Based in south-west London, the Design Museum is the UK’s premier venue for showcasing design of every kind. In late 2021, they partnered with the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council to launch Future Observatory, a programme of interdisciplinary research and training investigating how design can lead the way into the future.
Future Observatory will engage with the biggest issues facing us today. In conjunction with the Design Museum’s exhibition Waste Age: What Can Design Do?, their program will begin with the net zero agenda and the climate crisis; from here, they plan to branch out to cover ideas across science and culture, from the reshaped post-pandemic world to the new challenges of artificial intelligence. Future Observatory hopes to redefine the museum as a training ground for the future, not just an archive of the past; and by hosting the programme, the Design Museum is taking a significant step in making research available to the public.
The identity we created for them is based around a double-circle motif, which references a number of ideas orbiting the organisation’s work. Resembling eyes or binoculars, the circles were initially conceived as a play on the Future Observatory name — alluding to vision in the sense of visionary thinking and the search for new ideas. They invoke other images and concepts, including targets — calling to mind environmental goals like the net zero agenda — as well as the concept of circular economy, a key idea for the field that Future Observatory operate in. The circles themselves grow into an extended graphic language, appearing in various iterations and patterns across the identity.
In keeping with their ambitions, we also explored ways to minimise the environmental impact of the identity on the digital side, creating graphics in a way that drastically reduced file sizes for a more efficient use of energy, but still allowed for animation and a crisp appearance on web browsers. The website is a simple and resourceful experience, designed around certain principles which allow it to tread lightly on the environment; particularly important in a world where the digital landscape is increasingly responsible for rising energy usage. The website employs measures like using system (i.e. pre-installed) fonts, a streamlined page structure, small file sizes, optimised code and darker backgrounds – allowing it to set the standard when it comes to sustainable design practice while retaining visual character.