We are for art history

Six months on from the official rebrand, new website and transition to Association for Art History, and the impact has been really positive. More people are visiting the website, following us on social media and signing up for our digital newsletters, so our supporter-base has increased significantly. When we launched the ‘for art history’ rebrand we made an important organisational decision to stop using the old acronym AAH. This was a crucial decision that demonstrated exactly what the rebrand and new name were asked to achieve; notably, for people to see that art history is accessible to all and that our organisation is for an inclusive art history.

Why we no longer use AAH.

Old habits die hard, but but change can be a good thing. When, two years ago, we had our first meeting with communications and branding experts, Spencer du Bois, one of the first things they asked us was, why we used the acronym AAH because acronyms aren’t helpful in showing who you are or what you do. Unless you’re a big, established organisation like BP, acronyms don’t show, they conceal (which can be useful and therefore desirable for some organisations). But in our case, we don’t want to conceal who we are and what we do, we want to show and tell people, all people.

Acronyms can be great for those who already know who you are, but off-putting for those who don’t. If you don’t know what the acronym stands for you already feel on the outside. The name of an organisation should not be a code to break, or a puzzle to solve that gives you access to an exclusive club. But organisations can get into an introspective habit of using acronyms because it’s easy, quick and shorter in tweets. Organisations do this because they get used to thinking only about the people on the inside (their members, supporters and stakeholders who already know them), they forget about the people on the outside, the many people who don’t yet know them and what they do. But how will organisations evolve and grow if they don’t think outside of the organisation?

Adopting a more ‘outward facing approach’ was top of the to-do-list, and key for the rebrand. Not using acronyms is part of this outward facing position. Just because you might know what the AAH was, don’t assume that others do. In fact, if you ask most of the general public what AAH was, or googled it, you’d find that AAH is a pharmaceutical company. And we don’t want to be confused with that.

What can you use instead of AAH?

Well, plainly put, use our name, Association for Art History. If that seems too long then our digital and social platforms use @forarthistory. So, if you’re looking for a shorthand version ‘for art history’ is a good replacement. You might also find that saying ‘for art history’ is much easier than saying ‘AAH’ too. Where we traditionally used the acronym for things like the Annual Conference we now use our full name and refer to it as the Annual Conference (including the year for specific events) and use #forarthistory2018. If asked what event you are going to, say ‘the Annual Conference for art history’, or ‘New Voices for art history’, for instance.

We are now the Association for Art History, so let’s use it, say it and be proud of it.

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