Zoos are downright dangerous territory when it comes to branding. You’ve got kids, adults, plus the entire non-human world to do right by your design. Go too cutesy and you’ll annoy the heck out of the parents. Look too serious and you’ll scare away the children. And just because there are adorable chimpanzees wandering about does not mean this is a time for Comic Sans (rumor is, even they don’t like it).
The Manchester, U.K.-based firm Music struck exactly the right balance with their work for the Chester Zoo, one of the U.K.'s most popular zoos, located in northwest England. The designers were charged with honoring the zoo’s incredible research legacy, while still selling the joy of a day spent staring at elephants. Plus, the identity also had to work for the launch of a new conservation campaign, The Act for Wildlife, Music’s Sue Strange tells Co.Design. "In essence, the challenge was to create something for the zoo which allowed them to consistently communicate with a broad range of audiences, flexing enough to convey fun and entertainment to a family audience, whilst also having qualities of integrity and credibility in terms of wildlife conservation."
The solution for the new Chester Zoo identity is driven through type, namely four typefaces that were created in collaboration with illustrator Adam Hayes and font engineer Ian Mitchell. What began as a series of animal-inspired scribbles soon evolved into an entire handwritten language with simple cues like a beak or a claw to intrigue and entertain their audience, says Strange. "Our hand-drawn font approach, we believe, created something that looks unlike any other zoo, and has enough of a range in the font family we created to be fun, light, but also directive and compelling depending upon the weight of the font and the message."
The branding feels like it takes its cues from Dr. Seuss, which is a good thing--it’s a playful, whimsical spirit that doesn’t talk down to its audience. The loose, handwritten quality feels at home in a place focused on the natural world, and the fact that those fangs or fur are only on some of the characters adds personality without going overboard. The amazing thing is that it doesn’t take much else for the identity to be effective. There’s nothing terribly special about the photography or the other graphics, it’s the type that does it all. Music was smart enough to show restraint, crafting this incredible kingdom of animal characters, then letting animals speak for themselves. Which, if you think about it, is kinda what a zoo is supposed to do.
[H/T Brand New]