• Transform magazine
  • December 15, 2018

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The Partners rebrand Shakespeare's Globe theatre

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Situated in the borough of Southwark, on London’s bustling South Bank, the Globe Theatre was founded in 1599. Originally a space for William Shakespeare and his then-troupe of fellow actors to perform plays, the Globe Theatre rivalled the nearby Rose Theatre. But, demolished in 1644 following a fire, the site of the original Globe Theatre was given over to tenement housing and remained void of performance – until 1949, when American actor Sam Wanamaker founded Shakespeare’s Globe Trust.

In 1993, after leading a project to reconstruct the Globe Theatre, adjacent studio areas and associated visitor attractions, Wanamaker died. The finished Shakespeare’s Globe, encompassing the Globe Theatre, was unveiled in 1997.

The Globe Theatre’s colourful history, then, is what informs its rebrand. In a project led by London-based design and branding studio The Partners, now part of global agency Superunion, the Globe Theatre updated its visual identity and associated digital and print materials. This is as well as a new brand direction, where The Partners and the Globe Theatre’s creative team aim to preserve the theatre’s history in its future aims of providing accessible Shakespeare to the masses.

For the theatre’s visual identity, The Partners combined literary history with modern archaeological techniques. A line from Shakespeare’s history play, Henry V, speaks of actors and patrons ‘Within this wooden O,’ informing the general shape of the logotype; a revelation that the Globe Theatre was a 20-sided polygon led to the use of a piece of oak being used to create the final design. Further, following the printing process by printmaker Pete Smith, cracks in the oak are clearly visible. Symbolising both the theatre’s history, and the original wooden structure that once housed the now-famous acting troupe, the oak itself has a history seeped in theatrical tradition.

“It’s like a holy relic,” says creative director at The Partners, Nick Eagleton. “It appears to be the only remaining circular piece of oak from the timber used to rebuild the Globe.”

“So, we decided we wanted to make a print block out of it and print the logo from it,” explains design director at The Partners, Katherina Tudball.

Speaking to design magazine Medium, Eagleton explains how true purpose behind the Globe’s existence informs how The Partners approached it as a major project. “We did this wonderful philosophical enquiry,” says Eagleton. “We approached it like a research project and asked everything there is to ask about the Globe and all the work it does.” And with Eagleton leading the team alongside Tudball, it is clear The Partners was keen to reflect the authenticity that literally permeates to the very materials of the theatre’s structure. Even its colour palette, encompassing red, white and black colour palette, reflects the early printing press that ensured performances held at the theatre were advertised across London.

The rebrand also encompasses a new typeface which, named Effra, is an updated version of Caslon Junior, a font from 1816. For The Partners, creating a type and print experience reminiscent of the Globe’s original design collateral was vital in securing an experience as authentic for the patrons, and actors, as possible. “We spent a lot of time looking at the First Folio,” says Tudball. “Like how they squeezed the type to fit the space, or how it suddenly gets bigger. We thought it would be nice to take the spirit of the First Folio and see what happens when you treat it experimentally.”

In a city such as London, which boasts around 170 individual theatres and an annual audience of 22 million, differentiation is key. And having an authentic and tangible connection to arguably the world’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, certainly helps. For the Globe Theatre, a rebrand encompassing the theatre’s dramatic history cements it as enduring and vital in London’s theatrical trajectory.

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Globe Theatre rebrand design

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The Globe Theatre's First Folio