The National Ballet of Canada white logo on top of two dancers

The National Ballet of Canada: Inviting new audiences in

Ballet is in the midst of a sea of change. Often perceived as elitist and exclusive, it is evolving to welcome more diverse talent, audiences and creative perspectives. With new leadership, Artistic Director Hope Muir is the driver of this change at The National Ballet of Canada.

BMD was asked to help reflect this shift through a new identity, tasked with reflecting the organization as a collective and creation company. 

3 posters for the national ballet of Canada on a concrete wall. Each poster promoting a different show: Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, and Angels' Atlas.
Poster for Onegin at the National Ballet of Canada hanging on wall
Brochure for UtopiVerse at The National Ballet of Canada lying on couch

In our research, we came across the concept of the ‘uncertainty gap’ as a barrier to attending the ballet. New audiences are unsure of what to expect from a performance and if they will enjoy it, leading many to feel that the ballet is not for them.

 

To help bridge the gap, we created a wordmark that doubles as a storytelling device. We can describe themes and stories in a narrative that flows directly from the wordmark. The National Ballet of Canada “invites”, “welcomes”, “presents” as a collective entity, playing an active part in lifting the curtain and drawing us in.

Past print collateral created for The National Ballet of Canada spread across a black table top
Long recognized as a prestigious institution with a storied past, our aim was to talk about the future. 
Three men standing in front of a board covered in printed photos at the pop-up studio
As part of our research and immersion process, BMD set up a pop-up studio at the Walter Carsen Centre. We engaged dancers and staff to share their perspectives on how ballet is changing and their aspirations for the new identity. 

The narratives can be evocative, such as Swan Lake’s “what would you do for love” or charming, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s “falls further down the rabbit hole”.

New dancer portraits were created in collaboration with the talented Karolina Kuras. In the photo: Isabelle Bratt.
Story and movement create a dynamic identity that welcomes all. 

An elegant, contemporary serif, Eiko, was chosen for its strength and beauty, and as a contrast to the typeface used in the mark and narrative applications. For colour, a trio of vibrant, jewel-toned colours actively counter gendered notions of ballet like pinks and pastels.

Indoor billboard for MADDADDAM presented by the national ballet of Canada
BMD collaborated with Adage Technologies on the new website design. 

Motion was critical for a discipline embodying expressive movement. BMD developed a set of motion templates that would allow the client to easily change text, image and video.

We partnered with Displaay Type Foundry to create a glyph tool for the mark. This feature coded into the typeface allows us to easily and seamlessly type out the logo and narrative with consistent leading throughout applications and text sizes.
A monogram that echoes the mark in spirit provides another tool and shorthand that’s simple, lively and fresh. 

We use the fresh and approachable sans serif typeface, Haffer, in lower case, a bold departure from the formality common in the category. The dynamic spacing between the words brings implied movement to the mark, even when it is still.

Black shirt with “the national ballet of Canada is ecstasy, longing, grief, wonder, passion, tragedy, joy” on right side.
The narrative demonstrates the breadth of emotions, themes and ideas that characterize the ballet. We begin every story with a verb as an active invitation to engage with the collective.  
Water bottle with NBOC logo at the bottom
Person holding large black tote featuring nboc logo
Dancer portrait featuring two dancers photographed by Karolina Kuras
Banner for the National Ballet of Canada 24/25 season featuring two dancers

*Don’t let these images inform your ticket purchases – these are only mock-ups!

“The [brand] asserts our commitment to an innovative and accessible future.”
Hope Muir, Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada
  • Client

    The National Ballet of Canada

  • Industry

    Arts & Culture

  • Services

    Brand Identity

  • Collaborators

    Displaay Type Foundry, Karolina Kuras

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