Established in 1744, Sotheby’s is one of the world’s oldest and largest auction houses, and the oldest company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: BID). From its roots as a book dealership, the auction house has grown over the past three centuries into a global company that ranks alongside the great art museums in the breadth of its influence and expertise. Pentagram’s Abbott Miller has been collaborating with Sotheby’s over a two-year period to bring stronger coherence to the full spectrum of the company’s identity and communications, including its website, catalogues, and magazine. Miller and his team worked closely with Sotheby’s leadership, collections specialists, and design and technology teams in New York and London to develop the comprehensive program.
The project was initiated in 2011 as a redesign of the Sotheby’s website, but the team quickly realized a broader review of all communications materials was needed. Sotheby’s has a truly global outreach: Founded in London and currently headquartered in New York, the company also has salesrooms in Paris, Zurich, Milan, Geneva, Beijing, Hong Kong and Doha, along with a network of offices and consultants around the world. Sotheby’s was the first international fine art auction house in Russia and China, and the first to hold online auctions.
Miller’s new system establishes a cohesive look and feel across the company’s diverse locations and programs. The goal of the redesign was maintaining the image of a modern global brand while also reflecting the heritage of a company that has been in business for almost 300 years. Miller and his team developed a new wordmark (shifting from the previous Gill Sans-based sans serif to Mercury) and new design standards for stationery and related print collateral, auction catalogues, Sotheby’s magazine, the Sotheby’s website and app, advertising and promotions, signage and environmental graphics, and auction ephemera like aprons and bid paddles. The program began rolling out in September with the website, and will continue to influence all Sotheby’s communications.