How O Street made guts and gore into a playful rebrand for Thackray Medical Museum

O Street rebranded Leeds-based Thackray Museum of Medicine to update its historic identity into a more encompassing and attractive one for the new generation.

13 August 2021


Make visitors squirm with delight. That was O Street’s aim for its rebranding of Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds.

Thackray wanted to connect with a new generation by updating its historic identity. Being based in a 160-year-old listed building and focusing so heavily on the history of medicine, the brief could be seen as quite the challenge.

O Street rose to the test. Taking inspiration from Thackray’s provocative mix of exhibitions, the creative agency’s concept “What’s Inside Us” became the catalyst for the identity. This led to a logo consisting of abstract colourful organs, bacterial shapes and outlines of medical tools.

Previously, the public wasn’t so aware of what delights awaited them behind the museum’s doors, claims O Street. So it set out to spread the word with a city-wide campaign. The agency says that signage was a priority for the brand: “We used the abstract elements of the logo on the fences leading up to the building to intrigue visitors and passersby.”

David Freer of the Thackray rebranding project design team mentions that after learning about the museum’s core audience – school children – they wanted to highlight the gory details that kids find exciting; “they always gravitated towards the gruesome exhibits.” Freer says that seeing medical gore through the eyes of a child, “like a Tim Burton film or the Mexican Day of the Dead,” transforms it from something repulsive to something more playful. Playful is the essence O Street, in turn, tried to emit through the campaign.


O Street: What's Inside Us (Copyright © Thackray Museum of Medicine, 2021)

Not only do organs make up the “T” logo but medical equipment and a nurse’s hand. “The idea of how we as humans have tried to treat ailments is a key part of the identity of the museum,” explains Freer. His favourite part of the development process, which he credits designer Anna Dunn with, was coming up with the names for the colour palette. Vomit orange, bruise blue, gangrene are among his favourites.

“To be honest, coming up with the idea and concept was the hardest bit,” Freer tells us when asked how the team found inspiration for the campaign. Once they had established the idea of playful rounded shapes of body parts and medical curiosities though, it was just a matter of drawing them out and seeing which ones worked; “Fitting them into the letter ‘T’ so they all balanced together was the trickiest bit.”

Anna Dunn, creative lead on the project, says: “Thackray challenges what a museum ‘should be’ and this allowed us to create a playful and creative identity that we had a lot of fun with! It was a big project to create such a comprehensive re-brand for the museum, but absolutely worth going the extra mile on every last little detail.”

The Thackray team has created a digital campaign with unusual content alongside its new branding and as a result, has been shortlisted for the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2021.

GalleryO Street: What's Inside Us (Copyright © Thackray Museum of Medicine, 2021)

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O Street: What's Inside Us (Copyright © Thackray Museum of Medicine, 2021)

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia joined It’s Nice That as a news writer in July 2021 after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh. She's written for various indie publications such as Azeema and Notion, and ran her own magazine and newsletter platforming marginalised creativity.

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