Johnson Banks gives The Royal Astronomical Society an Op Art-like rebrand to attract younger membership

Timed to coincide with the London society’s 200-year anniversary, the new spoked symbol can be read either as an eye or as a planet and its moon.

31 January 2020
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2 minute read


Johnson Banks has developed a new visual identity for The Royal Astronomical Society in an attempt to bring younger and more diverse space fans into its membership. The Op Art-like spoked logo boggles the mind and can be read either as a moon orbiting a planet or as a graphic representation of an eye. It was inspired by the society’s motto: “Let whatever shines be observed.”

Founded in London in 1820, The Royal Astronomical Society promotes the study of the solar system and beyond via journals, conferences and its research library, and also awards medals and grants to leading thinkers. It has more than 4,000 fellows and will often advise the government on matters of astronomy and geophysics in education.

The thrust of the brief was to bring the identity system up to speed with the society’s advanced approach. Its previous logo featured an engraving of a telescope invented by its first president Sir William Herschel, but did not reproduce well at small sizes or in digital environments. What’s more, however pioneering the telescope, it was ancient tech – a far cry from the cutting edge research into the universe that underpins the society’s mission.


The Royal Astronomical Society's previous logo

Johnson Banks founder and creative director Michael Johnson tells It’s Nice That: “We really wanted something bold yet simple that could be used in conjunction with their amazing work and imagery – and this route from the first concepts just seemed to sum them up beautifully, whilst being essentially a one-colour symbol.”

The varying thicknesses of the spokes creates an optical effect, giving the symbol three-dimensionality and movement. The 23.5 degree turn of the spokes also mimics Earth’s angle of tilt. The graphic has been paired with a simple serif wordmark and a minimal core colour palette of grey, black and white.

“We wanted to bring something really contemporary to a world of societies and institutes, many of whom are struggling with old legacy identities that simply aren’t working in the 21st century,” says Michael. “We are talking to and working with several similar organisations this year – all of whom are trying to find a way to look forward and attract a new crops of members and supporters, without jettisoning their past. It’s a tricky line to navigate.”


Johnson Banks: The Royal Astronomical Society symbol


Johnson Banks: The Royal Astronomical Society symbol, initial experiments


Johnson Banks: The Royal Astronomical Society symbol, tilting options


Johnson Banks: The Royal Astronomical Society printed materials


Johnson Banks: The Royal Astronomical Society posters


Johnson Banks: The Royal Astronomical Society merch

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Johnson Banks: The Royal Astronomical Society's new logo

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About the Author

Laura Snoad

Laura is a London-based arts journalist who has been working for It’s Nice That on a freelance basis since 2016.

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