Johnson Banks creates future-facing new identity for The Royal Academy of Music

The studio shied away from the cliché of musical notation, instead opting for a crescendo symbol as the conservatoire’s new logo.

17 July 2020

The London-based design and branding studio Johnson Banks has revealed a bold new identity for The Royal Academy of Music, the oldest conservatoire in the UK. Although the organisation is approaching its 200th birthday (coming up in 2022), the design team, led by Michael Johnson and Alice Tosey, was determined not to focus on the past and have instead created a design system that looks to the future of music.

The biggest change many will immediately notice is the removal of the famous crest from most visuals (although a simplified version is retained for certain instances). The new visual identity also avoids the use of musical notation, which the Johnson Banks team describes as “a bit of a cliché in the broader music sector”, and instead the new logo employs a crescendo symbol, which they describe as a “perfect and ready-made metaphor” for a more powerful voice and forward motion. The crescendo is used as a subtle underscore.

The design scheme uses a three-colour palette and Museo – the typeface that the Academy had already installed across all their computers – as well as a whole series of still and moving images that aim to reflect life at the Academy. The photographic and filmic style is deliberately gritty and “fly-on-the-wall” in a deliberate effort to contrast with the “perfect” images used by other conservatoires and musical institutions.

The images and copywriting also make the most of some of the Academy’s most illustrious alumni, including Sir Simon Rattle, Elton John, Annie Lennox, and new rising-star cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. This use of these figures aims to suggest to current and prospective students that they might – just might – be the next in line.

The Academy needed the new identity for three primary functions: to resonate with current staff and students, to appeal to a global talent pool, and to help them raise funds going forward. When the Academy communicates with supporters, Johnson Banks has designed a special logo variant: The Royal Academy of Music’s Future. This allows the core brand and fundraising brand to neatly co-exist. The language being used for this audience is also described as “slightly more aspirational”.

GalleryJohnson Banks: The Royal Academy of Music rebrand

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Johnson Banks: The Royal Academy of Music

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About the Author

Matt Alagiah

Matt joined It’s Nice That as editor in October 2018 and became editor-in-chief in September 2020. He was previously executive editor at Monocle magazine. Drop him a line with ideas and suggestions, or simply to say hello.

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