Opening this week in Sendai, Japan is a new exhibit space for the 53-year-old Sendai Astronomical Observatory (SAO), with a new identity designed by johnson banks in London. The first element of the identity is the logo, an arrow created from the name of the observatory in Japanase with the English translation hinged at a vertiginous 45-degree angle. What I love about this is the use of the usually cumbersome need of a logo to appear in two languages, into an integrated solution, as opposed to just repeating the name smaller in the second language. I’m also a sucker for hot pink, so I’m really drawn to wherever the arrow is pointing. Which brings us to the second element of the identity.
The logo, being a helpful arrow, can point into any direction and — like a kid or adult pointing at the sky when somehting otherworldly appears there — the SAO arrow points to a range of images that johnson banks have developed around the theme of “bringing the cosmos down to earth” where everyday objects are paired with supernovas, planetary rings and four-dimensional vortexes, creating a playful range of imagery that makes the cosmos even more appealing.
Another clever twist are the business cards and letterhead that translate the same idea of the paired images into a front-and-back game, although I doubt the identity guidelines recommend dog-earing the business cards. So aside from the remarkable skills it must have taken to bend Akzidenz Grotesk Condensed at that angle, I really like the flexibility and variety that this identity can render, as well as the integration of English and Japanese, and there is a very interesting, almost non-aesthetic aesthetic that creates a stark, vibrant visual language. A few more images can be found at johnson banks’ web site.