In December 2019, we saw a brief asking for a review of the graphic identity of The National Archives. We had just successfully completed a brand for Social Work England and we saw another opportunity to work with a national institution that is hugely societally and culturally important and yet widely underappreciated. We won a competitive bidding process and a few weeks later we were on board, and making plenty of visits to the stunning mid-century building in Kew that houses the public-facing site for The National Archives. We spent time deep in the collection both onsite and online and started to understand how and why hugely evocative elements of our shared history were being collected, preserved and – most importantly – made available to everyone, for free.
The more we learned, the more we saw the potential for The National Archives to transform its image – to become the cultural attraction it deserves to be, and in doing so be able to share the stories it holds with thousands more people every year. Our aim in a branding project is to get under the skin of an organisation to tease out its values and personality, and to work with key employees and the leadership team to develop the narrative and purpose that will underpin a meaningful brand. The results of an online survey to hundreds of employees, face to face meetings with department heads and engagement sessions with as many staff as possible helped us to distil the complex, multi-audience, globally-impactful mission of this organisation into a set of values and purpose, and these informed the creative decisions behind a visual identity which we believe to be powerful in its simplicity.
The new brand is intentionally simple yet fluid and highly functional to make it adaptable to ever-changing circumstances. Clarity and confidence are what counts in a congested communication environment so the simple brand allows content to shine, enabling The National Archives to effectively communicate multifaceted messages to a myriad of evolving audiences. It’s important that the brand should never overshadow the content. It’s simply a vehicle through which to communicate your message – news, ideas, events, services and the bigger picture of The National Archives’ transformation. In this way, the simplicity of the branding itself becomes a visual representation of two of The National Archives’ key values; openness and inclusivity.
‘We chose to work with Hemingway Design because they demonstrated an understanding of and commitment to our ambition to open up access to The National Archives, and truly become an Archive for Everyone. We set them a tough brief to deliver, in a matter of months: developing a brand strategy, a new visual identity and a suite of brand tools that would work impactfully across all channels … Hemingway’s approach was to immerse their team in the task, gathering information, listening to views and ideas from people at all levels in the organisation. They demonstrated a genuine understanding of who we are and the role we want to play, and this was reflected in the quality of their work. Hemingway’s creativity has given us a fresh perspective, we have enjoyed working with such an enthusiastic and inspiring team.’Caroline Ottaway-Searle, Director of National Engagement at The National Archives.