Every three years Arts Council England invites arts and culture organisations across England to apply to its National Portfolio of organisations, as part of their Investment Process. As part of this work, the Arts Council has to produce a large amount of content to explain the process to potential applicants, stakeholders, and the general public.
They asked us to develop a consistent look and feel across Investment Process communications, including website assets, an explainer video, social share cards, interactive guidance documents, a presentation document and a printed hand out material.
Our job was to create a brand toolkit that would work across all of this media that needed to incorporate icons, illustrations, print and web, and would provide a uniform look for all Investment Process communications.
The Investment Process is a serious business for a lot of artists and organisations. But it’s also a time of excitement and celebration for lots of organisations that get funding for the first time, or continued funding allowing them to grow and develop over the next few years. The branding therefore had to be considered, but fun and accessible, without being too silly, or appearing flippant.
The challenge with this work was in striking the right tonal balance for the commutations package. The client was keen that it didn’t come across “too corporate or inaccessible.” They wanted a strong, bold look that presented a “positive, forward-thinking story” about their investment, which would encourage people to find out more and apply to their programmes.
It was important that the campaign had a contemporary look and felt positive and upbeat.
Using the icon design as a starting point we developed a set of icons for the new funding bands. This led to the illustrative style of the work and helped us to develop a brand look that ties all the communications together.
The Arts Council communications can contain complex information and so an important factor with this work was that the design didn’t add to the complexity, and in fact helped to deliver clarity of message. It was important then that the style was simple but thoughtful, friendly and fun, but not silly.
The concept for the brand graphics was based on organic shapes and patterns to represent the nourishment and growth that investment from the Arts Council provides the arts and culture sector. We started with the funding band icons, which are circles made up of four petal shapes, distinguished from one another by the colour, which is carried on across all communications for each band.
These icons then come together to form an abstract flower shape to become the National Portfolio icon. Icons for the Arts Council’s other two key funding streams, Grant for Arts and Culture and Strategic funds, were created in a similar style that also use the petal shape. All other illustrations and artwork are made up of similar simple geometric shapes, which can be constructed like building blocks to create scenes of arts and culture.
This approach translates well into info-graphics and animation and we used it to subtly show the funding process, from seeds being sown, and with the growth the Arts Council’s investment can nurture, lots of creative organisations of all shapes and sizes thriving. The bold, but gentle, colour palette was developed from the Arts Council’s existing brand guidelines.
The communications campaign has been really well received and the Arts Council has had lots of great feedback from all the funding applicants on the clarity and quality of the materials. The print document was hands out in Nationwide workshops to arts organisations, interactive guidance documents are downloaded from Arts Council site, the video has been shown in workshops and shared on YouTube, the Powerpoint presentation document was used in the workshops too and the social cards have been keeping applicants in the loop on the process.
Flow brought fresh and interesting ideas to the table, giving us lots of interesting ideas to pick and choose from as we developed the look and feel for our communications.
They really listened to what we needed, what our challenges were and what success would look like for us – and I have to say they nailed it for us. We now have a gorgeous aesthetic to apply to all of our investment communications, which we’re proud to use as we launch new funds for our 2018-22 investment round, and share them with the arts and culture sector.
Dan Smith, Arts Council England