December 15, 2022 • Jason Dressel
In History Factory’s 43-year history, we’ve rebranded every 10 to 12 years, with tweaks and adjustments along the way. In fact, it was during one of these rebrands in 1989 that the name History Factory was born. The origin story of the History Factory name and brand—founded as Informative Design Group in 1979—is rooted in a search for a new physical building and, whether we knew it or not at the time, a more illustrative and compelling identity.
Real estate—and specifically facilities to accommodate archives management—is a recurring motif in our history. As the story goes, in the late ’80s, a real estate broker frustrated by our fruitless search for a large, open industrial space in Washington, D.C. (a metropolis that doesn’t exactly have the rich heritage of industry and shipping that tends to beget such properties) threw up his hands and proclaimed to our founder, “It sounds like what you’re looking for is a History Factory.” Thus our name was born.
In each rebrand, we have taken our own medicine and brought forward touchstones of our past to convey our future. In 2012, for instance, we returned to an identity rooted in storytelling and developed a graphic identity that has become known as the moniker. Inspired by two previous identities—the bridge and the monocled workman, “Wayne”—the moniker is a visual manifestation of History Factory containing symbolic visual elements that tell our story.
This year, the time came for us to rebrand again. Once more, History Factory moved into a new archives facility. We also unveiled a new vision and mission, codified our values, and embarked on the next generation to lead the agency into our next era. The timing felt right—and, with our new building, we needed new signage.
Flashback to the 1980s again: that real estate broker came through for us. We moved into a new building, an old car dealership in northwest D.C., that provided the mix of office and storage space we needed. We celebrated our new space with a new name—The History Factory—and commissioned a sign (more about that later). Since then, that sign has become a touchstone of our history that we recreate and take with us to every new location we open.
Why does this matter? Well, when you’re working with us, our team digs into your organization’s past to find an object or anecdote that gets at its very DNA. We call this a golden nugget. It might be a handwritten note by the founder, a rough sketch of an early prototype or an excerpt from a memoir. Sometimes we find it instantly. Sometimes it emerges after considerable research and a touch of good fortune. Whatever it is and however long it takes us to find, this golden nugget always proves incredibly valuable, serving as the cornerstone of a variety of heritage-based activations: anniversary themes, exhibits, designed assets and more.
The golden nugget in our case was our desire for a new, simpler identity that would boldly put our compelling name front and center and honor our own brand heritage. The answer was literally right in front of us. We will be rolling out more of our new look and brand positioning in the coming months. As a valued reader, your input is extremely important, so feel free to share your thoughts as our brand continues to evolve.
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