Thamesmead had a perception problem and a history of unfulfilled promises and slow progress. Many Londoners don’t even know where Thamesmead is or what it has to offer. Under the stewardship of London’s most influential housing association Peabody, the major landowner and master developer, Thamesmead has exciting plans and an opportunity to realise its unfulfilled potential as London’s New Town. HemingwayDesign were appointed to create a strong and effective place brand, with a place making and place marketing focus, which communicated Peabody’s vision for Thamesmead. The place brand had to instil confidence and excitement and increase recognition of and curiosity in Thamesmead. Thamesmead is a large, often undervalued (and undiscovered) part of London with a very diverse population, disparate green and blue landscape and distinct offer. It is remarkable for its space, scale and cultural heritage which is all underpinned by a nascent and unique sense of opportunity.
We worked closely with Peabody to host digital and face to face engagement with Thamesmead residents, business and institutions as well as getting views from neighbouring boroughs, the wider region from people who know of Thamesmead and those that do not. Peabody had already undertaken significant consultation with Thamesmead’s resident community, so we conducted an ‘outsider’ perceptions survey focussed on people who had never visited Thamesmead which has given us an objective insight, free form emotional investment.
It became clear we had to develop a place brand narrative that that encapsulated Peabody’s aspirations and allowed this assortment of urban settings mixed with wild parkland and waterways, and the diverse origins of its populations the ability to shine. Recurring observations referenced that Thamesmead has an opportunity to finally release its unfulfilled potential. Space, housing space standards, access to outdoor green and blue spaces, and affordability in a London context were considered to be the most attractive and important characteristics.
It’s time to make good on 50-year old promises – the ones that were laid out when this place was first built. It’s time for families to set down roots and grow side-by-side. It’s time to find moments of happy solitude in busy urban environments. It’s time to re-evaluate what London is capable of. It’s time to do things differently. It’s time for Thamesmead. From its disparate neighbourhoods and wide-ranging but somewhat compartmentalised communities to its radical differences in architectural style and a natural beauty that defies many external expectations of the town; Thamesmead is a fascinating and complex place. Its future, even under the trusty stewardship of Peabody, is continually developing and reliant on many external factors to be fully realised.
We didn’t want the visual identity to add to the maelstrom of complexities, so we discounted a highly stylised identity that could in a short space of time, have become outdated and irrelevant. Instead, we prioritised and developed a simple but fluid visual style that is adaptable to ever-changing circumstances, that places emphasis on content and not “over designed” visuals that enable Peabody and partners to effectively communicate multifaceted messages to a myriad of evolving audiences over an extended period of time as Thamesmead starts to grow and flourish. The result is a pared back look that, in its simplicity doesn’t seek to be a trend-led identity and feels quite confident and optimistic as a result. The simplicity is also a visual representation of two of Thamesmead’s best assets, space and opportunity. The clarity and confidence of the design is epitomised by an ‘unstylised’ and unfussy aesthetic, placing an emphasis on clarity of information and allowing the content to express the tone and personality of each of Thamesmead’s characteristics.
“HemingwayDesign have worked extensively with local groups to really understand Thamesmead and help us develop a place brand that represents the town and the people who live and work here. They have managed to capture the spirit of the area in a way that should also resonate with people from outside of Thamesmead encouraging them to take a positive look at the many changes happening now. Hemingway’s community driven approach is impressive. To create a brand which is well designed, accessible and meaningful for local communities, future residents and stakeholders is a real skill. HemingwayDesign have achieved this for us and we are really pleased with the results”.
John Lewis, Executive Director Thamesmead, Peabody