One of New York's most significant scientific destinations, NYBG is a 132-year-old globally significant institution rooted in research and education, with a strategic focus on deepening connections with the local community and expanding environmental action around the world.
NYBG chose Wolff Olins to evolve the brand to reflect this vision while honouring the rich history of the gardens, which have stood as a hub for nature and science in the heart of The Bronx since 1891, with 250 acres of exhibitions, immersive botanical experiences, art, music and events with some of the most influential figures in plant and fungal science, horticulture and the humanities.
As a starting point to encapsulate the institution, the agency created a singular idea for the brand: 'Do right by nature' – a reference to studying nature, protecting it, learning from it and enjoying it. A call to action, spotlighting the leading work of NYBG and acknowledging the active role of nature itself.
Creating a new tone of voice for the brand focused on the tonality and attitude of New York and the Bronx. Built around an optimistic, empathetic, and deliberate brand personality, it was conceived to help NYBG share its contagious enthusiasm for the natural world, make everyone feel welcome and lead with expertise.
This includes a new hand-drawn logo focusing on the shorter, bolder NYBG abbreviation. To unite the spirit of New York City and the natural beauty of the Garden, the typography references hand-drawn forms found in nature while also evoking a confidence that speaks to the organisation's impact.
Jane Boynton, senior creative director at Wolff Olins, explains: "All of us at Wolff Olins are so honoured to work with such an iconic brand as The New York Botanical Garden. We wanted to capture what people already know about this beloved institution – an incredible place of natural beauty – but also a place of science, research, horticultural advancements, preservation, education, advocacy, art and outreach to the surrounding Bronx community. It's these qualities that make NYBG so special, rich and different and what really shines through in the refreshed brand, ready to meet and greet today's visitors."
NYBG's updated design system includes an intricate palette of colours inspired by the breadth of plants, trees, fungi, algae and even the Bronx River that runs through the gardens, as well as the bold vibrancy of other iconic New York institutions. The system has been conceived to be combined with flexibility and tools that enable the creation of beautiful contrasts out of even the most unexpected pairings.
A photography style based on the idea of seeing from nature's perspective has also been created with shots ranging from intimate to immersive, capturing the various subjects of plants, people, and places that tell the historical story of NYBG.
Wolff Olins also created a graphic language based on the forms of the garden itself – but from a bird's eye view – organic shapes that can be cropped, extracted, or layered over a grid inspired by the familiar glass panes of the iconic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
"Wolff Olins has helped the entire team here at NYBG more clearly articulate our vision for the future, and in turn, it will allow the institution to more effectively reach a broader and more diverse range of visitors and learners, both on-site and online. The new identity system cements NYBG as an active, bold and welcoming presence that will connect and inspire, ensuring that current and future generations of Garden-goers feel connected to nature – because we can't imagine a life without that feeling," adds Michael Crowley, chief marketing officer, NYBG.
Global CEO of Wolff Olins Sarah Ashman describes the work as a 'dream brand transformation', adding: "The role of gardens in our cities has never been more important to our well-being or more ripe for reappraisal.
The Bronx, home to over 1.5 million people, is actually New York's greenest borough, with parkland covering nearly a quarter of the land there. NYBG attracts well over a million visitors per year.
NYBG CEO Jennifer Bernstein concludes: "Our new brand identity is a signal to the world that NYBG is fully engaged in working to address the dual climate and biodiversity crises while we continue to provide moments of joy, respite and wonder to visitors and learners across our garden grounds and community sites in the Bronx. Our new brand is meant to inspire people to take action and to help nature thrive so that humanity can thrive.
"At NYBG, we believe in our ability to make things better and are excited for our optimistic new brand to engage the public more holistically in our institution's work across our borough and around the globe."
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