Van Gogh’s brushstroke

Following a deep-dive into the artist's work, we were struck by the simplicity of the brushstrokes in his famous painting, The Wheatfield. This served as the basis for the new visual identity of one of the world’s most visited art galleries, The Van Gogh Museum.

  • Branding

Van Gogh, the work and the person

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has the world’s largest and most important collection of Van Gogh paintings and drawings, which has also made it one of the world’s most visited art galleries.

The assignment was to develop a brand identity for the Van Gogh Museum that would connect the museum much more closely with the man Van Gogh and his work.

The big challenge was to develop a visual identity that would evoke associations with Van Gogh at a glance, without compromising the integrity of his work, the already being overrun with bland copies and commercial interpretations.

For weeks, together with curators from the museum, we went through all his work and found our focus repeatedly returning to his brushstrokes and colours. In the end, we chose one of his most representative works, The Wheatfield, from which we enlarged and abstracted the brushstrokes. We drew on two more of his best-known works, Sunflowers and Almond Blossoms, when choosing the four primary colours for the house style. Eight secondary and additional corporate identity colours come from various different periods of his work.

Another reason for developing a new brand identity was the publication in two volumes of Van Gogh’s personal letters and notes, and we also used quotes from these.

“The painting comes to me as if in a dream”
The house style also uses quotes from Van Gogh’s personal letters, making the identity even more intimate.

We tried to stay as close as we could to Van Gogh, and design or interpret as little as possible ourselves. Perhaps the most controversial element was the basis for the logo, the name of the museum in a black space. We tested this thoroughly, as it seemed strange to use a black surface as the logo for a painter famous for his use of colour. But in every panel test people quickly saw that, far from competing with Van Gogh, the intention was rather to draw a clear distinction between work and sender (branding).

Based on these simple basic elements, the house style was developed across the board and remains as relevant today as the Van Gogh Museum itself.

“We have broadened and deepened our story by adding new elements, passing on Van Gogh’s legacy, and the inspiration that it brings, to new generations.”

— Axel Rüger, director Van Gogh Museum

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