Branding & Identity
The Frye is a contemporary and free art museum in Seattle, WA. The museum has been a staple of the city since 1952, but its’ current branding doesn’t align with its’ values. The museum would benefit from a stronger brand voice to help them stand out in a metropolitan area and appeal to a younger audience, bringing in a new wave of potential future members and donors.
The goal of this project was to develop a cohesive and flexible brand system that reflects the mission and voice of The Frye. A brand book and deliverables were created for this project, positioning The Frye as one of Seattle’s esteemed contemporary art museums.
After an in-depth research and discovery phase, the primary attributes of The Frye were established: Thoughtful, Contemporary, and Inclusive. From these attributes come the tagline and concept: "Open Space, Bold Ideas." Open space refers to the inclusive nature of the museum, which is represented through windows that highlight the boldness of the artwork that is displayed at The Frye.
One of the greater challenges when branding a place like an art museum was: how do you make a cohesive brand around a venue that showcases vastly different pieces without omitting the art from the branding? And how do you show the artwork in a way that fits within the brand while making sure the overall design promotes brand recognition? This is why the branding was split into two avenues with specific usage rules for each. Branded materials would either use the “Brand Forward” style or the “Art Forward” style.
The “Brand Forward” style is used for brand recognition when talking about the organization as a whole and places the Frye in the realm of contemporary art museum branding. It highlights one, central, bold shape from the shape library in one of the brand colors and is accompanied by the logo and often the tagline.
The “Art Forward” style, on the other hand, highlights specific artists’ work and is used on limited-edition and collectible merchandise and in advertising for exhibitions and artist showings. The shapes are used as windows to bring attention to the artists’ work, and the flowing lines function as “connectors” that bring these diverse pieces together, just as a museum does.
Gifted in perpetuity to the people of Seattle, Charles and Emma Frye’s art collection became the Founding Collection of The Frye, which opened in 1952 as the first free art museum in Seattle. Charles and Emma amassed a collection of paintings made within their lifetimes, often by purchasing work directly from living artists. Over the years, the museum has intentionally broadened its holdings of contemporary art to include previously underrepresented identities, perspectives, and forms of expression.
The primary audience is a typical museum-going audience: often upper-income, educated individuals and art connoisseurs. The Frye, however, has steadily been catering more to the secondary art museum audience, which consists of people who are just getting interested in art and art education. This audience is generally younger and more diverse, less interested in traditional art exhibitions.
Large shapes and bold colors tap into the contemporary nature of the artwork displayed at The Frye, and situate it within a contemporary art museum context. For "Art Forward" deliverables, the shapes are turned into windows that highlight featured artists' work. Meandering lines represent the thoughtful and contemplative paths taken through an art museum and connect widely varying artworks.
The final logotype for The Frye is set in a clean and contemporary font and a bold weight. The accompanying icon functions as a spotlight, because it is part of the Frye’s mission to highlight local and contemporary artists. Together, the icon and logotype create a dynamic and personal mark for The Frye.
This rebrand was successful because it was designed to emphasize The Frye’s core value of inclusivity and commitment to highlighting artists’ work. Updating the brand to reflect the bold and contemporary work that The Frye exhibits opens the museum to a broader audience. The flexible brand system promotes brand recognition and highlights the reason why people visit art museums: to view beautiful artwork.