Try Design uses sliding type to represent one of Norway’s oldest museums “opening up”

The communication house has worked hard to modernise the institution while preserving its historical roots.

18 March 2024

Sometimes, historical institutions can rely a little too heavily on status to keep themselves running, letting their outreach and visual presence get a little stale. This was the case for Vitenskapsmuseet (VIMU), one of Norway’s oldest museums and home to one of the largest collections of artefacts of Norway’s environmental and cultural history. Despite this vast collection and its celebrated research, the museum’s team recently realised that its positioning had become unclear, and that it had untapped potential when reaching out to the public. To solve this issue they turned to Try Design, Norway’s largest communications agency, for a refreshed visual identity that would inject new life into their messaging.

With the museum’s identity dating back to 1996, the Try team recognised the need for a more “distinct” identity, and a varied set of visual tools to engage audiences. “The goal was to create a current, clear, and functional museum identity that could showcase exhibits, preserve history, come across as a relevant destination, and express academic depth,” says Try’s lead brand designer, Bendik Høibraaten. Soon into the project, the museum’s mission – “to open up our incredible world through engaging storytelling, activities and experiences” – also became a key springboard.

Try Design: VIMU (Copyright © Try Design, 2024)

Throughout the identity, the concept of ‘opening up’ is translated through sliding typography. After studying the museum’s old publications and documents (as chosen by experts working at the museum) the team realised that it was essential to create a type system with “ultra-condensed proportions” as a touchpoint across various formats. They worked alongside Good Type Foundry on a custom wordmark of the institution’s four letter abbreviation, featuring a subtly elongated length and elegant yet slightly rounded serifs. This was married with a supporting type, Moulin from Commercial Type, “a typeface that resembled the expression on the company’s old seal”, says Bendik. Though what was key to bringing the typography to life was additional motion elements. Across various assets the VIMU wordmark slides apart to reveal the full name, a crest or artefact, physically alluding to the ‘opening up’ of the museum.

This use of artefacts throughout the identity was a conscious decision from Try, to ensure the institution stayed central. “While the new identity was intended to appear modern and engage the audience, it was also crucial to preserve the proud history that traces its roots all the way back to 1760,” says Bendik. “It was also important to create an identity that did not divert attention away from individual exhibitions, allowing the exhibits and objects to take centre stage.” As well as emerging from the sliding type, artefacts populate posters, banners and the website, creating a sense of curiosity and calling for further inspection.

Now the project is complete, Bendik believes the identity shines for its simplicity and assuredness of expression. “We’re proud of having created such a simple graphic system that can be utilised in endless ways,” he ends. “The idea of ‘opening up’ facilitates numerous expressions, allowing the museum to showcase everything it encompasses.”

GalleryTry Design: VIMU (Copyright © Try Design, 2024)

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Try Design: VIMU (Copyright © Try Design, 2024)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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