Discipline: Brand and identity systems design
Design firm: Sussman/Prejza & Co., Inc.
Creative director: Deborah Sussman
Designers: Holly Hampton, Miles Mazzie
Typeface: Infinity T Bold
Client: Museum of the African Diaspora
Our client for the identity design is a new first-voice museum being established in San Francisco whose focus is on the African Diaspora. The operative word, “diaspora,” is defined as both “to scatter” and “to sow,” and for the museum refers to the voluntary and involuntary dispersal of the African people from their ancestral homelands, as well as the subsequent new cultural forms that they have created around the world. For this new institution, covering a generally little-known topic, it was imperative for the identity to provide a succinct visual metaphor for the museum’s mission.
Sussman/Prejza’s design approach, as in other projects, began with research and discussions with experts knowledgeable about the subject in order to glean insights that could spark the creative process. Creating a new identity requires the designer to transform dense layers of information into a single icon. As part of the design process, Sussman/Prejza led the client organization to a higher level of self-awareness, as they sought to define the focus points and values of the museum that would be communicated by the identity.
The many discussions and design investigations led to consensus on using an amalgamation of dots to viscerally convey the idea of the diaspora. Before arriving at a final decision for the identity, Sussman/Prejza prototyped a wide variety of possible applications. As designers of environmental graphics, print graphics, and exhibitions, we are adept at knowing the limitations of design in varying media. The final design balances aesthetics and utility/readability at multiple scales.
Positive client feedback indicates that the design’s successful encapsulation of the museum’s identity and mission has led to many positive “lightbulb moments” in their meetings with potential stakeholders. Furthermore, the high aesthetic quality of the whole identity program has infused an intangible yet important prestige factor into the museum’s communications. The public impact of the identity project will be quantifiable only after the museum opens to the public in the fall of 2005.
You get a good feel from it; the African reference is right on.