Graphic Identity of the St. Petersburg Biennale of Museum Design

Graphic Identity of St. Petersburg Biennale of Museum Design at the PRO ARTE Foundation Exhibition hall

Graphic Identity of St. Petersburg Biennale of Museum Design was developed by
Barnbrook Ltd.

From Narrative to Forma

Storytelling through objects, in a three dimensional space – this is the power of a museum in the digital age. Museums are vitally important institutions that conserve a collection of artefacts and objects with which to express historical narratives and provide platforms for discussion and debate. Design for such cultural institutions take on a multitude of forms from the micro to the macro and it is these forms which will be celebrated by the biennale.

The visual identity for Forma, the Saint Petersburg Biennale of Museum Design, sets out to celebrate design for cultural institutions as well as collections of museum objects. Drawing visual elements from a range of Saint Petersburg’s museums, the identity also aims to create a sense of place unique to this city – Russia’s museum capital.

Navigating Objects

The most distinctive navigational tool for any visitor to a museum is its floor plan. The plan provides the visitor with an opportunity to follow their own path and create new narratives in the architectural context of the institution. The graphic form of the plan provides a layout structure for Forma publicity. Contained within this layout structure are museum objects from the collections of Saint Petersburg institutions.

Pattern and Place

Shapes and patterns are drawn from Saint Petersburg’s architectural features, evoking a sense of place and history. This flexible palette of elements can be combined in myriad ways to describe the museum as a fluid, progressive institution. Juxtaposition of two colours alludes to a dialogue between object and audience, museum and public.

Text Typography

Text typography comes in two forms: headline and body copy. Headline text is set in Merkury a typeface released in 2009 by RP Digital Type Foundry, a small scale type foundry established in 2009 by Radim Peško. The foundry is focused on the development of fonts that are both formally and conceptually distinctive.

Providing a robust and energetic voice, body text is set in Skolar, released by the Rosetta type foundry. Skolar was designed with scholarly and multilingual publications in mind so provides a perfect fit for Forma.


Combining the Elements

The visual identity of Forma is not created with one single element but always with the combination of many elements: the floor plan grid, the museum object and the graphic pattern. This approach of playful combination expresses a message of multiple possibilities, platforms and viewpoints.

The Emergence of Forma

It was decided that the Saint Petersburg Biennale of Museum Design needed a more simple and playful epithet which would sound good in both English and Russian. During the process of design, a multitude of options were explored and discussed – early design proposals feature the prototype name Narrative. As the design process progressed, the name Forma emerged as the most suitable expression of the Biennale.

Display Typography

An eccentric display typeface is comprised of design elements which also feature in the palette of geometric patterns. Featuring a number of stylistic variants, the headline typeface allows for a multitude of compositions, expressing the many and varied voices of Saint Petersburg museums.


Throughout the design process, the poster design first emerged with playful intensity and developed through simplification of form into a composition close to that used by the Biennale today.

Final Outcomes

The objects which appear in the final posters and adverts were photographed by Saint Petersburg museums participating in the Biennale. The varied formats in which the identity expresses itself allows for constant revisiting and development, giving Forma the appearance of a flexible and evolving arts festival.


Biennale guide: