Ingenuity & imagination


Saffron worked in partnership with London’s V&A to capture the essence of this world-leading museum and deliver a brand experience that could support their ambitions for national and international expansion.

The V&A was founded after the Great Exhibition of 1851 with a simple aim: to raise the standard of British design and make works of art available to all. Today, it is home to over 2.3 million objects, from architecture to haute-couture. The collection examines and honours the role of design throughout history, from the epic to the everyday. The V&A serves an invaluable role in educating and energising new generations of thinkers and makers.

From national to international icon

The museum was at one of the most successful periods in its history. As well as welcoming record visitor numbers, V&A opened new sites in Dundee and East London in 2018, as well as in Shenzhen, China in 2017. With a period of transformation, alongside national and international expansion ahead, the museum wanted to take the opportunity to refresh the brand and ensure that it resonated with the new, broader audience.

To create a truly iconic international brand, V&A wanted to ensure visitors understood that the museum went beyond the “Victoria and Albert” of its name. They wanted to define everything they stood for, and to ensure that this essence could be experienced by visitors across all their locations.

The challenge was to capture the true essence of the V&A – a place that had inspired visitors for generations. How to tell that story in a way that elevates, rather than reduces, who the V&A is? And how to tell it in a way that resonates with those who know the museum well and to those who are discovering it for the first time?

The ultimate dialogue

To build the brand tools the V&A needed for its next period of evolution, we worked together with the museum’s team to capture what made the institution tick. We interviewed staff from every department and level of the organisation to understand day to day pressures and concerns. We immersed ourselves in their world, auditing the visual identity and visitor experience, from poring over posters to road-testing the legendary V&A café.

Our research uncovered a number of ‘dialogues’ at the centre of who the V&A are, that reflect their operation and demonstrate their challenges: national and international, educate and entertain, preservation and progress.

Two common themes from these dialogues make V&A unique: ‘Ingenuity’ and ‘Imagination’. Ingenuity references the flair and originality of the objects in the V&A and the process behind creating them. Imagination represents the inspiration, discovery and wonder the it offers its visitors.

These two themes underpin every interaction with the brand, from the visual identity to the visitor experience.

Curating a new brand experience

To bring the brand to life and make it consistent across all V&A locations, we developed a set of four experience principles with the museum’s team that could guide V&A staff in shaping brand touchpoints. The goal was to Invite audiences, Intrigue their curiosity, Illuminate the collections’ stories and Inspire a new generation of creativity.

Celebrating Fletcher

We knew that the V&A’s much-loved logo – designed by Alan Fletcher in 1989 – would remain a staple of the modernised identity. But as the V&A had grown, the visual identity was required to work across ever more touchpoints. The identity needed refreshing, and grounding in guidelines that could be used by the teams that work with it on a day-to-day basis.

As the V&A has grown, so has its need for a cohesive identity. The challenge for the brand was to live across a number of sites. We proposed a new brand architecture model that leveraged the brand equity of the South Kensington flagship to shine a light on the other locations.

A new rulebook

Drawing on the ‘invite, intrigue, illuminate, inspire’ principles, we created a new set of rules that played to the strengths of the V&A’s existing visual identity, whilst reinforcing the structure. This lean, focused system strikes the perfect balance between giving the V&A a distinctive style and allowing the collections and exhibitions to shine.

Temporary exhibitions draw huge numbers of visitors at the V&A, and are a crucial opportunity to educate and entertain. We designed a system that would illuminate the content of these exhibitions, adapting to each exhibitions individual theme, while also ensuring that the posters are still distinctly V&A.

A world of objects. A platform for ideas

Whether they are designing a poster or penning the words on a plaque, we have given the V&A the tools to ensure that they can invite, intrigue, illuminate and inspire. The V&A’s many audiences can now see and feel the effects, from spotting a poster on the tube to picking up a map.

Set up for success

The V&A is ready to take on a new era: expanding worldwide while reinforcing its place as a top British destination and a leading voice in art, design and performance. In London, the UK and around the world, the V&A invites its audiences to experience ingenuity and enrich their imaginations.

Artwork (including Frida Kahlo Making Her Self Up and Winnie-the-Pooh campaigns), images and image rights courtesy of the V&A.