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New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
 

before

after

Reviewed Jun. 19, 2017 by Armin

Industry / Culture Tags /

Dating back to 1951 but officially formed in the 1980s, Southbank Centre is a 17-acre site — the UK’s largest arts centre — in London on the South Bank of the Thames. It is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, and Hayward Gallery, presenting over 5,000 events that encompass art, theatre, dance, classical and contemporary music, and literature and debate, hosting 6.25 million people a year. After almost two years of renovations to three of its key buildings and to coincide with their reopening, Southbank Centre has introduced a new identity designed by London-based North.

Through research and discussion it became apparent that the previous identity had proved to be overly complex to apply and that a number of challenges had arisen in identifying that the Southbank Centre brand was the ‘parent’ brand across the site. The inconsistent use of the old brand and the lack of guidelines about how the main brand should be reflected, had led to a weak and confusing visual language in online and offline communications and across the physical site.

North provided press release

New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Samples of old identity.

The old identity, designed by Wolff Olins in 2007, was a now-classic flexible identity system back before they were a thing that everyone could do (or think they can do). As cool as it was, the images above do show how hard it’s been to maintain the complex identity not just in terms of following and expanding on the guidelines but keeping it visually stimulating. Ten years is a long time for a flexible identity and, at some point, it stops flexin’. That point is, apparently, now.

Yellow will be employed with strength and confidence as the core identity colour. This will both help identify the boundaries of Southbank Centre’s complex site and help to create standout within the competitive cultural sector.

New logotypes have been created for Southbank Centre and Hayward Gallery, using a customised version of the ‘Noe Display’ font by the type foundry Schick Toikka. This modern, high-contrast serif font was chosen to create an ownable, recognisable typographic tone of voice and visually reference the unique architecture of the Southbank Centre.

North provided press release

New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Logo.
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
On the building.
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Angle references.

The new logo is a 180-degree change, going from sans serif with varying graphic doodads to a serif that appears exactly the same in every instance. Based on Noe Display, the new wordmark is quite elegant and striking with the heavily chiseled aesthetic and some lovely moments around the “T”s that join the letter before it (solving some of the kerning issues) but it almost doesn’t register as a logo. It looks more like a book title treatment and the applications, intentionally designed to use the logo as a masthead or newspaper nameplate, reinforce that.

New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Event typography.
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Logo for Hayward Gallery.

I do love the typeface and I think we can officially see the trend pendulum swinging towards more serif use in logos.

The new identity is driven by a core strategic approach which elevates the scale and importance of Southbank Centre’s brand across all communications. The brand appears as a ‘masthead’, defining a consistent and recognisable design framework which allows individual festivals, performance and shows to be more freely expressed. This brand-led approach proudly signifies the role of Southbank Centre as location, author and presenter of world-class art and culture.

North provided press release

New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Layout template.
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Outdoor ads.
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Program covers.

The posters and billboards are cool-looking but in making all the typography (or most of the typography) be the same size and hierarchy as the logo it does a disservice to it by making it look like part of a sentence instead of the endorsement to a sentence. Obviously, the posters with illustrations/images are clearer. The program covers are more effective and showcase the logo in a more striking direct way.

New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Signage.

Even though the arrows are for directional signage, I kinda wish there were more arrows everywhere… there is a cool graphic balance between the serif and those particular arrows that’s very appealing.

New Logo and Identity for Southbank Centre by North
Ticket stub.

Overall, the change is positive, especially as a way to signal a new era for the center, and to allow all the programming imagery to have its own voice and be supported by the new logo instead of being overshadowed by its previous complexity but, as a counter argument, it may also be a little dry and limiting based on the set of rules established by this first round of applications.

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Logo Before & After
Sample Application

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