Casa da Memória Guimarães–Graphic Identity

Part of the commission related to the Casa da Memória, Guimarães, in addition to the design of the permanent exhibition, included the creation of a graphic identity. I invited good friends Non Verbal Club (João Martino, Miguel Almeida, Joana Sobral, Susana Almeida) to join me in this task.

We start with the obvious – that the first steps in the creation of a graphic identity demand an analysis of the nature of the target entity. The Casa da Memória is not a museum. It does not contain valuable works of art or authentic historical objects. It's a place that reflects upon the history and composition of a community. It recognizes that all communities are diverse and complex and that they consist of multiple histories, conditions and circumstances.

Translating such an understanding into a form of visual representation is not a linear process. Instead we look for parallels. In things such as type forms for example. In this case the search for a typeform that has a simple but robust character and that is able to echo a strong industrial heritage (the building in which the institution is housed was also once a factory). A sans serif then. But the Casa da Memória is not simply about things or places. It's about people. So a sans serif that contains sufficient detail and roundness that is able to express a certain humanity and individuality.

Although the content of the permanent exhibition is fixed, it's interpretation is not, Neither are the multiple ways in which the institution may be used in the future with regard to its programme of activities and community involvement. It is in some ways a shell, a basic framework that can be used according to the diverse content it chooses to explore. That too was a guide for the identity.

We decided from the beginning to dispense with the idea of pursuing a symbol or icon (how does one represent history or community without being reductive?) and focused instead on the use of letterforms (the initial letters of the institutions name) and their disposition, as a central mark of visual recognition. The other characteristic on which we decided – following the idea of framework mentioned above – was to create a grid template supported by the use of strong, bright blocks of colour, which was able to carry the letterforms and a series of black and white cut-out images, and for the launch of the institution, simple phrases associated with local sayings. In this way we focus the identity of the institution around the idea of strong letterfoms which act as a framework for a diversity of additional elements – colour, textures, iconic items, words – much in the way that a community itself is a series of shared references that accommodate the existence of diverse contributions. We aimed for an identity that was graphically strong in it's use of colour and form but was able in future applications to recede in favour of variable content.

Ideally, visual identities should evolve. As designers we can create systems that aim to encompass and reflect content but we cannot always define how these will be implemented. What we have created is a system that is open in a number of ways and that will undoubtably modify as the content it needs to carry is developed and expanded. The Casa da Memória is new. It has yet to find out what it is capable of. As it does, so we as designers, and the system we have created will need to respond.


Date April, 2016
Client Município de Guimarães