(EN) AGSA’s new visual identity – a conversation with Fabio Ongarato

(EN) Dr Lisa Slade, assistant director at Art Gallery of South Australia talks to Fabio Ongarato about AGSA’s new visual identity and collaborating on a cultural brand.


Dr Lisa Slade: The word ‘brand’ is arguably one of the most overused words today. It is applied across all sorts of platforms but also often reduced to a logo. What does it mean to you and to your company?

Fabio Ongarato: We’ve always taken a holistic approach to brand. It’s everything that a customer sees, feels, thinks about or interacts with in context of a product or service. For us, successful branding makes something more than what it is or provides. We aim to make a memorable or emotional connection. A genuine connection to a brand can only be made if the story and its promise is authentic. We were fortunate in this regard working with AGSA. We started the process of uncovering an insightful truth to anchor the rebrand. It was an enormously engaging and stimulating process, partly because of the passionate team and their infectious energy, because of their high level of intellectual engagement as well as their clarity of vision. AGSAs intimate understanding of its clientele, established via sophisticated visitor feedback loops, made our job a pleasure and privilege. They are a truly inspired team and an aspired gallery that already had a unified vision which made our job a lot easier.

One of the processes you used in working with the Gallery involved creating identities/characteristics to speak to the Gallery’s identity and ambitions. Can you tell us more about these?

There are many forces that come into play in creating an identity. To illustrate, the way that AGSA was curating exhibitions was identified as a key point of differentiation and we felt, that although it was a clearly defined practice within the gallery, it wasn’t communicated in the gallery’s brand positioning. Instead of curating in a conventional, didactic or categorical way in style or time period, AGSA was distinctive in combining old and new in a much less linear way. This practice mirrors a more indigenous concept of time, where old and new are both “now”’. We identified additional characteristics to reflect the unique offer and identity of AGSA, drawing from the unconventional way it curates work as mentioned above, its commitment to unconventional and divergent thinking to maintain surprise, strong links to the indigenous community and its location in the heart of Australia’s cultural capital. The foundation for the new brand platform that we developed, Forever Now, emerged from this existing practice of a dynamic curatorial agenda as well as AGSA’s unique connection to place.

You’ve worked with art, artists and museums across your career, what distinguishes this type of client?

We started our business 25 years ago with a cultural niche and it continues today, working in the cultural sector and engaging with artists to bring something unexpected to the everyday. We regularly collaborate in order to be challenged and extended. There are pragmatic and also emotional aspects to this. The practical aspect is that, for any creator, taking inspiration from the wider world is paramount. If you’re not continually drawing creative sustenance from as many sources as possible then you’re not growing. Collaboration with artists can help to shape experiences, in part because a fresh influence injects originality into the storytelling but also because an artist comes along and mutates the original thinking. We often say that “collaboration is contamination” and we love that. A new influence can come in and turn an idea on its head. Literally blow it up. That’s when really unexpected and truly unique outcomes are achieved. Museums have commercial objectives like most clients, but their conceptual aptitude to engage with creative thinking and concepts is second nature which is a point of difference. Certainly in the case of the Art Gallery of South Australia, they are conceptually focused with ideas informed by intellect and anchored by a strong sense of identity. They go beyond the obvious and the aesthetic.