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Case Study Outtakes: The Mona Lisa (Rebranding & Design)

The Problem: Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece portrait was experiencing an itch to try something new. The painting was aware that in the digital age, stagnancy is a precursor to obsolescence, and decided that after over 500 years it was worth considering a reinvention that better caught the eye of the modern art aficionado. However, it had no idea where to begin.

Our Solution: A ground-up branding and design process starts with active communication and a willingness to follow paths you may not have expected to take. We had an in-depth conversation with the Mona Lisa to try and assess exactly what desires were topmost, and we also pushed the artwork to consider its audience. We believe that the audience must be a part of the branding process, since they will be the ones who either celebrate, or push back against the new material. As such, we always ask the client to formulate answers to these three questions:

  • What should your audience think?
  • What should your audience feel?
  • What should your audience do?

Once those three questions have been answered, then we can start talking about things like color, font, and other aesthetic details. Mona Lisa came to us with a scattered list of ideas–neon colors, contemporary music, animations of fireballs coming from the sky–but was able to eliminate many of those ideas once it thought long and hard about how it wanted to change its relationship to its audience.

Why It Didn’t Work: There’s a reason that the Mona Lisa has endured for five centuries as a spiritual shorthand for the very concept of “Art”–it already has a perfect brand and design in no need of alteration. Changing the colors or deviating even one inch away from that classically enigmatic smile could be an amusing adventure, but in the end the painting’s audience wants to see exactly what da Vinci committed to canvas. Although this particular client interaction might be considered a “failure” because we didn’t do any new work, sometimes the whole point of a branding process is to realize that you don’t need a new brand–and that’s a success, in our book.

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