Seeking to blur the lines between audience and art, individual and community, and art and the natural environment, Laumeier Sculpture Park bills itself as a “living laboratory.” Housing an ever-changing variety of exhibits, Laumeier presents contemporary art appreciation in an approachable and unexpected atmosphere.
TOKY has a history of producing dynamic and award-winning work for Laumeier Sculpture Park. The Mound City Catalogue and the Jessica Stockholder Catalogue could not be more different in aesthetic and impact yet both convey a true representation of the Laumeier experience. In redesigning the Laumeier brand itself, we went back to our discussions with a client who wasn’t afraid to engage on an emotional level while embracing the conceptual.
In TOKY’s earliest explorations with Laumeier, we quickly learned that the true passion of the Executive Director and Chief Curator, Marilu Knode, is building a highly conceptual space for art that cultivates experience. As art is transformed from raw materials into masterpieces, Laumeier’s approach gives art a similar power to engage and transform individual viewers into a community. This is the strength of Laumeier Sculpture Park, in no small part due to the bold risks being taken by the park’s exhibitions.
Woven throughout every aspect of the redesigned Laumeier brand is a flexible and dimensional identity, both physically and emotionally. TOKY’s design team wanted to create a fully-realized brand that represented the transitional experience that greets a Laumeier visitor.
As part of Laumeier’s continuing efforts to educate, inspire, and incubate, their new fine arts center was to be christened at the Laumeier NOW gala. A celebration of growth, Laumeier NOW was the ideal event to unveil Laumeier’s evolving brand identity — a new focal point, a new space, and a whole new look from the ground up. Their gala invitations would be the first glimpse of the rebranded Laumeier image.
Laumeier’s logo needed to boil down the essence of the dimensional experience and help them pivot on the details that make the park unique. By creating a flexible logo to match to their iconoclastic mission and ambitious future goals, we hoped to visually represent some of Laumeier’s core values.
We’d already established a client-design relationship built on taking inspiration from the Laumeier space itself through our work on the Mound City catalogue. Redesigning the Laumeier brand seemed another opportunity to explore this meaning behind the name in a deeper way.
The redesigned Laumeier logo serves as a visual touchstone for the brand identity and positions the Laumeier name as part of the conceptual art environment in which it lives. This is the opposite of traditional arts institutional “anti-branding.” While many arts institutions choose to allow their individual identities to fade into the background (ostensibly to put the art center stage), TOKY’s design staff helped Laumeier distance themselves from this attitude and make their brand a voice for the art.
The dimensionality of the Laumeier logo invites a viewer to look at it from all sides. Like the famous sculptures themselves, the logo exists in many treatments and iterations at once, each with subtle variations depending on the vantage point and surrounding environment. Like Laumeier’s philosophical standpoint, this invites the viewer to step closer, experience the art, and take part in the dialogue it sparks.
Experiencing Laumeier reminds the visitor of three things: There’s more than one side to art. Each story offers more than one perspective. Life offers multiple sides to experience.
On a technical level, the Laumeier logo plays with perspective. On an emotional level, the Laumeier logo invites shifts in perspective.
The result was a flexible logo, dimensional and structured, malleable and living. Isolating and accentuating the bold diagonals within the letters quickly stood out as the standalone graphic device, inspiring our designers to pull the diagonal theme throughout the Laumeier brand identity.
With the logo design finalized, the next step was framing it within the new Laumeier brand signature style.
Determining Laumeier’s palette began with finding a signature color that supported their positioning as a dynamic and innovative creative space that wasn’t afraid to be “different.” Replacing their cyan brand color gave their identity another point of differentiation. TOKY’s creative team led to client toward bold reds and oranges.
As a result, “Laumeier” is rendered in a striking deep red-orange hue that contrasts with and complements the lush greens of the park. A rarely utilized color in nonprofits and arts communities, orange adds an unexpected twist to the visual, again positioning Laumeier as an independent outlier with creative ferocity.
Building the secondary and tertiary palettes grew naturally from here, literally and figuratively. Each color was selected to represent various aspects of the grounds. The full Laumeier color suite reflects the park itself and their harmony between sculpture and nature. But on a conceptual level, these selections re emphasize their commitment to fully experiencing the art in a specific time and place that changes with the seasons.
The suite of deeply saturated colors begins by thinking from the ground up. A warm, dense brown is a visual stand-in for the soil of the park. A variety of greens represent the verdant grasses and trees, while the grey is both concrete and stone. The Laumeier brand palette is rounded out with warm yellow to evoke sunshine. Laumeier’s previous branded cyan shifted into a supporting role and echoes the bright blue sky above the park.
