representative of both air and spacecrafts.
The museum’s brand is very much a duality of different concepts and aspects of aerospace – aviation and space, old and new, virtual and in-person, etc.
We wanted that duality reflected in the logo and believe that is achieved well with the mark.
A key pillar of your rebranding is inclusivity. How do you use design or the new visual identity to convey inclusivity?
Inclusivity is reflected throughout our brand through messaging, imagery used, and stories we tell and highlight.
The reimagined museum is more inclusive by telling diverse and lesser-known stories and helping everyone to see their place in the aviation and space field. Therefore, our brand reflects that through the look and feel, artifacts we highlight, etc.
Can you tell us about the color palette? How did you land on these colors? Do they have particular significance for the brand?
Because this rebrand needed to align with gallery redesigns already very much underway and in production, we took many of the colors from the newly designed galleries and implemented them within the brand.
Blue has been a main color for the museum for some time, so we wanted to be sure that continued to be at the forefront of our refreshed brand.
We also wanted a bright, bold, and broad palette that reflected the varied aspects of aerospace with the intention of keeping specific designs and brand pieces modernly simple using one to two colors at a time.
How about the fonts used? How were they chosen?
The main typeface chosen, DIN, has a personality that can feel both retro and modern (as well as informational or technical as needed) and is a good representation of the National Air and Space Museum.
Again, we wanted something modern and simple for our main typeface to allow for versatility when designing pieces.
What is your major takeaway or, do you have any advice for brands or designers embarking on rebranding projects themselves?
This was a major project for the museum and, while not easy, it was very rewarding. As an organization that does not change rapidly and has a very loyal following, we had to push ourselves at times to think bigger.
We also benefited greatly from strategically involving as much of the organization as possible when appropriate, which helped to better reflect the breadth of what the museum represents and also get everyone involved so they felt that they had a hand in the creation of the brand.
This helped when rolling it out internally and getting buy-in from stakeholders and staff when implementing.