Snøhetta creates a visual identity with a spin for a Norwegian museum foundation
It was a welcome creative challenge for the Oslo-based agency to create an entirely new unifying brand for a collection of 12 very different museums, newly brought together under the name Viti.
- Dalia Al-Dujaili
- 14 October 2021
When we think of Norway, we imagine icicles, sweeping fjords and minimalist aesthetics, and this is exactly the identity that Snøhetta aimed to evoke for Viti. Deep in Norway’s mountainous northwest lies the district of Sunnmøre. It’s a vibrant cultural area with a host of museums, 12 of which belong to the Viti foundation of museums. Before Snøhetta, it was simply called The Museums and Sunnmøre; now renamed Viti, the aim of the foundation was to create a strong unified platform for them to thrive, along with a visual identity and website for the foundation.
Navigation became a central theme in the project, given the area’s unforgiving natural landscape. The new name, coined by Gaute Tenold Aase and Hedda Foss Lilleng, takes its cue from the Norse “vete” meaning burning a cairn (a man-made stack of stones) and the verb “to know” – apt for a museum’s mission to educate and inform its visitors. Taking this concept further, the word Viti rotates for the logo with letters stacked like the logs in a cairn.
“Since the logo is based on traditional Norwegian bonfire beacons and cairns,” the Snøhetta team tells It’s Nice That, “we of course looked at the historical appearance of these.” But the team was also highly influenced by some renowned identity projects created by other agencies, such as “the beautiful 2013 rebrand of Whitney Museum by Experimental Jetset, and Pentagram’s 2014 rebrand of MIT Media Labs”. These, they claim, were excellent cases for demonstrating the flexibility of a visual identity. “We discussed using local history in the design by referencing the use of Robert Rauschenberg’s signature as a logo for Moderna Museet by Stockholm Design Lab, Henrik Nygren and Greger Ulf Nilson,” they continue. “And the strengths of a unique display type by referencing Node Berlin Oslo’s work for Haus der Kulturen der Welt.”
Keeping to the theme, the typeface from Dinamo also rotates. Using Monument Grotesk for the identity, the type designers made a customised variable version of the typeface, naming it Viti Monument Variable. All the characters rotate on their own axis to create an inimitable display font. Dinamo hopes this typography is adaptable enough that it enables each museum to vary its own expression from classic Monument Grotesk to something quite “crazy,” depending on the degree of rotation and adapted to their particular visitor group. And for the colour palette, eight distinctive colours are combined into eight colour combinations, providing variation and allowing for flexibility whilst not straying from a shared identity.
Particular visitor groups proved a challenge to cater to. The team explains: “The target audience of an art museum isn’t necessarily the same as the visitors to an 18th-century farmstead. So the poster for a contemporary art exhibition needs to visually differ from a poster for a traditional baking class, yet they both need to be recognisable as a Viti event.” To achieve a unified identity, Snøhetta built a visual identity system that allowed graphics to reach both ends of the spectrum. “The packed colour palette comes with instructions of which colours go with which, the variable font developed together with Dinamo ranges from the standard Monument Grotesk to a crazy rotated version, the illustrations are both slightly three-dimensional versions of the logo and repeated and rotated logos that becomes a pattern.”
The website, from Axel Berggraf Egenæs and Rebecca Balogh, is designed to be interactive and inviting to its visitors, asking them to explore the stories behind the museums and their exhibitions, and expressing “the combined cultural knowledge of Viti and its museums,” as the team puts it. The choices of font and colour palette hope to be playful and come to life through animations and contrasting pages, while the imagery aims to evoke a documentary and candid expression.
As a three-part project including concept, naming and visual identity, the team explains that a challenge was making the museums simultaneously fit under one umbrella but “stand alone as a separate arena”. When working with the naming phase, the team say they quickly realised they needed “a short and catchy name that could be designed as both an organisational logotype and a logo symbol for the individual museums.” The logo thus became the main symbol for the visual identity, which all the other design elements could be bounced off.
GallerySnøhetta: Viti rebrand (Copyright © Snøhetta, 2021)
Snøhetta: Viti rebrand (Copyright © Snøhetta, 2021)
About the Author
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.