Pentagram partner Marina Willer believes inspiration comes away from a computer screen

Graphic designer, filmmaker and Pentagram partner Marina Willer, best known for the identity she created for Tate Modern, is speaking at Design Indaba 2017.
Tate Modern Identity

Pentagram partner Marina Willer is a graphic designer and filmmaker with an unusual creative process. Instead of forming her ideas on paper in two dimensions, Willer has been known to use physical space, light projections, mirrors and reflections to create brand identities. One of her best known identities, which she produced while a creative director at Wolff Olins in London, is the newest identity for the Tate Modern. The Tate wanted to reinvent the idea of a gallery from a single, institution to a collection of experiences. Willer helped create an identity that shared this idea of a gallery offering many ways of seeing beyond the idea, “look again, think again”. 

The range of logos move in and out of focus, suggesting the dynamic nature of Tate – always changing and yet always recognisable. This visual style was carried through the posters, websites, publications and shops. 

The Tate identity only really came into being because of Willer’s rather abstract ways of working, which she had refined and nurtured in her post-graduate studies at the RCA.

“We are encouraged at the RCA to approach things in a fundamentally different way, that helps us create work that is truly individual,” says Willer in an interview with Design Observer. “I ended up creating a series of logos in a way that could never have achieved by sitting by my computer.”

Now a Pentagram partner, Willer is responsible for building her own team of creatives. Every team, she observes, is like a small company of its own with total independence, like a start-up working within the Pentagram space. 

I never liked working on my own. I love collaboration. I love people. I always liked creating holistic systems and narratives.

As well as the Tate, Willer has worked on identities for the Schaulager Museum in Basel, Amnesty International, Macmillan Cancer Support, Oi (Brazil’s largest Telecom) and more recently the new Oxfam brand identity.

Willer is also a filmmaker and is currently busy directing a film called Red Trees, which tells the story of how her family survived the Nazi occupation of Prague in the Second World War. 

“It is retold through the memories of my father, who was a child at the time, and shot by Oscar nominated César Charlone,” says Willer. “Red Trees is a glimpse into the fear and hope that refugees experience, serving as an important insight into the very human stories behind the statistics.”

A poignant topic in a world where still one in every 122 people is a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. 

Red Trees: A story of displacement, hope and acceptance from Pentagram on Vimeo.

The film’s cinematographer, César Charlone is best known for his work on City of God and The Constant Gardener. Willer crowdfunded on Kickstarter to help make Red Trees a reality. The 25-minute documentary will be released later this year. 

Marina Willer is speaking at Design Indaba Conference 2017. Book Now.