It was only a few days ago that I excitingly discovered that there is actually a museum dedicated to one of my favourite things… branding, so I decided to make a visit at my fist available opportunity.
The Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising is located only a few minutes walk from the world famous Portabello Road, within the fashionable Notting Hill area of London. Founded in 1984 by Robert Opie, the museum boasts a huge collection of treasures dating back as far as 1800’s. The collection it’s certainly very impressive, with over 12,000 items assembled over half a century, with the first item collected in 1963 (a packet of Munchies).
My Visit to the Brands Museum
Thankfully I planned ahead and printed myself a map, which is provided on their website. The museum is tucked away, so without a map, I would never have found it, so strongly advise to prepare before your visit.
The museum feels very much as though it’s been purposely designed to trigger memories, which is a fascinating insight into how much each and every one of us really bonds with a brand identity, even though we don’t always realise it. Every product feels as though there as a billion connected stories, each one unique to an individual. I visited the museum from a design perspective, but it was easy to forget that and be drawn into memories and excitement seeing packaging from my youth, which reminds me just how important and powerful the designer’s job is to get the designs right.
The museum has its items neatly displayed behind glass, each organised into different sections. Each one includes well-preserved examples of packaging, posters, videos/advertisements and even products and other props which add to the memory to draw the visitors in. Starting from the Victorian era, the museum takes you through a forgotten history with its beautiful collection.
One section I really enjoyed was displays of product brand packaging from their first to their current day. Some had changed a lot, but others remain almost the same as day one. The fascinating thing for me is that I felt more attracted to some of the older versions, however, I believe this is because I am so used to seeing the newer versions that to me it feels more like a throwaway item than a future treasure… I know now, in 10 years time I will look back and things will have changed without really noticing, and I realise now that the packaging we use day to day is an integral part of our time, what we do and how we live.
The museum also includes a small gift shop and an area with tables and chairs (which I believe was a coffee shop). I couldn’t resist but purchase a souvenir… I purchased a DVD from the company founder, ‘In Search of our Throwaway History‘ which is definitely well worth watching as it adds to the experience and appreciation for the work put into it. A 2-hour long documentary goes through the history of packaging in a similar way to the museum does, and the DVD also includes a second disc featuring lots of additional extras. You can’t deny how much work and passion has gone into this, and I fully respect and support everything that has been done to document and store what could easily have become a lost history. I would highly recommend any visitor purchase this DVD to truly experience the museum and the journey and history of the impressive packaging collection. Watch the trailer here:
The collection is so huge it’s difficult to fully appreciate the collection with only one visit, and the scary reality is that day by day there is more and more that could be added! Just think how many products are in your local supermarket, and the rate that things change? What about countries and cultures? This museum has the potential to be extremely huge, and have museums dedicated to set time periods or products. It certainly has a bright future ahead of it.
What could have made my experience better?
Personally, as a graphic designer I’d love to pick up the packaging and really look at it in the same way I do with everything we currently buy, as for me that would truly be the way to appreciate it. I am however well aware that this is not possible in a museum!! I just love to be able to read what’s on the sides.. on the back.. yet here in most cases we only see the front of the item. Possibly some examples in glass boxes which can be picked up and handled?
Also from the perspective of a logo designer I’m keen to know more about the story of each brand, and I think that it would be nice to include a section in the museum for this purpose. For example, who was the designer? why was a company called what it was? why was the design, colours and form used in this way? What process was used to print and design the packaging? I know there is a wealth of information out there, so all brands would be unrealistic, but a top 50 would be really good to see. I’d certainly be fascinated to see how the Victorians designed and printed their labels. I see the potential for a very thick book on this topic!
I’d also like to see a bigger shop! I can recommend a number of books that would be loved by its visitors. One such example would be Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler, another would be Logo Life by Ron van der Vlugt.
Overall my experience at the museum was fantastic. The staff are extremely friendly, the collection outstanding, and it’s definitely well worth the entrance fee of only £6.50. I’m already looking forward to my next visit!
For me visiting the museum simply reminds me how my job as a graphic designer is not only to design a nice looking logo but to design something that becomes part of a person’s life which they can relate to. We treasure memories of things around us, and the packaging plays one of the strongest parts of that connection. Designers rule the world! 😉
for more information:
- The museum: http://museumofbrands.com/
- The DVD: http://www.throwawayhistory.com/
- Join the community: If you’re an identity designer or interested in branding, please join the logo design community I have created on Facebook, Be a Logo Geek!
Have you visited the museum? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.