It is without a doubt that branding and visual identity for any organisation is key to its growth and differentiation from competitors. For museums, theatres, exhibition spaces, galleries, etc., the branding and identity is a chance to express the ideals and vision of the cultural institution. If we consider personality and recognisability, very few institutions have been as successful in establishing themselves in a visual landscape as coherently and succinctly as the Barbican Centre has.
Unfussy and direct, yet dynamic, vibrant, spartan and bold, the visual identity of Barbican Centre allows it to stand confidently as an arts centre in the middle of the City of London, saturated with hurried office-workers, bustling streets and tall office buildings.
To the public audience, with the choice and typesetting of Futura as the absolute and exclusive typographical solution for its identity, the Barbican Centre portrays itself as youthful, avant-garde, progressive, modern, and engaging. To the untrained eye, Futura still holds up as a natural and appropriate choice for the arts centre’s visual identity; the geometric straightforwardness of its letterforms echo and accentuate the functional elegance of Chamberlin, Powell & Bon’s brutalist architectural take on post-war modernism.
To the well-informed designer, the choice of Futura (designed by Paul Renner in 1927) makes even greater sense. The typeface was Renner’s way of saying “we should look to the future for modernity”—Renner created the geometric sans-serif to express modern ideals. In many ways, the Barbican Centre shares similar values.
The Barbican Centre, in-line with its progressive culture of openness and providing arts without boundaries, commissioned long-time collaborator North to revitalise the institution’s visual identity, and has made the guidelines available online for all to study and understand. With these guidelines, one will appreciate the unique spirit of the Barbican Centre in the versatility of the identity system.
View the visual identity guidelines of the Barbican Centre in full at