Pulling a more subtle visual thread throughout the signature style involved thinking in a different dimension. If a large portion of the Laumeier experience and physical identity comes from the sculptural art installations, our designers felt it needed to be part of their visual identity as well. This was accomplished by thinking outside of the box in more ways than one. The Laumeier logo was an angular letter treatment built from strong geometric blocks. Isolating one rectangular block helped give our designers something to play with visually.
Visualizing a three-dimensional rectangle and compressing it down to two-dimensions provided a unique shape to incorporate into the Laumeier brand identity. Again, the design emphasizes there is more to be understood if you’re willing to shift your perspective.
The diagonal corners of the polygon tie back to the angled slashes from the Laumeier logo. Adding this additional step to the Laumeier visual identity brought dimension to the pieces and gives a comprehensive look that is structural, confident, and distinctly thematic to Laumeier.
Translating the new Laumeier brand identity to a website was the next step in the redesigned brand experience. We knew that the new site needed to be responsive, have a built-in ecommerce option, and offer the client the ability to customize the content to reflect their changing exhibits.
In discussing their goals for the rebranding, Laumeier let us know they wanted to unveil the complete identity at their upcoming Laumeier NOW gala. This compressed the timeline and gave our developers a goal for delivery. However, this deadline, paired with an understandably limited nonprofit budget, added challenges to the project.
TOKY’s Web Team weighed the options available that would allow delivery of all the promised features and stay within budget and on deadline. A typically custom-built site would delay the project significantly, but an out-of-the-box build wouldn’t deliver the caliber of work that defines TOKY’s interactive projects. Deciding to fuse the best of both options, our web designer created a site based in Squarespace, but with extensively custom-coded features.
Of particular use to Laumeier was a custom integration with Google Docs that allows them to update their website catalog archive from a shared spreadsheet, saving them time and effort. Rather than updating content in two places, the entire process is streamlined.
The previous site relied on multiple payment systems, each tied to a specific campaign or service offered by the sculpture park. Frequently, this resulted in multiple fees stemming from a single transaction. By upgrading to Squarespace, the new site’s ecommerce is managed through Stripe, creating a seamless, simple, and cost-effective option for client and consumer.
The greatest benefit to come out of the website redesign process was an opportunity to work with a client to help them rethink content in a visual way. The outdated Laumeier site restricted images to billboard-style placeholders and static graphics, an obvious handicap to an experiential arts organization. Laumeier’s new site helps them reframe content in a dynamic way and allows them to explore how their images can become content that enhances the park experience.
The completely redesigned website gives Laumeier a flexible site that works with their archives as well as their retail needs. Over the next six months, the site will grow and add more depth, information, and content. More importantly, Laumeier’s redesigned website supports their brand identity visually and thematically by inviting visitors to experience art and being able to grow along with their new identity.
Announcing a New Laumeier Brand Identity
With everything pulled together, Laumeier has a fully realized brand identity that stands apart from others in the competitive art world. Embracing their philosophical concept as the brand pivot point provides shape and personality to the Laumeier identity. It isn’t enough to view the art and nod appreciatively, Laumeier wants their guests to fully experience it, even from their first glimpse. Transformational art should challenge the viewer to look from a different angle.
Of the results, Lauren Kistner, Laumeier’s Communications Manager, said,
Laumeier Sculpture Park’s new website — along with our new exhibition space, new logo and new brand identity — perfectly encapsulates the “new Laumeier” as we approach our 40th anniversary, beginning in 2016. The site incorporates many features showcasing all that Laumeier is and does — from sortable artwork and exhibition lists, to a robust events calendar, to an online shop for branded merchandise. The organization, layout and design aesthetic allow the site to serve as a true resource for the organization’s key stakeholders, including the international art community, members and volunteers, local tourists and daily patrons as well as funders and grantors, prospective donors and sponsors.
The flexibility of the website design and the boldness of the Laumeier brand ensures that they have an identity that matches their strategic goals and can develop along side them.
With the new Laumeier brand identity unveiled to the public through their website, how did it translate to the grand opening gala?
The final Laumeier NOW invitation brought together the sum of the redesigned Laumeier identity. As a tangible, structural mail piece, it introduced the new brand identity and opened up to showcase a graphical representation of the ideology. Sculpture and nature, coexisting beautifully. Shift the angle of the logo, and morph it within its environment, and the viewer is treated to an entirely different experience. What else could they see differently with just a slight change in perspective?
These diverse and complementary ideas are woven through the branded video that was featured at the gala.
(Video produced by Evntiv)
As for the gala, it was a beautiful night in an artistically inspirational space. We look forward to Laumeier’s future and watching their new brand identity influence and grow with the park.
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