Capturing Vibrancy through Design: PMCA

We recently had the privilege of working with the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) on their brand identity and website. Most of our staff had already been fans of this museum that features only California artists and designers in order to explore culture, influences, and issues that are unique to California. Having explored PMCA a little on our own, we knew they had already had a fresh, vibrant personality that should easily translate into a strong brand.

However, PMCA's personality  was not reflected in their website, which was nonresponsive, difficult to navigate, and hardly displayed any of the art and design featured in their exhibits. Because of this, PMCA’s website was causing potential new members to leave the site and lose interest. In order to resolve this, we first had to look closely at the needs of their current and desired membership and work to create a brand identity that both served this audience and mirrored the energy of PMCA’s exhibits.

Part of PMCA’s appeal is that it doesn’t have a permanent collection; rotating exhibits keeps the museum dynamic and fresh. In order to reflect this, we created a logo that acts as a frame— its thicker font allows the artwork they’re currently exhibiting to show through. In the website itself, we created custom headers for each page, which incorporates the logo and a large paneled photograph that both relates to the page content and features the artwork currently on display. This way, we let their exhibits speak for themselves without letting the navigation or additional design elements interfere.

In order to address PMCA’s audience, we had to merge two very distinct needs— those of their older members (above age 60) and their younger, twenty or thirty-something audience. The older members are used to a more traditional website design and system of navigation while younger members find minimal design and navigation to be both intuitive and more pleasing. In order to create a very modern, pleasing site without alienating a portion of PMCA’s membership, we created a minimal design while incorporating features that would make it more intuitive and accessible, such as larger font size and prominent arrows that indicate where to click and scroll.

To recap the process from PMCA’s side, we asked their Marketing and Outreach Associate, Alex Kaneshiro, to tell us a little about PMCA, their California-focused mission, and what working with verynice has meant for them so far. Check out what Alex has to say below!

Hi, Alex! Can you tell us a bit about the PMCA's mission?
Our mission is to present the breadth of California art and design through exhibitions that explore the cultural dynamics and influences that are unique to California. This means that our programming encompasses both historical and contemporary art, celebrating in equal measure plein-air painters inspired by the region's mountains and deserts, and experimental artists who choose to use the building as canvas.

Before you approached verynice, what were some of the barriers PMCA was facing in terms of reaching your potential audience and achieving your mission?  
While our website had served us well in the past, it was clear that our website had become outdated, and that there was a disconnect between our current PMCA voice/sensibility and our brand identity/website. Our old website no longer registered as accessible and vibrant—in fact, our analytics reported a high bounce rate and increasingly low engagement. We found that our site map and non-responsive design discouraged users from spending more than a few seconds on the website.

How has the new website opened up room for PMCA to grow?  
The new website has really opened up a whole new world for us. Now that the site is user friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and perfectly encapsulates the PMCA, visitors are immediately drawn in and are more likely to convert to first-time museum visitors / become more involved as members, volunteers, repeat donors.

Donating is now made easy AND visible literally on every page—an important detail as individual giving composes over half of our revenue.

The new website also enables us to create dedicated spaces for exhibition-related materials, from brochures to shop items to educational materials, which simultaneously archive all of our temporary exhibitions.

How has our work around brand strategy helped clarify PMCA's next steps or opened up room for growth?  
As we move forward with marketing collateral and gradually roll out updated on-site/wayfinding signage, I’m realizing just how helpful it was to have identified qualities by which to measure brand success: Is it accessible and engaging? Is it dynamic and fresh? Etc. etc. Prior to our rebrand, we didn’t have identity guidelines in place to serve as checkpoints—so for consistency’s sake, working with verynice on brand strategy was eye-opening and a huge leap!

What does the future look like for PMCA? Any key goals in the works you can share?  
The future looks bright! In mid-June, we’re opening two new exhibitions, Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent and Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden: “These Carnations Defy Language”in addition to transforming our Project Room into an educational space inspired by Corita’s Immaculate Heart classroom. Our schedule is packed with dynamic programming (Poetry! Performance! Zines! Children’s workshops! Play reading!), and I’m aiming to make as much of it available online as possible. Lesson plans and educational materials, video/audio recordings of panel discussions and the like—basically playing around with engaging interactive content, since Wordpress allows for such beautiful, seamless integration. Stay tuned!

We can't wait! If you live in Los Angeles or have plans to visit, check out what's going on at PMCA right now.