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Museums and Brand Consistency

An easily recognisable style contributes to consistent brand awareness and will without a doubt, increase consistent digital engagement. Where would McDonalds be without the big yellow arch? When you’re searching for apps on your phone, you don’t look through a list, you search them out by their colour, font, definable characteristics. It’s these definable characteristics that will make readers take the time to pause during their daily social feed scroll to engage with a new post or message from your organisation. 

Having consistent branding will also save your organisation lots of time in the long run. Instead of choosing from 1,000s of different colours, anyone who is creating something visual for your org will have a predefined colour palette and font selection with guidelines on how often to use said colours/font and where to use them as well. 

So – where to start with choosing colours and fonts? We will break it down for you and dissect all of the “designer” terms.

Colours

Choosing eye-catching colours for your brand is important. It’s also important that all of the colours chosen blend together in some way, shape or form, and that it’s also indicated how often they should be used. Begin with googling colour palettes and seeing what catches your attention. Are you interested in colour palettes that are bold or muted? Earth tones or neon? The colours that you choose should reflect your organisation and mission as well as which audience(s) you are targeting.

The chosen colours are one of the first things that people will notice about your brand. Canva, an app that will discuss later on this week, offers some great advice on choosing colours for your brand. They have created the following colour wheel which illustrates which feelings certain colours evoke for people. Why does Victoria’s Secret use the iconic pink and black? Well, they want people to associate romance and sophistication with their brand. Why does Holland and Barrett use a forest green? Well, most likely it’s because they want their customers to connect their brand with nature and healing. Once you’ve taken a good look at this chart, you’ll start to see connections all around you!  

Once you’ve decided on about 4-6 colours that you’d like to include in your brand colour palette, it’s time to note the CMYK and RGB values for each chosen colour. No, a mouse didn’t just run across the keyboard, these acronyms are commonly used by designers and mean the following:

CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black

RGB – Red, Green and Blue

These are terms that designers use when working in print (CMYK) and working in digital (RGB). Cyan, magenta, yellow and black are the colours used in a printer and therefore all colours created need to have a designated percentage of each of those four colours included. The same goes for digital. Computer pixels are made up of red, green and blue colours. All colours that will appear on a screen are made up of a percentage of each of those colours.

Whether you work with an in-house designer or you outsource your graphic design, identifying these colours will pay-off in the long-term and make sure that all of your content comes out with consistent coloration and branding. 

Another term to know when working with colours is “Pantone”. Pantone is basically the universal language for colours. Pantone colours are colour codes that stand for a specific shade. Each pantone shade has CMYK and RGB values. Pantone colours are developed using a “spot colour” technique, meaning that the colours are created using 18 different colours, rather than the 4 CMYK and 3 RGB colours. This means that if you choose your colours right from a pantone book or kit, they may not be available for digital marketing. If you are creating a print piece and/or communicating with a graphic designer, they may reference pantone colours to make sure you are working with exactly the right hue/tone, but just keep in mind that these colours are primarily used for screen printing and not for digital design. 

At this point, you should have your colours chosen (possibly with pantone names) and CMYK and RGB values identified…. You do? Okay, super! Now, we will move onto defining which colours are your primary colours and which ones are secondary. To be clear, we aren’t talking about primary colours as in red, blue and yellow, we are talking about the colours that you will use most often in your branding. These colours should be immediately recognisable as belonging to your brand. The secondary colours that you choose will be the ones that are accents/pops of colour. They should be used less often than your primary colours. 

A great way to illustrate how often colours will be used within your branding is to create either a colour chart or a colour wheel. This visual is extremely easy to create and helpful in allowing different departments in your organisation to create their own content and stay on-brand. We created the images below in InDesign, but you could use lots of different applications to choose your colours and create a colour wheel/chart. 

PaletteCam is an application that helps you create colour palettes right from images that are in your library. 

Colour Grab is another downloadable application that allows you to extract colour palettes from images.

Coolors is a very groovy app that generates complementary colour palettes in the blink of an eye!

Canva is a great application for novice graphic designers that aren’t quite ready to go FULL Adobe CC. You can create everything from colour wheels to 1-sheets and brochures on this app. 

