Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Another day, another launch...


It’s always nice when a brand you have been working on finally gets to launch, but it’s especially nice when the brand that emerges fulfils the promise you saw when you first won the job - and extra extra special when it is a johnson banks design.

It’s a little over a year since I first went to see Debbie Bannigan, the CEO of Swanswell Charitable Trust, a drug and alcohol charity based in the West Midlands, and although she had a number of specific issues about the existing brand image, her main brief to me was ‘give me a brand my people and service users deserve’.

Nice brief eh?

Ones like these don’t come along very often, and true to her word, Debbie set the bar high, but was invariably open and positive as we closed in on our solution. As all our clients will confirm, I never tire of telling them brand development is less about invention, and more about archeology. We know the solution is ‘in there somewhere’, it just has to be revealed.

So we spent a fair amount of time talking to everyone we could; interviews, workshops (I like workshops because someone will usually have the solution without always knowing it!), service users (they swept away a few of my own personal pre-conceptions), in fact anyone who would talk to us.

Debbie also had a compelling vision for where she wanted to take the organisation – expansion of the service, expansion beyond it’s traditional regional base. We got a very enlightened bunch of trustees to buy in to all these new plans and endorse a new vision and mission.

Once we had done our brand strategy ‘thing’ (capabilities, competition, customers, vision and mission etc) we pitched out the visual identity work. We were delighted when our old friend Michael Johnson of johnson banks won the pitch, he impressed everyone with his usual combination of creativity, wit and charm.

Michael and his team did a great job, interpreting our creative brief, and bringing to life a brand idea that is both eye catching and engaging.

So what are the highlights?

1. We got rid of the multi-various names Swanswell had been operating under (and there were quite a few) and re-named everything Swanswell

2. We broke away from the generic market language (which tends to be rather grey and neutral) and adopted a defiantly upbeat message – ‘Change and be Happy’ (no glass half empty here!).

3. Michael came up with a great visual device/metaphor that underpins the identity, something we call ‘crumple’. The logo (and many of the other components of the identity) is a half crumpled piece of paper with the name written on it (see below) – this device illustrates the process service users go through as they change their habits of substance abuse – from crumpled to smooth. We even have business cards that staff have to half crumple before they hand them out, so they have to explain what it means (we’ve had amazing feedback on how well this works, it’s funny, surprising and amazingly touching!).

4. Michael developed an entire visual look and feel that helps to simplify the language and messages for the brand, that is distinctive, fresh and like nothing else in the sector.

5. We have a very hard-hitting photographic route suitable for advertising and promotion, which we are holding back until the right opportunity arrises.

6. Michael and his team have diligently worked through the minutiae of stationary, leaflets, printwork and ‘stuff’ to ensure the brand embeds itself into every nook and cranny of Swanswell (lets face it, designers never make money on this stuff – but it has to be done). They oversaw a quick ‘re-skinning’ of the existing website, which will undergo a more significant upgrade later in the year. Oh, and lets not forget creating a comprehensive visual identity manual, powerpoint templates etc etc.

7. We have taken every staff member through the brand story – ‘the why where what when how what-if’ of their new Swanswell brand.

Well I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture… Why not visit the website?

Thanks to everyone who worked on it – the management team, their clients, the service users, the designers, the trustees, the staff, the printers, the web designers…. I love you all!


Swanswell Charitable Trust - before...


Swanswell - after...