design case: stories of the World - a graphic design story


The aim of ‘Stories of the World’ was to create a common project across as many museums and galleries in the UK as possible, with each venue created an exhibition and/or event that featured artefacts and work chronicling how other parts of the world have impacted on the nearby region.

The scheme, part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, was developed by LOCOG, the London organising games body, in partnership with Museums, Libraries and Archives, and later adopted by the Arts Council.

It was designed to welcome the world to the UK by using the UK's rich collections to tell inspirational stories about the UK’s relationships with the world. Young people were at the heart of the project, working in partnership with curators to uncover objects which told stories that resonated with their interests.

The first stage of the design brief was to create launch materials for the project including a pop up stand, prospectus, press packs and a launch film.

The project was very early on in the London 2012 development process and the visual identity had not been in place for long. The public had seen little of the ‘brand’ in action, and the original intention behind the brand identity had been overwhelmed and obscured by initial reactions to the reveal of the logo. The announcement of the first cultural project ‘Artists take the lead’ was met with a lukewarm response in the press and LOCOG were keen to set this project off on the right course. It was also vital that a significant number of the museums and galleries in the UK took the project on and had the right tools to get the job done.

The agency therefore developed a key image to embody the aspirations of the four-year project. This could work as a powerful launch image and could also be used by the individual venues as a place holder up to the point that their individual projects had been formed enough to develop their own individual marketing campaigns. The idea was to create an image of a young person holding a glowing globe, projecting the world on his face in the London 2012 style.

The timetable was tight: Thompson Brand Partners needed to set up and direct photo and film shoots with young people in museums and galleries across 14 regions of the country. It was important that the launch work really set the tone and ambition of the project, and didn’t have the abstraction that had helped make the first project difficult to understand and visualise.

As chair of MLA, the UK's then Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, introduced the film and underlined the gravitas of the project. The launch was very well received and the key image used extensively across the country. The agency then went on to work with the venues to develop a set of tools and guidelines to help maintain visual consistency and facilitate marketing, especially for some of the smaller galleries with restricted marketing resources and reach.

It was the largest youth participation project ever delivered by museums with more than 1,500 young people recruited as curators to lead and develop the projects. As an alternative to traditional curators’ or historians’ views, audiences also heard stories from the viewpoint of people from diverse cultures now living in the UK. Objects once bypassed for being reminders of the UK's imperial past were re-examined and given more relevance to contemporary Britain. Stories of the World brought collections to life and connected them with new audiences through a process of reinterpretation, in partnership with young people and communities.

"It was the largest youth participation project ever delivered by museums with more than 1,500 young people recruited as curators.”

Ian Thompson, 
Creative Director,       Thompson Brand Partners