Rebranding is more than just updating your visuals and messaging. To truly connect with your audience, it’s important to approach the process inclusively and with their needs in mind.
Centre for London is London’s think tank. Our independent research and events explore ways to make London even better, as we celebrate the city’s successes and call out where it’s falling short. In the last year, we redefined what Centre for London does and stands for, creating a new brand identity that reflects and amplifies our message: we are a voice for all London is, and could be.
Here’s what we learned from creating an inclusive brand identity…
Know your audience and speak to them
As the capital’s think tank, our vision is that London is a safe, successful and sustainable city. To achieve that aim, our ideas must speak to all Londoners, in language that resonates with them.
London and its challenges are complex. Talking about them won’t always involve promoting simple solutions. But with the support of our Consultant Brand Strategist Laura Hunter, we were determined to make sure that a difficult job wasn’t unintentionally made harder by our own style of communication.
In practice, this meant ensuring our language is as inviting as possible, avoiding the use of overly technical terms and jargon that wouldn’t be heard in everyday conversation. In doing so, we’ve made clear that our work isn’t purely academic or targeted solely at those in power. We want everyone to participate in the debate about London’s future.
Alongside accessibility, optimism is important too. We pursued a warmer tone of voice to convey our passion for London. The capital’s issues can appear overwhelming, so staying positive about them is a way of assuring people that change is possible and worthwhile. In turn, we hope we can inspire them to support our efforts.
One central question that drove our rebrand was: “who is our work for?” As a third sector organisation, we found it to be a useful reflection when thinking about how we speak to our audiences.
We chose a welcoming rhetoric that is easy to understand, by identifying our target audience at the start of the process and tailoring our language to meet their needs.
Incorporate adaptive and inclusive visuals
After we made our language more welcoming and inclusive, we needed to make sure that this was reflected in our visuals as well.
We applied a more human-centred approach, focusing on how London’s issues affect the people who live, work, study and visit here. This approach centres around using imagery that is reflective of London’s diversity, in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, age and disability. Our photography also avoids stereotypical conceptions of the capital as skyscrapers and the inner city alone.
Another consideration was how to be both celebratory about London as well as providing sober analysis, as this duality is at the core of our organisation. To encompass these opposing tones, we created a visual language with a flexible ‘graphic volume’. In other words, a sliding scale of intensity which allows us to determine how subtle or prominent the branding in our documents should be. This means that the branded materials that we produce can be expressive or functional depending on their purpose, but still feel part of the brand.
Our flexibility allowed us to cover our current range of policy work, including decarbonising London’s transport network and addressing the ongoing housing crisis. It also enables us to accommodate new topics and issues as the city continues to evolve.
If you are thinking about future-proofing your own brand, developing a similar model of flexible branding can help keep it adaptable. Some best practices to keep in mind are:
- Define each volume level by selecting which design elements are used and what tone their application conveys. Some elements should be visible throughout, while others can be used more sparingly.
- Think about how and why specific levels could be utilised within your brand.
- Make sure all aspects of your brand are included and represented across all levels.
- Be wary of choosing specific colours to represent things that are likely to change, to ensure longevity.
Consider a hybrid working model
Despite the limited financial resources available to us as a small, non-profit organisation, we were determined to not let that hinder our efforts to rebrand.
Rather than relying entirely on an external designer, we opted for an innovative hybrid model of working. We reached out to Emmi Salonen, the Founder and Creative Director of Studio Emmi, with the proposition to collaborate with and mentor our in-house Senior Designer, Klara Blazek. This partnership meant that Klara would be involved from the start of concept creation and upskilled throughout the process.
This differs from the typical role of the in-house designer, who comes in later in the process. In our working model, the in-house designer helps shape the new brand, rather than solely implementing it on guidelines provided by the external designer.
Furthermore, involving the organisation in the rebranding process increased the sense of ownership of the final product, giving both parties greater confidence that the brand will continue to exist in the future as originally intended.
The success of our project stemmed from sharing knowledge and a sense of joint ownership. If this model sounds appealing, consider the following:
- Both parties must be willing to work in this manner. Schedule an initial call to determine if there is compatibility and creative synergy between you.
- Establish clear expectations and objectives. Regularly provide and ask for feedback throughout the process.
- Share knowledge, inspiration, influences, and reasons for your approach.
- For the internal designer, make sure there is enough built in capacity to work on the rebranding work alongside day-to-day tasks. This can mean scheduling the entire process across a longer timeframe.
We’re delighted by the outcome of our design overhaul and are confident that it will enable Centre for London to go from strength to strength, adapting as London does. It’s been very encouraging to see the new look and feel be well received by our supporters. We are also pleased to have received recognition from high-profile branding experts online.
Throughout this process, we learned that a commitment to inclusive design enables us to merge external and internal expertise. By combining bright ideas with realistic implementation, we’ve been able to develop a clear vision for the future. For any charity seeking inspiration, we highly recommend adopting redesign methods that are as collaborative as possible.
Want to explore the important strategic and creative building blocks that make a strong brand? Join us for our upcoming Charity brand and creative conference.
For more rebranding inspiration check out our Brand 360 Guide, and you may also want to read Realities of a rebrand or Putting tinnitus front and centre with a powerful new brand identity.
Banner image: Nixx on Pexels