The Artsy Asks Series
Experts answer the most important questions for galleries today.
Megan Feehan, Artsy’s Brand Creative Director, has been in the design industry for 15 years, having worked at agencies in Paris and New York. In 2013, she founded a graphic design studio that focused on visual identities for art and architecture clients. She has been helping shape Artsy’s brand since 2019.
All galleries have the same essential function and purpose of selling art. What makes each one unique is its brand: a feel and personality expressed through design, messaging, and more.
When it comes to connecting with collectors in a meaningful way, a strong brand is essential—and can help you cultivate a more devoted, trusting audience. So what can galleries do to craft a memorable brand that stands out and feels authentic? We caught up with Artsy’s Brand Creative Director, Megan Feehan, to find out.
What makes a “strong brand”?
A strong brand has a human quality that people connect with. We like certain brands and what they’re about, based on our own tastes and experiences—and that feeling bleeds into how we feel about what they sell.
Crafting a strong brand is like writing a memorable character in a novel: It has to be human, distinct, and have a specific personality. It starts with words, articulating who that character is and their motivations. It has to match the mission or focus of the business—for galleries, this is generally aligned with the focus of the artist roster.
The expression of the brand follows that core focus. Color, font choices, art direction of the photos, tone of voice, and the general approach to telling stories about the artists and their work…that’s all part of the brand expression, and it has to follow the same patterns. That’s going to build up into the particular way your gallery develops a deeper connection to your audience.
What recommendations do you have for galleries looking to maintain brand consistency?
Consistency builds trust in your brand. Define who your brand is and commit to that. Hire a designer to set up the rules of the brand’s expression—a set of guidelines. Make sure that all communication follows these guidelines, and empower your team to maintain that consistency across all channels. That’s it.
What are “branding pitfalls” that galleries should watch out for? Do you have any branding pet peeves?
Trying to be everything to everyone, that’s a pitfall. In order to be a strong personality, you can’t be agreeable to everything—you have to express a specific and focused idea. To that end, it can be really helpful to define not only what is on-brand but what is off-brand, and to specify things that you want to avoid.
At Artsy, we use an internal “this, not that” deck, with entirely visual references of on- and off-brand comparisons. It’s been a really clarifying tool for internal use, and keeps us practicing the ongoing language of the brand. It helps us to stay focused on the principles of the brand and how we express them, gets us articulating very granular and detailed things, and reminds us who we are.
Pet peeves…I have a lot of them. The biggest one is generally when brands try to be fancy or virtuosic rather than saying something meaningful, or true. We’re all looking for an authentic connection. In the art world especially, we all want to get closer to the art.
Help your audience understand more about the artists’ practice and background, and give them real knowledge. I love seeing videos on social media of artists in their studio, hearing their voices, and seeing the work that goes into being an artist—it can spark a real human connection.
When should a gallery consider a rebrand?
When things feel deeply stale, burnt out, undifferentiated, or not special—that’s when to consider a rebrand. I don’t recommend rebranding often; usually, course-correcting or making small tweaks to get it back on track is enough.
If you are considering a rebrand, go back to the principles of why you started the gallery, and its mission. Is the artist roster aligned to that mission? Are the communications aligned? Is the visual expression aligned? Is there joy still in making all this work? Is there still a mission, a purpose?
Aligning with your purpose, that’s the most important element in a brand. Everything follows that.