Established in 1977, the Garden Museum is dedicated to gardening and the culture around it, probably the only of its kind in the world. The museum is housed in the Church of St Mary-at-Lambeth in London, UK, which is the burial place of John Tradescant (c1570 - 1638), whom the museum calls “the first great gardener and plant-hunter in British history” and whose tomb, located in the garden of the church, is epic. The museum offers a permanent collection — paintings, tools, ephemera and historic artifacts — temporary exhibitions, events, garden, and a café. From 2015 to 2017, the museum closed temporarily and underwent a renovation, reopening this past May and introducing a new identity designed by London-based Pentagram partners Luke Powell and Jody Hudson-Powell.
The museum’s wordmark is set in Humanist 970, a font that is based on Doric, a very early sans serif released by the Stephenson Blake Foundry in 1816. As with other fonts released during this time period, it is organic and imperfect in nature, creating a characterful letter set.
A key focus while developing the identity was to create a system that could flex and scale based on the audience. The bold wordmark can live on its own strongly when required but also quickly become inviting and lively when the shapes and illustrations start to come into play.
Pentagram provided text
The old logo was relatively okay in that it was set in a peculiar font and it was sort of museum-ish and had a garden-ish color. The new logo, on its own, can be described pretty much the same way: it’s a peculiar font, Humanist 970, that looks museum-ish and has a garden-ish green color. So far, it’s a parallel move with each logo having its pros and cons but the new logo has a lovely range of flora around and behind it that instantly transforms it into something more memorable, relevant, and attractive through the combination of the wide wordmark in the deep green with the oversize graphic patterns.
Inspired by the work of Brazilian landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx, Pentagram created a visual language out of different forms and colours to represent seasons and flora. This language can be both visually expressive and functional, used to create illustrations when brought together and individual icons when pulled apart.
The palette of shapes are interpretations of the organic forms native to different seasons. “These shapes are deliberately imperfect and abstract, but when constructed into compositions give a feeling of a living garden,” said Luke Powell.
Pentagram provided text
The illustrations are charming, fun, and a great interpretation of “gardens” where they convey all the kinds of stuff you would find in one, from leafs to branches to insects, all in an abstract, minimalist style that feels lively and inviting. The supporting font, Amira, has a chiseled structure that evokes the inscriptions one could find in old buildings, like the church the museum lives in.
The way the illustration density is modulated in different ways — sometimes loose as in the letterhead, sometimes dense as in the invitation — along with the seasonal color palette provides plenty of flexibility and keeps the identity interesting and engaging. It’s also surprising how well the two typefaces work together as a Bold and Light duo, even though they have very different structures.
Branding a gardening museum is a difficult challenge because it would be easy for it to look like a nursery store or a botanic garden but this identity manages to combine the sense of high culture of a museum with the weekend task of digging in the dirt and watching your hard work’s grow into leafy, grassy, flowery patches of joy.