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A new visual identity to gather a growing network of museum professionals

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, ICOM unveiled its new visual identity on 4 July 2016. This two-year project was driven by the ICOM Executive Board and the Secretariat, in collaboration with colleagues from the ICOM network.

A new visual identity to gather a growing network of museum professionals

The 24th ICOM General Conference offered an ideal setting for the presentation of ICOM’s new visual identity. The event was organized as part of the celebrations of ICOM’s 70th anniversary, alongside the publication of the book Museums, Ethics and Cultural Heritage, edited by Bernice L. Murphy, and the opening of the “Where ICOM from” exhibition, which looked back on ICOM’s history and ahead to its future challenges.


Why did we rebrand ICOM?

The rebranding project started in 2014. A first phase was completed through a large audit encompassing interviews, workshops and an historical study on the ICOM brand and its evolution. This study gave us an overview of ICOM’s identity, missions, actions and their evolution over time.

ICOM was created by a small group of museum directors in 1946. It gradually expanded to include over 35,000 members, 113 National Committees, 30 International Committees, 20 Affiliated Organisations and 5 Regional Alliances today. The positioning of ICOM as a global network for museum professionals laid the foundations of the rebranding of its visual identity. The graphic chart designed establishes a strong brand architecture gathering all the existing or future units of the organisation: National Committees, International Committees, programmes, partners, etc. 

ICOM’s new visual identity takes over a previous chart established in 1994. It accompanies the increased scale of ICOM, whose membership has risen substantially. Over the last decade, the number of members tripled from 12,000 in 1996 to 36,000 in 2016, and membership is still growing all around the world.

The adjustment of ICOM’s visual expression also forecasts the organisation’s future developments. The chart is made to be inclusive, in order to think ahead to the creation of new committees and the implementation of new projects for museums and museum professionals.  


The renewal of ICOM’s visual identity is based on the following objectives:

- To clarify ICOM’s offer, its missions and its brand architecture.

- To unite ICOM staff and members. Every single member must be versed in ICOM’s strengths and act as ambassadors of the brand.  A virtuous circle can then be created. When the ICOM “parent” group is viewed positively, its extensions – National and International Committees, programmes – will benefit from that association, and vice versa.  

- To improve the service provided and the satisfaction of members.

ICOM identity

The logo is just the tip of the iceberg. Before working on the visual expression of ICOM, we needed to define how ICOM and ICOM’s units (its National and International Committees, for instance) wanted to be perceived and what the message they wish to bear tomorrow is. All of the design features were then combined to reinforce this message, with secondary ideas and themes.  

What does ICOM do? It helps museums to be GREAT.

How does ICOM achieve this? By working with museum professionals to face their current and future issues.

What is ICOM in 2016? The only key player which gathers the global museum community and a point of reference for museum professionals. 

ICOM singularities

The brand architecture was built according to the imperatives of ICOM:

- The international vocation of ICOM

ICOM represents museum professionals from all over the world. The new visual identity must comply with this international vocation. Bearing this parameter in mind, the new visual identity must be universal. The storytelling, promise and values carried by the logotype must be understood by everybody, anywhere in the world. 

On the other hand, this parameter implies the respect of the interests and sensibilities of every nationality and culture. Colours, forms, words, etc., have to be chosen with regard to this requirement. 

- Easy handling and reproduction

ICOM representatives are mainly volunteers. The use of the visual identity should not be perceived as a constraint for them. Thus, the new visual identity must be easily comprehensible and usable. The font, colour range and image size should be conceived according to these criteria. Members must be able to use and modify it easily, regardless of their technical skills, with basic computer hardware. 

- A dynamic network

The ICOM brand is not carved in stone. The number of committees and members increases year after year. Almost every year, certain projects, publications or programs come to an end, and new ones are created. As a consequence, the ICOM brand architecture is in perpetual change. The new identity must fit the units of the already-existing brand architecture, as well as the units to be created.     

- Three official languages and local languages

The three official languages, as stated in the ICOM Statutes, are English, French and Spanish. The main ICOM logo must exist in all of those languages. ICOM committees also often use their own national or local language. The new identity has to fit all the languages that are part of the ICOM network, even those which use non-Latin alphabets. 

The result

The graphic studio C-album won an international competition held between September and December 2015.

ICOM’s new identity of ICOM does not represent a break but rather an evolution based on continuity. The approach was to look for a graphic element that would be a synthesis of ICOM’s values as stated in the new ICOM Strategic Plan. This symbol has to be global and broadly understood, and has to fit all of the cultures and beliefs which shape the ICOM network. To reach this ambitious goal, simplicity is the greatest asset. We focused our research on the most meaningful term of the ICOM acronym: museums. When translated in all Latin languages, the word highlights a common root that we used as a common foundation for the new ICOM visual identity: the letter M. To learn more about this creative process, we invite you to read the Concept book of the new ICOM logo

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