Latitudes: Do old-school bureaucracies have something to offer contemporary fine-art curatorial practice? We think so!

Ephemera
Ephemera

We found that Latitudes had a strong appreciation for functional and slightly irreverent, vernacular design. One of the Latitudes team, for example, had a large collection of odd postcards from all over the world, including one of the famous 'Wall Drug Dinosaur' of South Dakota. Using and referencing these almost 'un-designed' forms seemed to fit with the kind of feeling and aesthetic that Latitudes needed.

Heroic branding

A surprising number of arts organisations follow the 'heroic' brand identity approach: a grand and meticulously designed plan for the brand's cultural journey in the world supported by a logo, 2 colours, a couple of typefaces and nice tight guidelines. This model originated with large corporations, where they can be very effective. Coca Cola, UPS, AT&T, IBM. These are brands that feel the world is under control, that they know what's happening next and how to deal with it. This model has several valuable features that we wanted to use, but for Latitudes we knew that the overall approach was wrong. It trades on a world-view that contemporary art does not share, and indeed works hard to refute. What happens next in the world, and what the world is, is open to question. Arts organisations like Latitudes know how to deal with whatever that is.

Latitudes

Latitudes are a dynamic young arts organisation who combine an international worldview with cutting-edge curatorial practice. They instigate and manage socially-engaged art projects across national boundaries. Coming from a strong base in London, Latitudes have an office in Barcelona, which will be their primary base for the long-term future.

The context

Latitudes needed a unique, cost-effective visual identity that was able to operate initially in English and Spanish, with the potential to embrace other languages in the future.

Their audience includes artists, other arts organisations, funding organisations and the public. They have a particular focus on community collaborations and arts and the environment, so their identity needed to resonate with these practices, while achieving an instant impact and building easy recognition.

Latitudes may be involved in a number of projects at any one time, each bringing together international artists, and they need the flexibility to apply their ID across media on a project or practice basis while incurring minimal financial and environmental impacts.

The design

Prior to starting work on the project, we had a number of meetings with the client to gain understanding and insight into the visual forms and languages which appealed most to them - and most importantly, to find out why.

We decided with the client that the identity needed to feel valuable and generate strong and easy recognition in its audiences. For the purposes of cultural location, it needed to speak to the exchange of ideas and practice, and place these exchanges in the international domain. In order to be taken seriously, it should demonstrate self-awareness and intelligence, and reference the cultural reality of contemporary arts practice.

In line with Latitudes' wider objectives, we decided to do this while keeping the treatments unbelievably efficient to produce, producing minimal environmental impact.

The build

After testing various options, we decided to adapt the language of airmail, postage, passport control and officialdom for the identity, and subtly undermine this language with spots of humour and irreverence.

This language allowed us to use production methods that - at the scale expected here - are extremely resource efficient: rubber stamps and stickers, in changing combinations, make up the entire paper-based brand-expression toolkit. Stamps were provided to designate press releases, invoices, important documents and other possible pieces of communication. After initial production cost, the ongoing costs are just inkpads and blank paper.

The famous 'Wall Drug Dinosaur' of South Dakota