Brand-building for “the M”
Truth is, I had applied for the position of Communications Manager at the M with visions of spending my afternoons wandering the collections making quirky videos and occasionally sending out an amateur press release.
I got an interview. One interview.
It was there that I learned of the vision and ambition driving this museum, so I followed up with a pitch for my design services. The M’s brand (created by another agency) had barely been around the block. Working closely with the real Communications Manager (a sharp, organized, knowledgeable and absolutely qualified candidate), we got the brand up and running smoothly while the museum itself got up and running. Together we figured out:
What would an ad for the M look and sound like? What about a wall graphic or an events brochure?
How should communications meant for different audiences be both targeted and unified?
Where are the edges of this brand, and when is it appropriate to push past them?
During the lead-up to their grand opening and for the year following, the M and I crafted event invitations, exhibition title graphics, social media assets, a from-scratch member newsletter, ad campaigns, an annual report (above) and so much more. In short order, the M cemented their position as a pillar of downtown redevelopment and as an arts hub reflecting the diversity, interests and big dreams of St. Paul and Minnesota.
Cultural institutions need their ever-green brands to communicate consistent value messages to supporters, donors, sponsors and others, but their programming can — and often should — be expressed in unique and thoughtful ways to connect to new audiences. Working with key museum staff, I designed graphic identities, promotional materials and didactics for numerous exhibitions.
Magazine-quality design elevated this publication to a first-class member benefit. Artworks dominate the covers without screamy content callouts. Interior layouts adhere to a flexible design systems, and ornamentation is kept to a minimum. The member magazine establishes the M’s focus on unique and varied voices, and for recipients, it arrives like a gift rather than junk mail.
The grand opening of the M marked a new chapter in its history — and a first for the city of St. Paul. Dignitaries and donors donned black tie for a champagne toast and an exclusive first look at a museum that had clawed its way back from the brink.
In preparation for the grand opening, the M asked me to design branded merchandise that would position the museum as a new St. Paul icon. We needed artwork that would work well at different scales and also integrate with the linear qualities of the M-logo. In addition to hoodies, totes and mugs, the M sells branded T-shirts, magnets and a selection of high-craft home items.