A Museum Reimagined: The New Face of VEMU

March 8, 2022

Followers of VEMU may have already noticed through social media and via other channels that our public image has been recently refreshed. In collaboration with Estonian design firm Velvet, we underwent an exciting rebranding process throughout 2021; this was an important stepping stone towards realizing VEMU’s new home. We are preparing for a stronger and rejuvenated fundraising campaign for this purpose and in order to do that, an in depth look at who we are, what we would like to achieve and how we want to appear to the world was necessary.

We turned to Velvet thanks to our close colleagues from Estonia. Velvet has worked on projects such as designing the Estonian National Museum’s visual identity and on one of the museum’s most praised and esteemed exhibits “Echo of the Urals”.

Numerous meetings throughout the past year culminated in the unveiling and presentation of VEMU’s new look via a web seminar this February titled “Looks Matter.” The centric point of the seminar was, in fact, a presentation by Velvet’s creative director Kristian Kirsfeldt which not only introduced the fresh brand but also handled the topic of branding in general.

One of the more complicated tasks involved in the process was to see through to an acceptable conclusion the discussions, which had lasted years, regarding VEMU’s name. There were those who were not satisfied with the museum’s Estonian title “Väliseesti Muuseum” and others who doubted whether the acronym VEMU, derived from the Estonian name, would be acceptable as a brand name as it would be foreign to Canadians. Some also didn’t think a translation of the museum’s current name to English, “Museum of Estonians Abroad,” would suffice. We sent out various questionnaires and organized several discussions, an analysis of the results led to the final decision to keep both the Estonian version of the museum’s name as well as the acronym VEMU. Both iterations of the names were launched by the author of the idea for the museum, Elmar Tampõld, and they have become a regular part of our community’s vocabulary. It was also determined that VEMU as a short form may in fact not be detrimental within the multicultural context of Canada due to its slightly exotic nature, instead it would intrigue and create a heightened interest. What did change, however, was the museum’s name in English: it is now known as Estonian Museum Canada.

Decisions regarding VEMU’s name couldn’t be delayed any longer since one of the most crucial components of an institution’s visual identity is the logo. As per Velvet’s design, the new logo is clean, simple, modern and also features a slight allusion to fonts traditionally used in Estonia.

After discussing wording pertaining to the museum’s goals, visions and values, messages directed at different target groups were created. Throughout current activities and those planned for our new home, VEMU keeps in mind various generations of Canadian Estonians – those who are involved and in touch with Estonian culture and the local community as well as those who have strayed from it but would like to reconnect. Our target groups include not only Estonians in Estonia and those living in other diaspora communities, but also those who don’t have a drop of Estonian blood and know nothing of the country or its people: Canadians and visitors with a multitude of cultural backgrounds. The new VEMU building that will be located in Toronto, along with a permanent exhibit and programs, should become a cultural draw for all. The future museum will promote and showcase the universal experience of immigration through an Estonian viewpoint.

Drawing from all of the previously mentioned themes, the various components of the museum’s new visual identity were created: the shorelines of Estonia and Canada as well as the cornflower and maple leaf, important cultural symbols of both countries respectively, together form the North Star. Both design themes represent the current and historical reality of Canadian Estonians where these two worlds, the old and the new home, were forged into one.

The search for images that help convey the ideas presented within the messages was an exciting and creative process all on its own. They were chosen from both the near and distant past, from archives and from current times. Our CVI photo collection was also further completed by professional and current materials as well as those depicting VEMU and Canadian Estonian culture thanks to several photoshoots during the aforementioned process.

The entire rebranding package, the CVI or Corporate Visual Identity Manual, has been completed and is currently in use by VEMU employees. We’ve received a great amount of good feedback related to our new and refreshed image. We hope that this will aid in generating more interest towards VEMU and that through this we will gain new supporters in addition to the existing ones. Our collaboration with Velvet continues: we’re in the process of planning the permanent exhibit that will be a part of VEMU’s new home along with our inspiring partners. Exciting years await us!