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Connecting the Past to the Present with a Legacy Wall

Connecting the Past to the Present with a Legacy Wall

It’s an honor to be featured on a legacy wall. A small founder’s display in the lobby, a chairperson gallery in a boardroom, a hallway filled with company presidents–these are the leaders who helped build, shape, and grow your organization. They should be featured on your walls for people to see and acknowledge.

Many legacy walls are installed during or after a leadership transition. This helps connect the past administration to the present. Traditionally, companies would commission a painting of their leader. It would be prominently displayed in their office. Today, organizations are a little more modern, opting for a photograph and frame design that reflects both the person and the company itself.

A legacy wall–whether it is a small display or a large gallery–is an easy way to add art to your location. It is personal and holds meaning for your team, clients, and prospects. If you don’t have a legacy wall in place or want to revamp your current presentation, your first step is to think about your story.

What Story Do You Want to Tell?

Everyone talks about stories in marketing, so this may seem like an obvious first step. However, many people gloss over the story aspect of portraits and custom framing. They want to jump to whatever part seems the most exciting, whether that’s art directing a photo shoot or reviewing moulding samples.

Yes, the result should be beautiful, but the art still needs to convey some sort of meaning. It needs to work for you, not act as a pretty placeholder. Your legacy wall should be a reflection of your organization and the leaders themselves.

What do you want someone to take away after viewing your portraits? Here are a few questions you may want to ask your team:

  • Are we trying to match an existing look (i.e. a painting, previous backgrounds, etc.)?
  • Do we have a portrait we want to use, or should we commission a photograph?
  • If commissioning, do we want our leader to pose in their office, their home, another location, or on a backdrop?
  • Should our leader look more formal or more relaxed?
  • Is this photo for the legacy wall, or will we use it for other purposes?

The answers to these questions are important. They are the outline for your story. The answers will influence how a photographer will photograph your leader if you’re hiring one. They will need to know if they are supposed to emulate an old grandmaster painting or create a bright modern setting. If you don’t have answers to these questions, you won’t be able to effectively collaborate with a pro.

Legacy Wall Custom Framing

You have the beginning of your story. It’s time to expand it. Your presentation matters just as much as the photograph. There is nothing worse than seeing a gorgeous photo in an underwhelming frame design. The final piece doesn’t have to look like it belongs in Architectural Digest, but it should make an impact.

When reviewing display options, you need to consider:

  • Are we matching an existing frame design?
  • What are our branding guidelines for framing?
  • Which branding elements should we incorporate in the frame (i.e. mat color)?
  • Do we need a plaque? What should it say?
  • How much space have we allotted for this piece?
  • Do we even want to frame it? What are our other options?

Again, the answers to these questions are so important. You may or may not have the creative freedom to go wild with your frame design. You may need to match to an existing frame or incorporate your brand colors into your matting or moulding. Of course, you may not have any guidelines at all, which could be totally exciting or incredibly overwhelming.

Size is a huge factor in framing. For example, matting and moulding could add an additional 11” – 13” on a 24” wide portrait, making it 35” – 37” wide in total. That may be too big for your wall. We advise clients to measure their walls and cut out a piece of paper or tape off their desired frame size to see if it fits. (If that doesn’t work for you or you aren’t comfortable, no sweat. We’re happy to help.)

Some clients want to add a plaque. This could be as small as a name and dates served or as large as a name, dates, and a short biography. Small plaques are installed on the frame if the moulding is wide enough or on the matting. Wordier inscriptions may need a separate plaque installed next to the frame. If you opt for a separate plaque, factor that into your allotted space because it will impact your frame size.

You may decide you don’t want to frame it at all. There are other options. You can choose a metal, acrylic, wood, or canvas print. Each one has its own pros and cons, but all of them can be displayed framed or unframed.

Ready to start your legacy wall? Let’s look at a few samples:

Baltimore County Public Schools

Pikesville High School wanted to create a Principal Wall of Fame in their school. Their principal, Sandra Reid, was retiring, and they wanted to make her portrait the centerpiece on the wall. However, we couldn’t plan anything in advance. Not her portrait. Not her frame. They were going to announce it at her retirement ceremony. Any direct planning would ruin the surprise.

Our solution? Create and frame a gift certificate with custom wrapping paper.

Our client supplied the copy, and Mary Lou created a gift certificate using their logo and colors. We used a simple black and gold frame to work with their branding. Since this was a gift, we created custom wrapping paper using their logo. Our client was able to wrap the frame before the ceremony and present it to her.

custom framed certificate and custom logo wrapping paper

After the presentation, Sandra came to our studio for her portrait. This photo holds so much meaning. We used a purple background to match the school’s colors. Sandra wore a purple flowered dress and the jewelry she was given at her retirement ceremony. Her pose is friendly, yet a little authoritative–the qualities you want in a wonderful principal. We chose a traditional black and gold moulding to match the older pieces on the Wall of Fame. It’s a beautiful frame with a wonderful story.

legacy wall photo of Sandra Reid custom framed

“From start to finish, you made me feel comfortable and at ease. Your professionalism, creativity, and discerning eyes were all valued and greatly appreciated. Thanks again for making today both memorable and enjoyable for me. I look forward to the finished product and know you will highlight the best of me in this photo that will adorn the school for years to come.” Sandra Reid, retired principal, BCPS

Baltimore County Public Library

Paula Miller, director of Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL), needed a new portrait. She was gearing up for retirement, and the marketing team wanted to hang her portrait in the lobby with their previous directors. They didn’t want to create an exact match to the prior portraits and framing, but the new design needed work with the existing pieces. We photographed Paula in the library and custom framed her portrait with a walnut moulding. The flat profile is modern and simple allowing the portrait to pop.

When Sandra Alcántara-Antoine took over as director, we photographed her among the stacks and custom framed her portrait with the same moulding. You don’t need to wait for someone to retire in order to add them to a legacy wall. As a bonus, BCPL uses Sandra’s portrait for other marketing purposes, adding to the photo’s overall ROI.

“Baltimore County Public Library has used Coyle Studios over the past several years for our custom portraits and framing and couldn’t be more pleased with our results. John is a consummate professional having the natural ability to make his subjects feel at ease to bring about the best quality through technique and talent. The portrait session provides a variety of poses and on-site backgrounds for us to choose the most versatile pictures to use across many mediums including marketing collateral, web design, and custom framed portraits. Coyle provided a number of choices for custom framing and the quality is top-notch. For an organization on a limited marketing budget, the adaptability of the photos along with the excellent customer service is quite important. We will gladly call on Coyle again for all our upcoming photography projects.” Linda Frederick, marketing and development, BCPL

Community College of Baltimore County

Donors are essential to many organizations and are often part of legacy walls. The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) wanted to create an impressive display for two donors in one of their building’s lobby. They didn’t want a photograph. They wanted something that looked like a painting.

CCBC already had the photos they wanted to be painted. We photographed the images and rendered them as paintings to be printed on canvas. Each canvas was hand-stretched and painted. CCBC chose a large silver moulding with a black liner, a modern twist on a traditional painting frame design. Each frame has a bronze plaque next to it with names and a short biography. The final pieces were installed on either side of the entrance stairwell, a truly remarkable presentation.

legacy wall painted portrait of couple custom framed on brick wall

It is important to acknowledge the leaders, donors, and team members within your organization. Legacy walls come in all shapes and sizes and are an easy way to add meaningful art to your walls. If you want to create community and foster corporate culture, then you need to get started on your own legacy wall.

Learn more about corporate art and framing in our “Guide to Office Envy.