The New Identity for London’s 150-Year-Old Natural History Museum Conjures a Shared Future

Posted inBranding & Identity Design

London’s Natural History Museum is a preeminent global research center for natural history and the life sciences. It now has a collection totaling more than 80 million objects, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin, an impressive number of dinosaur skeletons, and the largest specimens of blue whales ever displayed.

For its 150th birthday, the Museum wanted to reassert its position as a leading scientific voice for our changing world and the climate emergency. The organization wanted to rethink its identity as it relates to the future: a shared future where people and the planet thrive. But re-envisioning a robust cultural institution with a 150-year legacy that welcomes millions of visitors yearly is a challenging task.

A Pentagram team led by Marina Willer joined forces with design agency Nomad to interpret the Museum’s new brand strategy. At the core of the new strategy was a mindset shift: the Museum is moving from a static collection of objects to an active catalyst, from educating and entertaining audiences to inspiring advocates for the planet. More than a collection of history, London’s Natural History Museum is pushing research and the conversation forward at a crucial point in time.

A Dynamic, Colorful, and Agile Identity

A circular NHM formation creates a three-color sunburst that pulsates and ripples outward. Circles, ripples, and other natural shapes visually thread the identity. Circular Word Rings move, grow, expand, change form, and communicate, creating a recognizable element full of color and energy. The brand’s bold palette is energetic and inclusive, reflecting the diversity of nature and the Museum’s audience.

The Natural History Museum London brand identity - kiosks
The Natural History Museum London - brand identity transport

While the new identity is visually stunning, the team also wanted to make it easy for designers to apply it consistently while retaining flexibility. For the creation of Patterns and Word Rings, the Pentagram/Nomad team created a Generator tool for static and motion outputs through coding.

The system also prominently features motion and sound, with four nature-inspired animations to bring the Museum’s brand to life: Ripple, Grow, Pulsate, and Orbit. Joyful, sound-reactive elements celebrate beloved creatures.

It was such an honour to be chosen for this project and a great experience to work with the team at the Natural History Museum. The climate crisis means that we’re at a critical time, and encouraging the next generation to become advocates for the planet is more important than ever. We hope that our new brand identity will help many more people to engage with the vital work that the Museum does.

Marina Willer, Partner at Pentagram
The Natural History Museum London - brand identity cards
Natural History Museum London new identity - From Catalogue to Catalyst

With the Natural History Museum at an inflection point in its history, Pentagram and Nomad’s new identity will help it in its mission to look deeper into the planet’s past and present to help shape a new future.

Partners: Marina Willer for Pentagram; Stuart Watson for Nomad

Collaborators: Heavenly (strategy), Matt Hill (coding), Patrick Giasson (typography)

Image and videos used with permission from Pentagram.