Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

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Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
Visual identity, exhibition, signage, marketing
Middlesbrough, 2016–

We designed a new visual identity for the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art by steering a year-long process based on community consultation and research into the local area.

We instituted this process in response to MIMA’s idea of the ‘useful museum’, informed by John Ruskin’s notions of learning through making and thinking through doing. An important element of this was involving the local community in all aspects of gallery operations.

Visits to local sites provided certain cues. For example, the Tees Transporter Bridge once carried workers to the (now defunct) steelworks. We used paint colours that we found splattered on the bridge as the palette of the new brand, and fabricated exhibition furniture from perforated steel to acknowledge the industry’s historical importance to the area.

Over the course of a year, we were regular visitors to MIMA and ran workshops with both the MIMA team and the general public. We invited participants to reflect on the relation between art and society, and on their expectations of the museum. Outputted in formats, typography and production systems instigated by us, the poetic and insightful responses formed two evolving exhibitions entitled ‘Where Are We Now’ and ‘Print Room’.

For ‘Where Are We Now’ we asked all 40 of MIMA’s team to carve their answers into linoleum sheets, which they then printed. Their carved alphabets became the basis of the museum’s interim visual identity. For ‘Print Room’, we hacked a plotting machine typically used by architects before the invention of CAD and designed a geometric typeface made of a five-line stripe to accommodate the limitations of the automated pen. Contributors entered their answers into a website which were then automatically printed and displayed in the gallery. Over the course of the exhibition, the space was filled floor-to-ceiling with hundreds of replies. A simplified version of this typeface has now become the core of MIMA’s new brand.

Photography: Thomas Adank