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This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.


Speech Bubbles Up from Down Under

Reviewed Jul. 26, 2011 by Armin

Industry / Culture Tags /

NMA Logo, Before and After

Officially formed in 1980 but only opened in 2001, the National Museum of Australia (NMA) “explores the land, nation and people of Australia. The Museum celebrates Australian social history in a unique way by revealing the stories of ordinary and extraordinary Australians.” The NMA is located in Canberra, the national capital of Australia, and is housed in an enthusiastically designed building by Ashton Raggatt McDougall that lives in a picturesque peninsula. The museum recently introduced a new identity designed by Sydney-based Gen.a.


The signature “knot” of the museum. Photo by Flickr user Iain Cole.

The brand positions the Museum as a place that celebrates our people and our culture of storytelling. It invites people to come together to share stories of our unique and distinctive nation, to be part of a national conversation about our story. The brand uses speech bubbles, conversations, emotion, energy and the line “where out stories live.”
— E-mail communication between me and NMA


Logos based on architectural details are seldom good and while the exuberance of the museum is evident in its physical space, translating its main feature — a 2- or 3-story-high knotted arc — into the icon of the logo doesn’t quite make it justice. The new logo departs completely from that and instead focuses on the concept of “storytelling”. The visual cliché is obvious, it’s a speech bubble. But lo and behold, it doesn’t suck. Or at least it doesn’t once you un-lodge all the bad speech bubble logos that have come before it. By using the bare minimum elements of a speech bubble and setting the typography in a way that our brains complete the speech bubble shape, the NMA logo manages to rise above mere cliché. I obviously question the use of Helvetica, because I can’t stand it, and I wonder if anyone questioned if “national” should have stretched all the way and have a full justified text — I mean, it’s almost there.






The marketing materials and identity extension are a little weaker. Introducing the handwritten approach seems interesting but doesn’t quite blend together. Gen.a, tasked with the photo shoot of the materials says it “focused on using real Australian people interacting with each other and having a conversation.” Unfortunately, the real Australians look stiff and forced. I’m not an advocate of extreme posing like Women Laughing Alone With Salad but an in between would have yielded something more “finished”. Overall, it’s a decent conceptual update with a strong logo as a basis.

Thanks to Ben Ennis Butler for the tip.



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UnderConsideration is a graphic design firm generating its own projects, initiatives, and content while taking on limited client work. Run by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit in Austin, TX.

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