Founded in 1917 and first opened to the public in 1920, the Imperial War Museum — no plural at the time — was established to create a record of the experience of Great Britain during the first World War. Since then, and with an expansion to four other museums — IWM London; IWM North in Trafford, Greater Manchester; IWM Duxford near Cambridge; the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall, London; and the historic ship HMS Belfast — the Imperial War Museums (IWM) is “the world’s leading authority on conflict and its impact, focusing on Britain, its former Empire and the Commonwealth, from the First World War to the present.” IWM, as it is now officially named, introduced a new identity last month, designed by London-based Hat Trick.
“The previous marque had been around for a while but seemed quite specific to World War II with its search lights which create a W and an M,” continues Howat. “IWM wanted to bring the marque up to date and in a way create something timeless. Jane Wentworth came up with the idea of the force of war which has the power to shape people’s lives. It’s this idea that the force of war can destroy something and at the same time create which informed the new logo design.”
“The marque is very simple, almost like a block that’s been fragmented and which pulls out the I, the W and the M,” says Howat. “The angles are taken from the previous marque. It’s a very graphic identity but the idea is it that it fuses imagery from the IWM’s extensive image and object archives.”
— Hat Trick’s Gareth Howath on Creative Review
Even though the old logo could have used some refining, the concept and approach were remarkably good, leaving no doubt about what the logo was for or what the experience there might be like. The new logo is a fantastic, uncomfortable update to it. Looking at the logo you can’t help but feel displacement and tension. It looks and feels like a crackling building. Perhaps not a rainbow-and-unicorn image for today’s highly sensitive society but, hey, it’s a war museum. Graphically, I love that they were able to solve the “W” conundrum, where there is a ton of white space between the bottom of it and the letters next to it, by raising it and wedging it into that middle slab. At small sizes the “Imperial War Museums” type becomes more distracting and noisy than helpful, and perhaps as the public gets to know the museums as IWM, that descriptor text will go away.
The applications are very nice too, employing a couple of visual tricks: the first is using the diagonals of the “W” as a structural element and then the logo-as-window approach for images inside the blocks without the “IWM” and images behind the hollow logo. Unlike other logos-as-windows, this one doesn’t feel entirely gratuitous and further develops the fragmentation concept. Plus, how cool is that bag?