Fonts

Now, it’s time to get full-FONTal… Hey, it’s been a good while since we’ve cracked an awful pun like that – just give us this one 🙂 Like colours, the type of fonts that you use can indicate whether you are a fun, sophisticated, serious, savvy or eclectic brand – maybe all of them! It’s important to align the fonts that you use with the way that you want your brand to be perceived and the type of followers/visitors/customers that you want to engage with. 

When choosing fonts for your brand, there are two primary categories of fonts to consider; serif and sans serif (exhibited below)

Serif – Fonts that have a “tail”, or little distinguishing curve at the end of the letters. These little “tails” as we so expertly called them are also known as “serifs”

Sans Serif – This term encompasses all fonts that do not have serifs, so, fonts that are typically very modern and sleek. 

We advise choosing at least one serif and one sans serif font for your brand. Sans serif fonts are often used for headers and subheaders while serif fonts are typically used for body text. We’ll illustrate what we’re talking about just below. 

You can see the usage of the three different font styles above and how they contribute to having an eye-catching and easy to read quip. In the example above, the header and subheader are bolded to add extra emphasis, while the body copy is presented in a nice and clean serif font. This is a standard usage of fonts within the whole of the marketing world. Therefore, people have come to expect seeing adverts and contents broken down into these different font categories.

Now, don’t get the impression that design with colour and fonts is ALL rules and no play. There is certainly some room in the museum marketing field for having some fun with fonts. All good things in moderation, right? Below please find some examples of eclectic fonts along with the label of the category that they fall into.

Keep in mind, that the fonts above should be reserved for headers and subheaders; perhaps some quote bubbles and other quips here and there. Slab, script and decorative fonts should never be used for body text. Not only will they be difficult for viewers to read, but they will also lose their punchy effect if they are used for large blocks of text. 

If you want to look beyond the standard fonts available on most Microsoft and Adobe platforms, you can download fonts from the internet 

Adobe Fonts – Loads of fonts that are already cleared for personal and commercial usage. If you have an Adobe ID then you are good to go!

Google Fonts – FREE, yes, free fonts and they are all unique and beautiful. 

Font Shop – A mix of free and paid fonts. One of the most popular sites to buy fonts for commercial use. However, the fonts on this site can be a bit pricey so make sure you are serious before you commit. 

Colophon – We’re kinda in love with their groovy website – but they have rad fonts as well. This site is definitely geared for people who are serious and ready to shell out for a one of kind fonts, but they have bespoke and beautiful options. 

DaFont – Lots of funky fonts available to download. Most of them are free, and they include an option to donate to the author of the fonts. If you are using these for business purposes, make sure that it signed off by the author of the font. 

SO – we’ve now got our colour palettes sorted as well as our fonts. It’s time to put it all together into a complete digital branding kit. Below you’ll see our museum branding kit which is complete with fonts (serif and sans serif) as well as our chosen colours (RGB and CMYK) and finally, our colour chart illustrating how often the brand colours should be used. If you’re working with an outside graphic design team, they will LOVE you for putting this together and sending it to them! 

I bet at the beginning of the article, you would have thought you’d never be able to create something like this… Well, here you go! You now have all of the elements needed to create a branding kit of your own.

Armed with your branding kit and the applications needed to make your own custom branded graphics and content, it’s time to personalise all of your digital pages and platforms. For example, does your Twitter profile picture match your Facebook page? Are the colours consistent across all of your social media pages and website pages? What about fonts? 

There is no time like the present to make sure that everything is coordinated and clearly identifiable to your brand. Below we’ve whipped up a social media size infographic that will come in SUPER handy when creating your own graphics and content that is brand consistent and sized appropriately for each platform.

What’s next?

Your homework is to work with your organisation to create/refine your branding kit. Are the fonts that you’ve been using really speaking to your desired audience(s)? What about the fonts? A little refresh can help to raise the profile of your organisation and allow your posts to stand out in user’s newsfeeds. Developing a branding kit may seem like the sole responsibility of the person who is in charge of marketing, but it’s important that all voices in your organisation are happy with the look of the branding kit and realise the importance of developing an organisational tool such as this. Having everyone on board from the beginning will also help your team to realise how important branding is and that it’s something that they will have to incorporate into their work as well!

About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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