Smithsonian Castle in Washington DC

“Seriously Amazing”: Smithsonian launches a new brand line

Smithsonian Stamp

The Smithsonian announced this weekend that they are launching a new brand line, “Seriously Amazing.” Before you read any further, in the interest of complete disclosure, you should know that Grafik has worked with the Smithsonian on many of their initiatives including the branding of the National Museum of the American Indian, and a brand exercise for the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center. And we have had a beef over the years, on behalf of all of the excellent branding firms in Washington, D.C., that we are never invited to the dance. So in the context of having a large chip on my shoulder, I have to say that the new tagline for the Smithsonian is really pretty good—excellent in fact. The firm called in for the assignment is a well-known branding agency in NYC, London, and Dubai Wolff Olins and branding museums and international institutions is their specialty.

A news item in the Washington Post on Sunday shows that Wolff Olins spent the time to research, and get input from many of the museum directors and board members. As a pre-eminently political beast it must have been a huge endeavor to interview all of the people necessary to build consensus for the new line—one that costs $1 million dollars. It seems they hit the nail right on the head, getting a huge round of applause when they launched the brand last week.

I personally like “Seriously Amazing” as it taps into the research as well as the vast store of treasures that are held by all of the museums making up the Institution. Known for years as the “Nation’s Attic,” the new tagline has a more forward direction. It remains to be seen how the mark will play out in future fundraising and the awareness building campaign.

Job well done, Wolff Olins! Oh, and a note to self: Every time the Smithsonian cries poor to our local D.C. agencies, we should think of the tagline’s million dollar price tag and refuse to do their work on a pro bono basis.

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