National Museum of Women in the Arts


National Museum of Women in the Arts

The rebranded museum has emerged as a cause-based rather than a collections-based institution, rising in national stature. They have been able to stay relevant and carry forward its mission amidst profound changes in the museum world that have made the field more competitive.


  • Branding
  • Naming
  • Market research
  • Visitor research
  • Brand messaging
  • Brand repositioning
  • Brand advertising
  • Exhibition advertising
  • Style guide
  • Organizational alignment
  • Strategic planning
  • Core values
  • Digital marketing

“It’s been dazzling to watch the transformation of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.”

Kriston Capps / Reporter, Washington City Paper

NMWA Before copy


The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) came to us with the need to stay relevant and carry forward their mission at a time of transition for the museum field. As a small museum charging an entrance fee, they were also struggling to compete with the larger, free museums in Washington D.C.

National Museum of Women in the Arts
National Museum of Women in the Arts After copy


Our intensive long-term engagement with the National Museum of Women in the Arts has successfully repositioned the museum and achieved transformative results at a time when museums are struggling with attendance decline. Under our tenure, NMWA has had a 77% increase in daily average exhibition attendance and a 75% increase in media coverage, received multiple awards, and experienced a public perception transition from “old-fashioned” and “stuffy” in 2015 to “empowering” and “thought-provoking” in 2019.


Working with all staff, board, advisory board, and national and international committees, we moved the institution from being a repository of art by women to an advocate for women through the arts. Our brand repositioning served to drive the visual rebrand and transformed public perception.

Brand Pyramid

The brand focused on tradition and the building was undermining the effect of the more forward-thinking programming and exhibitions they were doing. We clarified the museum’s core values to Champion, Open, and Fresh, distilled and socialized the Brand Idea, and ran cultural alignment workshops covering all departments—from security to management. Our work served to drive both operational practice and a successful visual rebrand.

1. What is NMWA?

The world’s only museum dedicated to the stories of women and art.

2. How does NMWA deliver its benefits?

  • Unique exhibitions highlighting opportunities for established and emerging women artists
  • Inspirational programming
  • In-gallery experiences
  • Seeking equity
  • Accessible
  • Engaging with the local community (aspirational)
  • Cause-related shop
  • School programming

3. Why? (Emotional & Practical Drivers)

I feel …

  • solidarity
  • inspiration
  • empowerment
  • validation
  • learning
  • alignment with the cause
  • curiosity
  • reflection (respite)

I am driven by (the) …

  • beautiful space and art
  • social atmosphere
  • a place to gather
  • cultural experience (entertainment)
  • women’s cause
  • advocacy for women

4. Core Values

  • Champion
  • Open
  • Fresh

5. Brand Idea

Champion women through the arts



Brand repositioning


Extensive market research and competitive landscape analysis


Multiple brand campaigns


15 special exhibition advertising campaigns


Cultural alignment using new Core Values


Visual rebrand with comprehensive style guide


Created all institutional collateral


Created revamped building signage and wayfinding based on identity

National Museum of Women in the Arts
National Museum of Women in the Arts

Results: Exhibition Campaigns

Our award-winning exhibition campaigns got particular attention in the context of a generally staid DC museum-advertising landscape, drawing significant attendance despite modest media buys. Survey data also showed the advertising as a key factor driving attendance. The exhibitions contributed directly to the larger project of adjusting the museum’s brand perception.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Results: Special Exhibition Attendance vs. Budget

Here, we chart the relationship between special exhibition media spending and average daily attendance. Our project begins with significant up-front investment, which helps to kick-start the process of calling greater attention to the museum. However, through time we can see the sustained improvements in performance we have achieved without the need to continually drive that performance via media expenditure. Performance is supported with consistency, but improvement has become organic.

NMWA Attendance VS Media Buy

Results: Net Promoter Scores

Special exhibition Net Promoter Scores have been consistent over time with a gradual trend upward, but these scores are already at or near the highest scores achieved by any type of organization. Their primary utility is, therefore, to serve as a kind of “red flag” indicator of a drop in an exhibition’s performance vis-à-vis visitor expectations.


daily average exhibition attendance increase


media coverage increase


2019 survey audience perception


2019 survey audience perception


We needed to raise awareness of the institution itself as well as its mission to Champion Women Through the Arts. We decided to pose a simple question: Can you name 5 women artists?

Becoming an advocate

Since 2016, we have helped boost the profile of this outreach through digital and out-of-home advertising. What started as a social media experiment in 2016 quickly gained traction as institutions from around the globe—from 57 countries and 7 continents—got involved and asked their own audiences this important question.


Success for this campaign meant not just spreading the word about the museum but having people pause to consider why it’s so much easier to name male artists, ensuring that women artists come to mind more easily than before this initiative was launched. Each year, hundreds of cultural organizations and thousands of individuals take to social media to answer the challenge, sparking a global conversation about gender equity in the arts. Many organizations are linking the #5WomenArtists campaign to their Women’s History Month programming. Pictured is a cover wrap ad for the Washington Post Express.

Results: #5WomenArtists social media campaign

Social media posts were filled with #5WomenArtists and photos of the advertising campaign in the DC Metro.

To debut during Women’s History Month in March 2022, we were tasked with refreshing the campaign, with the priority being a video for social media and standardizing the museum’s social media outreach. We not only continued with the same challenge but took it one step further by educating those who could not name 5 women artists. The revised campaign featured headshots, names, and artwork of multiple famous women artists with a call to “Join the Five Women Artists Movement.” Watch the video produced by Tronvig below.

Results: #5WomenArtists social media campaign

  • 625+ organizations and 9,000+ individuals participated in one year
  • Some of the organizations that participated include: Metropolitan Museum of Art; National Gallery, London; National Museum of African American History and Culture; Uffizi Gallery; and Guggenheim Bilbao
  • Participants were from 36 countries from six continents, including Brazil, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates
  • 17,700 tweets from 8,400+ contributors and 4,300 Instagram posts by 1,200+ contributors







“You have given us what every organization needs—a brand identity—and shown that there are many strategic questions that must be worked out first. Otherwise, it’s just flash-in-the-pan stuff..”

Susan Fisher Sterling / Director, National Museum of Women in the Arts