Brand Language

826 National’s Unnatural Marketing Strategy

Bear with me. This is hard to explain. We got interested in this story because we loved the graphics and packaging for the new Museum of Unnatural History in Washington D.C., which isn’t a museum and not a real store either. It’s the Washington D.C. location for 826 National, a nonprofit tutoring, writing and publishing organization founded to assist kids aged six to 18 with their writing skills. It got its start at 826 Valencia Street (hence the name), a storefront location in San Francisco’s Mission District. To make the place seem “cooler” to kids, the 826 founders decided to disguise it as a “Pirate Store” and stocked it with pirate supplies like peg legs, message bottles and hooks. Kids loved it and sales helped support the tutoring programs.

As the 826 concept spread to other parts of the United States, the idea of creating a tutoring place within a wacky “store” continued. This explains the existence of the Space Travel Supply Co. in Seattle for spaceship accessories, ray guns and the like; the Superhero Supply Co. in Brooklyn, fully equipped with masks, caps and suction cups; The Boring Store for spies in Chicago, with disguises, trenchcoats and night goggles; the Robot Repair and Supply Store in Ann Arbor for robot emotion upgrades; the Bigfoot Research Institute in Boston for Yeti hairballs; the Time Travel Mart in Los Angeles for dinosaur eggs and time-machine fuel, and now the Museum of Unnatural History in America’s capital.

Graphic designer Oliver Munday took the lead on designing a brand identity and packaging for the Museum of Unnatural History and its merchandise line, and was supported in this effort by Oliver Uberti and Minh Le. The project was entirely a volunteer effort.

Yes, the products are really for sale and the proceeds will go toward supporting the educational programs offered by 826 National. All for a good cause.