Nature Museum: Prairies, flowers and butterflies

Established in 1857, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is one of the oldest natural science institutions in the United States, located in Chicago, Illinois. The museum, operated by the Chicago Academy of Science, houses exhibitions dedicated mainly to the natural history of the northeastern Illinois, implementing educational activities for children and adults.

Receiving the name of its benefactor, Peggy Notebaert, in 1999, the institution, apart from long-term exhibitions and botanical recreations, offers a live butterfly house where visitors can see over 200 species of butterflies from all over the world. Recently, the visual identity of PNNM received a new execution created by the Chicago-based studio Span.

As the Span designers explain, the museum’s new look was inspired by native Illinois prairies. Abandoning a nameplate with excessive typography, the new logo offers a more interesting design, where the central place was given for the wordmark “Nature Museum” executed in the Tonka typeface by Céline Hurka. This establishes a new brand which will be used along with the full name of the organization. In addition, the solid letterforms reflect the institution’s historic, organic essence, being a symbol of the institution’s environmental and educational activities.

The smaller letterings above and below the central wordmark are designed in New Atten, a sans font that was developed by Miles Newlyn who dedicated it to the famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Altogether, the clean and outspoken typography forms an elevated brand, giving it an upright and inclusive face.


As for the abstract pink figure behind the wordmark, it should be associated with the flowers and butterflies you can find at the museum. This icon will also be used as a separate symbol of the Natural Museum, expressing a positive experience when depicted in different colors and patterns.

More specifically, the Illinois prairie influenced the brand’s color palette dominated by Catalpa Green. Other branded hues, also featured in the logo, are Milkweed Cream and Columbine Pink. This color combination conveys natural beauty of the Chicago region, according to Span.

Within the Natural Museum’s visual identity, the logo can be used as a standalone sign of credibility or it can be combined with different visual elements. This or that version may be applied to the promotional visuals of the museum itself or as a sign to other organizations’ campaigns signaling the supporting role of PNNM.

With the new, shorter brand name, the Nature Museum certainly receives a clear and recognizable image, and the logo represents a kind of name hierarchy for people to remember. Offering a fresh look, the brand nevertheless honors the benefactor and the parent organization. Tonka as the primary typeface is a right choice to be an eye-catching element with subtly widened, serif-like ends, perfectly supplemented with New Atten with its thinner strokes.

Also, we simply cannot fail to appreciate the graphic system built on the flower symbol. It expands into patterns that serve as colorful backgrounds for the logo and brand messages. This graphic design is complemented with photographs that deal with flowers, animals, and people communicating with nature. All of this creates a feeling of joy that is evocative for the Nature Museum and its assets.

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