Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Creating a wider and warmer welcome

Brand challenges:

Support increased visitation and engagement; speak powerfully to Native and non-Native audiences alike; extend a warm invitation to visitors of all backgrounds

Story Tools:

Brand Platform, Backstory, Logo and Visual System and Voice Guidelines, SaaS-Based Brand Management Tool

In some ways, the National Museum of the American Indian serves as a kind of informal United Nations for the hundreds of Native Nations it represents.
It is a place of pride and belonging for Native visitors. At the same time, the majority of visitors are non-Native. In keeping with the museum’s mission to foster “a richer shared human experience through a more informed understanding of Native peoples,” the museum aims to appeal equally to non-Native visitors, too.

Previously, NMAI set out to fulfill this mission using dense, somewhat didactic language and content.
Research suggested that this approach was discouraging potential visitors from all groups. Under a new strategic plan, the museum set out to increase visitation and engagement by creating more approachable experiences and extending a warmer welcome.

We worked with the museum to develop the backstory and communications framework to support the strategic goal of “meeting visitors where they are.” After working with museum leadership to update its mission and vision, the museum articulated a new brand promise designed to work in its own unique way for guests of all backgrounds: “to learn something about your country and yourself that you absolutely didn’t know before.” That promise weaves into a backstory guided by themes of inclusion, understanding and impact.

“Working with people whose views and experiences are radically different from your own is the most humbling and challenging task in brand work. The process simply can’t happen without personal growth.”

— Eric La Brecque

In line with the backstory, we teamed to develop a new visual identity and tone of voice that brings greater consistency and coherency to a previously fragmented system, guided by a welcoming, honest, eye-opening and inspiring personality.

The museum has begun implementation of its new brand across key channels and communications, chiefly beginning with its new website. To assist a wide range of users across the museum’s many departments, we have also built a user-friendly, easy-to-update digital brand management tool. With its new system in place, the museum is strongly positioned to achieve its is visitor, engagement and experience goals.