Visual Identity

Vertical Logo

Horizontal Logo

Color Logo


  • Both the symbol in the logo and the structure for the museum’s architecture were inspired by depictions of three-tiered crowns in Yoruban art from West Africa.


  • The text in the logo is set in Freight, the family of typefaces used throughout the museum exhibitions. The all-caps sans serif communicates the museum’s bold, forward-facing character, with touches of italicized serif text that are a nod to its historic grounding.

The new logo brings unity to the museum's branding by using Freight, the same typeface used throughout the museum exhibitions. Materials may need to be updated with the new branding. A quick way to tell whether a logo needs to be replaced with the new version is to look at the letter "M" in "MUSEUM." If the top of the "M" is pointy, it needs to be replaced. If the top of the "M" is squared off, the logo is current.

Use these lockups when you need to include Smithsonian branding or the tagline along with the main logo.

If you need to include both the Smithsonian brand and the tagline, use the tagline lockup and include the Smithsonian logo elsewhere in the design. Do not try to create a lockup that includes all three elements.

Note that the Smithsonian lockup is not required in printed material as long as the Smithsonian logo is within the initial view.

When placing the logo in a layout, make sure that it appears large enough for the text to be clearly legible, and that there is ample space between the logo and other elements.

Reversing the logo

The black and color versions of the logo are preferred, but the logo may be reversed to appear over a dark background.

Note that the text in the vertical logo is solid, not cut out to reveal the background. Also note that the sun icon in the Smithsonian lockups should always be white. (The enclosing circle may be removed for the reversed lockups.)

Icon only

The three-tiered icon may be used alone on the museum's official social media accounts and in some special cases (for example, promotional materials like buttons and lanyards). Do not use the icon by itself without first consulting with the Office of Public Affairs.

Do not stretch or distort

If you resize the logo, be sure to maintain the logo's proportions.

Do not change color

The logo may appear in black, the brand purple, or white (reversed). The entire design should always be one color. Do not alter the color or combine the color options.

Do not change configuration

Do not rearrange or resize any of the parts of the logo. Instead, consider switching to the vertical version of the logo for instances where the horizontal logo is an awkward fit.

Do not place over busy or low-contract backgrounds

Make sure that the logo appears over a background that provides ample contrast. The logo should appear over a solid color, or over a photo or pattern that does not compete or interfere with legibility.

Note that the text in the vertical logo is solid, not cut out to reveal the background.

Do not add shadows or other effects

Do not change the appearance of the logo. If the logo does not stand out enough, consider using it in a different color (black, purple, or white), or a background that provides more contrast.

Different versions of the logo are appropriate in different contexts. Make sure to use the version that best suits your purpose.

In print

  • Use vector files (EPS or SVG) when you use the logo in print. Vector files use mathematical data instead of pixels to create an image, which means that the logo can be resized without appearing blurry or pixelated. If you must use a raster file (PNG, JPG, etc.) in print, be sure that the effective resolution is at least 300 pixels per inch.

On screens

  • While vector files are the least prone to error, raster images are sometimes necessary to use, especially on the web. PNG is preferred to JPG because PNG files allow transparency. This means that a PNG logo file can appear over different backgrounds without a white rectangle behind it, which can be distracting. Be sure that the logo looks clear, legible, and un-pixelated across standard and high resolution displays.

The icon

  • The full logo is preferred wherever possible, but the icon may be used by itself in some special cases. If you would like to use the icon alone, first consult with the Office of Public Affairs, and be sure that the museum's full name and/or website can be found anywhere the icon is used, so that the icon does not exist in isolation.

Color Palette

The brand color palette is comprehensive. It includes a primary palette to be used widely, as well as a versatile range of supporting colors to be used as accents and where a wider range of tones is called for. The colors are neither super-saturated nor dull. They are rich, bold, and warm.


Purple is the brand's primary color. Historically, purple has been used to signify beauty, royalty, faith, prosperity, and healing, and it has a strong connection to African American culture. This particular shade is bold and versatile, and it is as important to the brand identity as the logo itself.

Primary Palette

These are the main brand colors and should be used most often. Use tints of the purple and shades of gray as needed to complement and provide contrast to the main colors. High-contrast pairings of purple, black, and white work well for bold and simple messages. Combinations using tints of the purple and shades of warm and cool gray can help provide clearer hierarchy, and support more subtle messages.

Pantone and CMYK formulas should be used only for print, and web formulas should be used on-screen. Note that the web colors are expressed as HEX codes (an alternative way to express an RGB color value) for ease of use. When necessary, the equivalent RGB values may be used.

Supporting Palette

These additional colors are designed to support the primary palette. Use these colors as accents and in situations where additional color is needed (graphics and illustrations, color-coding systems, etc.) The main colors should be used most widely, and the lighter and darker shades more sparingly. The lighter and darker shades can provide legibility for tone-on-tone designs. The lighter and darker shades may also be used to communicate a more serious mood, while the main colors are more celebratory.

Use tints of the light shade as needed to provide contrast. Do not tint the main color or the dark shade, as this can produce dull looking colors.

Sample Color Combinations

Here are some examples of how brand colors may be combined. Consider what mood is appropriate for the content and what colors appear in photos and other images in the layout. Colors from the supporting palette may be especially useful when differentiating between categories or helping to create hierarchy of information. Colors from the primary palette (purple, black, white, and grays), should be used most widely.

Corona Pattern

The corona pattern is derived from the lattice ironwork on the museum building. This brand asset can be used as a textural element and as a background in layouts.

Text may appear over the latticework pattern, but the pattern should be very low contrast and the text should be large and clear to ensure legibility.

Additional Information

For marketing, branding, and general communications questions, contact the Office of Public Affairs at: ​

Smithsonian identity guidelines and resources can be found at: