“The Upside Down”
Established in 2000, At-Bristol is a science center and museum in Bristol, UK, that offers interactive exhibits, hands-on experiments, workshops, activities, and the UK’s only 3D digital Planetarium. This September, the institution changed its name to We The Curious, “with a new direction and focus to ‘create a culture of curiosity’.” With the new name comes a new identity, designed by London- and Bristol, UK-based Smith & Milton.
Our new name, ‘we the curious’, is part declaration, part call to action and embodies the innate desire in each of us to discover, experience and learn more about the world and our role in it.
The logo has been created through a series of bright, geometric shapes to ambiguously form the word ‘curious’. The full name has then been placed upside down below this to allude to it being a clue that needs working out.
The old name and logo were fine for a time — 2000 — when the “@” symbol was a relative novelty and there was still a fun interplay between how it looked and how it sounded. (Now, I think @ is almost like ® or ™, but that’s another story). The new name is fun and charged with emotion that gets passed on to the visitor, making them part of the call to action. It’s also an unexpected name for a science center and while it’s very awkward to say “Hey, you want to go to We The Curious today?” it certainly stands out.
The logo uses full, half, and quarter circles to — also awkwardly — spell out “Curious”. Visually, it’s an unsightly combination to be honest, but, as a graphic representation of the name and the curiosity-led mission, it’s a fairly interesting approach that kickstarts a sense of digging deeper and of trying to decipher the complexities of science. If I saw an ad for the museum, without knowing the name I’m not sure I would be able to figure out it spells “Curious” and the secondary logo that spells out the name, upside down mind you, could perhaps be more evident in the applications, at least at the beginning, to more quickly establish the connection. Also, maybe, it’s one trick too many in the logo: a geometric wordmark that needs to be deciphered and an upside down wordmark that isn’t easy to spot or be able to be read quickly.
Still, both elements break from the norm and it’s a welcome shift.
We knew the new name and identity couldn’t be passive, it needed to arouse and excite speculation by being inexplicable and highly unusual every time you interact with it.
In application, I really like the print materials approach where a few letters interact with photography and some pretty nice typography running along the top. Mysterious and groovy cosmic imagery really helps sell the geometric shapes when used in white, whereas applications like the ads directly above perhaps start to feel too much like a children’s museum; even if they switched the background from white to black, it would feel as cool as those covers or business cards. Overall, this is a great change — starting with the name — that feels like it will provide an influx of new energy into the organization and establish it as a destination with an expressive personality.