Visual identity for ICOM Prague 2022. Interview with graphic designer Miroslav Roubíček
What is your relationship with museums and galleries?
It is an organic part of my profession as a designer and as a person. Museums and galleries provide me with an inexhaustible source of inspiration and education.
What attracted you to creating a visual identity for the most important museum event in the world – the 26th General Conference of ICOM (International Council of Museums), which will take place in Prague at the end of August 2022?
At our studio, we are quite particular about the projects we focus on and, last but not least, we are of course interested in the specific people behind the project. Apart from a great team of organizers, we were also excited about the theme of the conference itself. We also felt great support and confidence in what we can contribute, both from the national committee ICOM Czech Republic representatives and when presenting the proposal to members of the ICOM Executive Board, who work in various museums around the world.
For a graphic designer it is certainly important to know the story and idea of the brand or product whose visual identity is being created. Have you ever encountered the International Council of Museums ICOM in the past, or did you know what kind of institution it is and what its mission is?
We have come across the ICOM brand several times, but it has always been a partial, participatory way. It is only now that we have the possibility of a direct and tangible implementation of this brand.
ICOM has an international logo. Can you explain why and how the logo of the General Conference is related to the logo of the international organisation ICOM?
While we see the ICOM General Conference brand itself as an autonomous visual element, we wanted the logo to refer to the logo of the international organisation ICOM. So we stick strictly to the typographic solution, we don't work with additional visual elements. The typeface, or rather the individual letters in the logo, represent certain thematic areas – historical artefacts, unique architecture, technical artefacts, design icons...and it is the first letter referring to history that is the same as the first letter in the ICOM logo. Thus, the two logos are visually linked to each other. They do not compete with each other, but rather organically complement each other. That was our main goal! Each letter has its own meaning: the I is for ICOM, the C is for contemporary, the O is reminiscent of the cubist typography typical of Prague, or the floor plan of the Hvězda summer palace or the benzene core – all part of Czech museums. The letter M evokes going to museums or perhaps to the ICOM General Conference Prague 2022.
What was the brief for the ICOM Prague 2022 visual and to what extent was the brief fulfilled?
Even before the creative process began, we were looking, together with the organisers, for the true meaning behind the slogan "The Power of Museums". At the same time, the idea of presenting the city of Prague as an open-air museum platform helped us. Dialogue across historical periods, their respective artefacts or museum disciplines became the main leitmotif. We have stylized all this into simple shapes that compositionally form a harmonious whole. I think we have succeeded in approaching the principle and mission of the conference in a playful way.
What factors and moments helped or influenced you in the process of creating the complete visual?
We wanted the clients to become an integral part of the creative process and to be able to fully control the direction of the identity development. It helped us, as the designers, to have direct feedback. The visual identity went through quite a rigorous development process, has been the subject of many discussions, but in retrospect I see it as beneficial from a creative point of view.
The visual of the ICOM Prague 2022 General Conference works a lot with a specific colour palette. How did you choose the specific colours and their shades?
It was clear from the very beginning that the visual identity of the ICOM Prague 2022 General Conference should present the event in an attractive way. We see it as a palette of different themes, as a varied multi-genre platform offering a multifaceted dialogue – all of which is transcribed into a distinctive, signal colour spectrum.
How did you select the objects with which the visuals of the entire conference work? What kind of objects are they and why are they important in the visual?
We deliberately chose iconic artefacts that relate to each theme. This was also necessary for easy identification at an international level. So that’s why we went with the Venus of Věstonice, Sutnar's tea set, the famous toy cat by Libuše Niklová, an aeroplane from the Technical Museum in Prague, a cubist chair by Pavel Janák and others. The Czech Republic and its museums represent an inexhaustible kaleidoscope of inspiration.
According to the graphic concept, the visual identity of the event will be written into almost all components of the conference, from the logo to the mobile app. Can you outline where the visual identity of the ICOM Prague 2022 General Conference will appear?
At the moment, there is a rather extensive design manual that codifies most of the communication materials. So you will encounter the visual identity in the main campaign of the ICOM General Conference, social media, programme catalogues, collections of conference papers and, of course, the merchandising.
From the visual identity point of view, the mascot of the General Conference is the iconic toy of Libby the cat by Libuše Niklová. How do you evaluate the choice of this "mascot" and do you yourself have any memories of this iconic Czechoslovak toy, nowadays a unique design object?
Actually, every such landmark event should have one placeholder with which to commemorate the event. It is a kind of visual memory. It works great for various sports events, Olympics, etc. It is only right for the "mascot" of the General Conference to be Libuše Niklová's cat. I think I could still find somewhere a yellowed photo from my childhood, where the cat was my coveted Christmas present.
Will you come to the ICOM Prague 2022 General Conference?
Time permitting, I would love to.
Miroslav Roubíček, Studio COLMO
Together with Markéta Hanzalová, he studied at the Academy of Arts and Crafts in Prague in the Studio of Lettering and Typography under the guidance of Prof. Jan Solpera and František Štorm. In 2008, they founded COLMO studio, which deals with the design of brands, identities, publications, exhibitions, online projects and other formats of visual communication and branding. They have worked for Czech Radio, Czech Centres, and museums for the Prague City Gallery, the National Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague and the Jewish Museum in Prague.