Art world behemoth Frieze unveils new brand identity from Pentagram London

Luke Powell and Jody Hudson-Powell’s team at Pentagram London has created Frieze’s new brand identity, marking its 30th anniversary.

The new visual identity spans all the Frieze sub-brands and saw the team create a new custom typeface. Since its founding in 1991, Frieze comprises four international art fairs in London, New York and Los Angeles and three editorial publications: Frieze, Frieze Week and Frieze Masters Magazine. Since then, the organisation has expanded to include the digital platform, Frieze Viewing Room, alongside more editorial-led initiatives such as podcasts and talks.

“Over time, with the expansion of the organisation and the creation of a variety of sub-brands, several different identities and wordmarks emerged, without a clear brand architecture or relationship,” says Pentagram. As such, Frieze creative director David Lane and his team created a design brief for a rebrand that aimed to create a consistent visual approach and identity across the various sprawling Frieze touchpoints.

The Pentagram team began with an analysis of the existing brand architecture to understand how each facet of the business was represented, the relationship between sub-brands, and how these identities could be grouped together. “The rebrand required a strong and recognisable mother-brand, but this had to be balanced with a level of differentiation between each of the sub-brands,” says Pentagram. “However, after this initial evaluation, it was clear that the differentiation was in fact, a legacy of the existing brand, and that a unified brand identity was the right solution.

The idea of a flexible identity as central to the brief, meaning that new brand products or sub-brands can easily be incorporated. That was why the designers decided to take a typographic approach.

Bearing in mind Frieze’s audience is mostly collectors, gallerists and art enthusiasts; the design solution had to be highly crafted and sensitive to its art-savvy users. It also had to retain Frieze’s heritage: the unique features of the Frieze magazine masthead (created by Tom Gidley and later redesigned by Paul Barnes) were used to create “a modern, sophisticated and ownable typeface which could be used across the whole brand,” as Pentagram puts it.

To expand the masthead design into a typeface, the curved brackets and “occasional” slab serifs of the masthead were retained but were expanded on to create an uppercase set of letters and a full character set. “By developing uniquely narrow uppercase characters, the team were able to create a natural continuation of the typewriter/monospace features found in the masthead,” says Pentagram.

“This enabled a degree of graphic separation between the newly adapted masthead and the mother brand wordmark. The new custom typeface forms the essence of the brand itself. By using the typographic system, any configuration of a wordmark can be created, giving the new identity flexibility to combine sub-brands or create new wordmarks.” The typeface comprised four weights and was designed with typographer Luke Prowse.

A key consideration for Pentagram was ensuring that the new design system allowed space for the artwork itself to breathe. That it is deliberately distinctive but doesn’t dictate the layout; while the black and white colour palette means the colours and textures of the visual content remains prominent throughout the brand’s expressions.

Within the design system, the new Frieze font is paired with supporting serif typeface Sina Nova, chosen for its legibility and aiming to “lends a warmth and intelligence to the designs.”

Pentagram also delivered a comprehensive set of design guidelines for the Frieze design team to roll out the new designs including examples to demonstrate the system across touchpoints such as art fair signage and programmes; magazine covers; advertising in print, digital and out of home; website navigation, UX design and social media.

Lane used the new design system in a series of campaigns, each in collaboration with different artists, that mark key milestones in Frieze’s 2021 calendar.

New York-based coding artist Zach Lieberman created a series of animations to represent the 30th Anniversary of Frieze; while photographer Chris Rhodes, devised a campaign shoot for Frieze New York that aimed to “observe and capture the essence of the city.”