Established in 1759, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Kew from now on) is a world-renown scientific organization focused on plant diversity, conservation, and sustainable development, as well as one of London’s top visitor destinations and crown jewels (not literally, since London literally has a crown, with jewels). Funded in part by the government through the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, and complemented by donors, membership, and commercial activity, Kew employs over 800 people. Covering 132 hectares of stunningly landscaped gardens, Kew attracts over 1.5 million visits every year and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. Around April or May, Kew introduced a new identity designed by London-based Pentagram partner Harry Pearce.
At the centre of the new identity is the Kew logotype. Always used with confidence and authority, it is at the heart of the brand and all its applications. The logotype is at the centre of Kew’s communications, and is always clear, expressive and used with integrity. This is seen with promotional posters, where the logo is proudly in the middle of detailed images of plants, expressing the brand’s confidence and intertwinement with nature.
The identity uses two typefaces. A customised version of Baskerville, designed in 1757, two years prior to the establishment of Kew, conveying the history and heritage of the organisation. Contrasting the heritage and signalling the pioneering nature of Kew is the primary typeface, Franklin Gothic.
The old logo had good intentions, trying to look botanical, but its execution was nothing close to royal. The extended “K”, the weed-like shapes in the “w”, and the really tight default-looking sans serif (which at they very least could have been Gill Sans) made it look like a small neighborhood park. The new logo takes a cue — get it?! — from the old logo’s use of Baskerville to typeset a beautiful wordmark that doesn’t need anything extra. This could easily be mistaken for boring or lacking excitement but as a solution for this specific landmark, it’s perfect. It’s elegant, stately, confident, and delicate. Even the small “Royal Botanic Gardens” holds up thanks to the sharpness of Baskerville and, because the logo is used big in application, the small descriptor remains large enough to be readable.
In application, the identity goes in a few different directions that, although cool on their own, make it feel like someone hasn’t made a decision of what approach they want to go with. On the other hand, there are different audiences for Kew — tourists, scientists, donors, etc. — that require different tones. There is the bag above, that looks like it belongs in a museum; there are the posters, that look like the cover of a science journal; there is the color palette explorations, that look like the rave is next Saturday; and then there is the stationery, that looks like you are about to be summoned by the queen. All are great and the large use of the logo ties them all together but perhaps it’s one direction too many. Nonetheless, a beautiful, well-deserved upgrade.