Monterey Bay Aquarium

Brand Identity

Brand identity for one of the world’s leading aquariums and a global voice for ocean conservation.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, immerses visitors in the universe of the ocean with an innovative interactive exhibit space and a mission to inspire ocean conservation. Opened in 1984 and located on historic Cannery Row, it is a beloved tourist destination––with an annual attendance of nearly two million guests––a leader in science, education, and a global voice for ocean conservation. Across 200 exhibits, the aquarium staff cares for over 81,000 plants and animals representing 771 species. From sea otters to seaweeds, its unique oceanfront location and engaging galleries bring the wonders of the ocean to life for visitors and have transformed what it means to be an aquarium. Pentagram has developed a new brand refresh that builds on this legacy as the Monterey Bay Aquarium looks forward to its 40th anniversary this year.

The Pentagram team collaborated closely on the project with the Monterey Bay Aquarium leadership, including Executive Director Julie Packard, Chief Marketing Officer Dana Allen-Greil and Creative Director Mike Amaditz. The Aquarium has an incredibly wide-ranging audience––everyone from schoolchildren and families to scientists and experts––and an important mission with diverse programs and initiatives that straddle the realms of entertainment, education, research, and advocacy. This breadth required a visual platform with the flexibility to respond to various contexts, while remaining coherent and vibrant. The work will impact every aspect of Aquarium’s design and communications, including marketing, merchandise, wayfinding, environmental graphics, and social media.

“This evolution of our branding embodies all the wonder and delight that connects people to the Aquarium and the living ocean,” said Julie Packard. “In vibrant ways, it honors our past and aligns with all the possibilities ahead of us.”

Design has always been a critical feature of the Aquarium, which received the prestigious AIA Twenty-Five Year Award with architecture by EHDD that perches half of the building on piers over the water and incorporates a former sardine cannery from historic Cannery Row into its 322,000 square foot structure. The centerpiece of its exhibitions is a view into a 28-foot-high underwater giant kelp forest, one of the tallest displays of its kind in the world, with ocean water drawn in to create a living extension of Monterey Bay.

The rippling fronds of kelp inspired the original logo, which was created by one of the Aquarium’s early exhibition designers, Richard Graef, and has been in use since it first opened. Over the decades the distinctive mark has become closely associated with the organization. For the refresh, the Pentagram team wanted to elevate it as an icon of the institution but with a versatility that remained open to the evolving needs of the Aquarium.

The new kelp drawing simplifies the fronds to streamline the mark slightly and make it more scalable. The symbol becomes the foundational element in a dynamic and contemporary visual language that provides clarity and consistency across brand expressions. The system leverages the icon in new and unexpected ways, utilizing it as a frame or filter for images, or in variations as a halftone or multi-line drawing. It has also been adapted into a pattern, developed in collaboration with the illustrator Yehrin Tong, that can be used on apparel, merchandise and other applications.

A broader brand palette goes beyond blue to colors derived from the depths of the Monterey Bay––its water, sand, marine kelp and algae, and sea life like urchins and octopuses. The core colors consist of three shades of ocean blue and green, along with a range of neutrals, plus black and white.

The system extends the organic quality of the symbol to the brand typography. For the new wordmark, the team worked with type designer Peter Bil’ak and Nikola Djurek of Typotheque to adapt their serif Nocturno into a bespoke version with shorter descenders and stronger connections to the kelp symbol, and fluid curves that suggest the movement of the ocean. The brand typefaces include the original Nocturno, along with the sharp sans serifs Peak and Peak Rounded (by Xavier Erni of Neo Neo / Extraset).

Alongside the visual framework, Pentagram developed brand positioning and messaging that taps into the wonder and awe of the ocean and a fascination for its creatures as portals into the Aquarium’s mission of marine conservation and education.

New York
Abbott Miller
Project team
Yoon-Young Chai
Daniel Varillas
Paul Lenaers
Michelle Brown
Saundra Marcel, strategist
Nicolo Bianchino, animation
Jase Hueser, animation
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