The Book of Kells Experience

Brand Identity, Signage & Environmental Graphics

Visual identity for a new visitor experience at Trinity College Dublin.

Founded in 1592, Trinity College Dublin is Ireland’s oldest university. Ranked Number 1 in Ireland, it is in the top 100 world universities, as chosen by QS World University rankings.

The Old Library at Trinity College houses many precious collections, the star of which is The Book of Kells, an ancient, illuminated manuscript which is one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions. The 9th-century manuscript is displayed in a carefully controlled environment in the Old Library, a beautiful building completed in the early 1700s. Only one spread of the book is visible to visitors at a time, but the pages of the book are turned every eight weeks. Currently over 1million visitors annually go to see the book and is one of the main attractions on any visit to Dublin.

From 1801 onwards, The Old Library was given the right to claim a copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland, and as a result by the 1850s its shelves had become completely full. The building now faces conservation challenges with pollution and dust accumulation taking their toll, and an urgent need to improve fire protection and environmental controls.

To solve these issues, and at the same time enrich the visitor experience, The Old Library Redevelopment Project was launched by Trinity College. Drawing on 21st-century design and technology, it includes urgent physical and environmental upgrades along with the redevelopment of facilities in line with the top library and museum experiences around the world. These will both safeguard the building and conserve its precious collections for future generations. 

While the redevelopment takes place, Trinity College was keen that the book of Kells should still be available for the public to view and enjoy. The Book of Kells Experience is an immersive a digital journey set within a specially constructed pavilion in the grounds of the College, that allows visitors to first see The Book of Kells in the Old Library and experience the beauty of the Long Room. This is followed by the digital presentation that spans 1,200 years and follows the book on its extraordinary journey from Iona in Scotland over the Irish Sea to Kells, and on to contemporary Dublin.

This digital experience is created by the team at Event Museum with a powerful presentation which brings many aspects of the library to life, not just the Book of Kells. Rather than house this in another part of the university, the architectural firm, Heneghan Peng was commissioned to create a sustainable and unique temporary structure that would sit within the grounds and enable a distinct presentation for the digital experience to happen.

Trinity College approached Pentagram to design an identity for the new Book of Kells experience. The College was looking for something that felt contemporary and cool, that would attract visitors and set the tone for the experience but that would avoid a cliched Celtic design. In addition, as this is a religious artefact, Pentagram needed to be sensitive to how the different audiences would be viewing both the book and the experience.

With this in mind, the design team created an identity which is bold, modern but that still feels authentic. Inspired by Celtic history, the new identity includes a logo, typeface, colour palette, tone of voice, staff clothing, merchandise, marketing material, signage and wayfinding.

The striking symbol represents the Book of Kells itself, a bold, impactful presence with elegant details. It was inspired by the details of illuminated pages in the book and more broadly by ancient Celtic artefacts that showcase the craftsmanship of flowing line details.

The wordmark is set in lowercase using the typeface Rand by Optimo and is crafted with alignment points to create a considered arrangement that echoes the simple but elegant structure of type within the Book of Kells itself. Rand combines type characters that have modern forms like the letter ‘a’, with more unique characters like the letter ‘t’. These are similar to the crafted scriptures in the Book of Kells.

The Book of Kells Experience colour palette is inspired by the colours found in the book’s illuminated details, this is joined by the core colour palette of black and white, and a bright red which echoes the red Pavilion that the experience is housed in.

The tone of voice and campaign copy developed by Pentagram’s Brand Narrative team, led by Ashley Johnson, aims to tell the story of the experience from the point of view of a visitor, with each strapline relating to a unique part of the Book of Kells Experience. 

The new identity appears across all the on- and offline applications, including the social assets, website, ticketing, signage, wayfinding, staff clothing, and brand guidelines.

Pentagram has created an identity that clearly communicates the excitement of the new Book of Kells experience that—like the experience itself—seamlessly blends traditional and modern, while helping visitors continue to enjoy Ireland's greatest cultural treasure.

Domenic Lippa
Project team
Anthony Morgan
Edie Lippa
Lili Phillips
Florent Gomez-Siso
Ashley Johnson
Isla Wickham
Ruth Jamieson
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