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New visual identity for ICOM: The saga of ICOM’s logos!

On 6 July, during the 24th ICOM General Conference in Milan, the organisation’s new visual identity will be presented. This redesign initiative began in 2014 as part of the celebration of ICOM’s 70th anniversary and as a launch of the new strategic plan for the 2016-2019 period. The current visual identity was created in 1994, and its transformation accompanies the change in scale of an organisation that has tripled in size over the past decade, climbing from 12,000 members in 1996 to 36,000 in 2016.

New visual identity for ICOM: The saga of ICOM’s logos!

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Created in the aftermath of World War II, ICOM has continually developed over its 70 years of existence. In 1946, Chauncey J. Hamlin, then-director of the Buffalo Museum of Science, brought together a small group of professionals to get involved in “better international cooperation among museums”. With a network spread across 136 countries and territories and 149 committees, ICOM has since established itself as a standard-bearer organisation for the museum community worldwide.

In 1946, ICOM first logo was created, during the post-war period characterised notably by the creation of the UN and UNESCO, two institutions founded with the shared will to establish durable peace among States. These same values of sharing and diversity drove the participants who gathered together at the Louvre from 16 to 20 November 1946 for ICOM’s constituent assembly. Representatives from 14 nations – Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and US – settled on ICOM’s very first visual identity. Strongly influenced by the UN’s model, this circular logo featured the image of a map of the world in polar projection. The acronym “ICOM” was set within the circular design, with emphasis on the two letters “CO”, forming the abbreviation for community in the centre. Particular importance was placed on the notion of rallying together at the time. This image highlights ICOM’s original – and current – role of uniting museum professionals from across the globe around the shared objectives of preservation, conservation and transmission of cultural objects.

As during this defining moment, the new visual identity to be presented will emphasise ICOM’s fundamental values of community and universality.

The second logo appears in 1966, when ICOM was celebrating its 20th anniversary and the successful launch of the second International Museum Campaign. The acronym was placed under the outline of an eye featuring a globe as its pupil. The precision and minimalism of the design clearly reflected the geopolitical context of the Cold War. In an era of divisions, ICOM continued to promote the cause of a global museum community united within a strong, neutral and universal institution. In 1972, ICOM adopted a new variation on the identity unveiled in 1966. In this new version, the eye lost its monumentality and was incorporated into the acronym ICOM, graphically replacing the letter “O”. The colour blue was abandoned in favour of black and white. This third identity was used until 1995, and is thus the logo used to represent ICOM’s identity for the longest period.

The new identity developed for ICOM also proposes a graphic element to replace one of the letters in the acronym ICOM. The simplicity of the 1966 and 1972 logos is also preserved in order to best embody ICOM’s fundamental role: serving museums.

Finally, in 1992, ICOM completely revamped its identity. In a calmer geopolitical context marked by the end of the Cold War, and faced with substantial growth in its membership, the organisation sought change. ICOM thus asked the agency M&M to design a new logo, which was ultimately used starting in 1995. This new visual featured blue as favoured by international institutions. For the first time, the acronym ICOM was spelled out as “International Council of Museums”, initially in the two languages, and subsequently, in ICOM’s three official languages starting in 2001. This new visual highlighted the complexity and diversity of the actors who make up ICOM today. The letter “I”, made up of short parallel lines, symbolises the array of ICOM committees. The “O”, central element of this logo, is accented by a semi-circular comma. The image emphasises the universality of a network whose activities span the globe. The font, typography and boldness are typical of the era, demonstrating ICOM’s status as a modern organisation.

The colour blue, now at the heart of ICOM’s image, will also feature in the organisation’s new identity. For the rest, you have to wait until 6 July!

We’ll see you in Milan for the unveiling of ICOM’s new visual identity at the General Conference! 
A number of surprises await to go hand in hand with the change. Get ready!