Over the past few years The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University has consistently presented its audiences with surprising and innovative projects, rooted in original, interdisciplinary research. The museum’s bold exhibitions and engagement programs stretch across time, geography, and fields of study, drawing national awards and media recognition as well as loyal audiences from across the Northwestern campus, the North Shore and Chicago.
- “Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt,” provided new insights into the art and science of mummy portrait painting and included a first-of-its-kind study of a 1,900-year-old mummy at Argonne National Laboratory.
- “William Blake and the Age of Aquarius,” was the first art exhibition to explore the impact of the 18th-century British poet and artist on the 20th-century counterculture movement in the U.S. The companion book to the exhibition was named a Top 10 Art Book of 2017 by The New York Times.
- “A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s – 1980s” mined the personal archives of the cello playing performance artist resulting in an eye-popping exhibition that traveled to New York and Salzburg, Austria.
Lisa Corrin, The Block’s Ellen Philips Katz Director said, “Every inch of the museum offers a new creative opportunity. As the Block has expanded the possibilities of what an academic art museum can be to its campus and community, it was time for a refreshed, contemporary, look and feel. We were looking for an identity that fully reflected the dynamism and active spirit of the work going on within our walls.”
The Block worked with a creative team at Northwestern University’s Global Marketing and Communications Office, led by Andy Madorsky, Assistant Vice President Chief Creative Officer to achieve this goal. The new brand identity fittingly debuted in October alongside the opening of “Up is Down: Mid-Century Experimentation in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio,” an exhibition spotlighting the golden age of design and advertising in Chicago.
Key components of the project include a new brand platform, new visual identity, new graphic elements – especially the key visual of “The B”, a new website (scheduled to launch in January 2019), and introductory video showcasing the energy, excitement, and diversity of The Block’s work.
The inspiration for the mark and tagline was derived from The Block’s current name graphic, zeroing in on the capital B in the font, and making creative use of Northwestern University’s existing fonts and colors.
Corrin said, “Our design team recognized that The Block didn’t need to create a mark from scratch. They cleverly extracted an idea from our existing graphic, infusing new artistry into a familiar element. Like the experience of art itself, our playful new ‘B’ is a matter of perception. Its open-ended and invites viewers to look twice and to find meaning for themselves. We have embraced a design that celebrates the spirit of openness that is a core value of the museum. At The Block, we are open to dialogue, open to new ideas and open to new ways of looking at art and at ourselves.”
Ultimately, several permutations of the mark were created using reverse colors and embedding imagery within the character itself. One version overtly uses the Block “cube” to surround the letter; another version leaves it up to the viewer’s imagination. The new mark is in the eye of the beholder – itself a creative experience.
According to Corrin, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the project was exploring the “What’s inside The Block” idea, leveraging a creative team of designers, photographers, videographers, motion graphics artists and writers to explore this concept in different mediums. The team created different content uniquely geared to specific social platforms including beautiful photography for Instagram, conceptual renderings of the B within different environments, such as the Northwestern beach, the sky above the Evanston campus and within a topiary.
Creative executions also included fun boomerangs for Instagram stories, an engaging video for The Block’s Facebook branding, a GIF for The Block’s e-newsletter, a printed program for The Block’s upcoming season, and a variety of branded of merchandise (notebooks, stickers, tote bags and pens) which announce the new mark to the museum’s audiences and connect thematically to the idea of “What’s inside The Block.”
The launch of the new website in January of 2019 will coincide with the opening of the museum’s most ambitious exhibition to date: “Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa.” The exhibition will encompass 8 centuries, 3 continents and will include more than 200 art objects sourced from Sub-Saharan Africa and its medieval trading partners in Europe, China and the Middle East.