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Rebranding the National Gallery of Ireland

This month sees the unveiling of our rebrand of the National Gallery of Ireland, the home of the national collection of European and Irish fine art. 

A major refurbishment of the gallery’s historic wings and a new presentation of its permanent collections will reopen on 15th June 2017, and the gallery took this opportunity to refresh the brand strategy and identity to engage new audiences. 

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Through an insight phase with key stakeholders, staff and gallery visitors, we discovered how all audiences felt an affection for the collection and developed the identity based on the brand idea “Where Ireland embraces art”, reflecting the gallery's ongoing commitment to enriching the lives of its visitors through art.

The new visual identity features a bold, distinctive graphic symbol inspired by the gallery’s initial letterform ‘N’ and incorporates a stencil typeface inspired by engravings from its iconic building.

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The simple but iconic marque is a useful brand device to communicate the breadth and diversity of National Gallery of Ireland, allowing the juxtaposition of words and images to really communicate the gallery’s offer, now and in the future.

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Senior Designer Victoria Pinnington says “It was really important to us that the new brand identity reflects the values of the gallery, as well as feeling like it belongs with the space and the artworks. The new branding hopes to enhance visitor experiences onsite and online, to both inspire existing audiences and attract new audiences.”

The National Gallery of Ireland's new brand will begin rolling out across all communication touch points onsite at the gallery, and online following a redesign of the gallery’s website by True North and Reading Room.

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Royal Mail Ancient Britain stamps released

Working with illustrator Rebecca Strickson we have created the latest Royal Mail Special Stamp issue. 

The eight stamps feature some of the most inspiring objects and atmospheric sites of British prehistory.

The stamps explore how people lived in prehistoric times and depict famous iconic sites as well as some of the most exceptional artefacts from around the UK.

The images present a timeline of prehistory, from a glimpse of ancient ritual of 11,000 years ago, to the Iron Age of around 300 BC. They indicate a huge degree of organisation in ambitious building projects, and sophistication in exquisite metal working.

Each stamp shows the contrast between how the site or artefact looks today and how it might have originally been used, through the addition of Rebecca’s linework illustrations layered over photography to tell individual stories. 

We worked with historians and experts at the British Museum, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and Ulster Museum, carrying out in-depth research into each artefact and site, to discover how they might have been originally used. 

Senior designer Sarah Dutton explains ‘Some of the subject matter was from way back in history so it wasn’t always clear how the sites and artefacts were originally used. Researching this with experts was a really interesting process and invaluable to helping us convey their use as accurately as possible. The challenge was in finding a creative solution that would apply to both sites and artefacts, showing the level of detail needed to tell their stories on two completely different scales’.

Illustrator Rebecca Strickson says ‘I really enjoyed the creation of the illustrations, particularly for Drumbest Horns, Star Carr Headdress, the Battersea shield, and the magnificent Mold Cape. The latter two, I went to see at The British Museum in the flesh to really get a feel of how they were used and worn. The workmanship on them both is truly staggering. These incredible artefacts, earthworks and places we treasure today deserve to be appreciated as the amazing feats they are.'

The Ancient Britain Special issue is released on 17 January and is available from post offices and the Royal Mail website.

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Strategically-minded Account Director wanted

We’re looking for an Account Director with a natural flair for strategy, to lead on a high-class range of brand and communications projects. Working in close collaboration with our creatives, brand strategists and the project management team, you would support our Client Services Director and be responsible for the delivery of projects and the development of client relationships.

The ideal candidate would have bags of drive and stamina, teamed with strong project management skills and are perhaps frustrated by the strictures and structure of their current culture, where there may be little room to grow or develop. This isn’t the case at True North, we welcome original thinkers with a strong point of view and those that confidently and proactively manage internal and external relations. You will be the focal point of contact for your clients, and alongside the creative and strategists will help to shape the answers to their problems. You would assist in the creation of pitches and proposals and on-boarding new clients when successful.

Experience in branding is essential and exposure to more diverse creative disciplines would be advantageous.

If you want to join the team, please send a CV and covering letter to jobs@thisistruenorth.co.uk

No agencies, thanks.

Demonstrating the modern relevance of Shakespeare

Working with the British Council, we have created a collection of essays that explores the relevance of Shakespeare in society, demonstrating the significance, context and connection that Shakespeare has with current matters on a global scale.

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As part of British Council's ongoing Shakespeare Lives programme, which marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the series of essays brings together eminent writers from around the globe, from Nobel-prize winning writers to politicians, exploring themes that are poignant and relevant within their society, and the connection that Shakespeare still has to these matters.  

Each author was invited to write from a personal perspective, and the diverse set of contributors draw on contemporary, social, political and emotional experiences to make comparisons with Shakespeare’s works. Alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry, other authors include: Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin, Ahlem Mosteghanemi – the most popular writer in the Arab world, renowned South African director and actor John Kani, deaf solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie, Lebanese choreographer Alissar Caracalla and Chinese author Hong Ying.   Working with the Shakespeare Lives brand, True North were tasked with bringing the essays to life and producing a piece of print which would be shared through British Council networks across the world.   

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Senior Designer Adrian Newell, explains ‘whilst initially briefed to house all essays within a single publication, we went on to develop a set of typographic essays, each printed with three special colours, which were then housed within a specially designed pack’.  

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Sarah Giles, Shakespeare Lives Project Manager, says: “We presented True North with the challenge of creating a collection of essays that were both beautiful as a physical object, but also accessible for online distribution. The team had the challenge of working with translated texts, fluctuating content and a lack of visual assets beyond the visual identity. They responded with a beautiful collection that feels contemporary and sophisticated, reflecting the serious nature of the content while remaining accessible to a range of audiences. The essays have since generated huge interest from teams around the world, reflecting the success of speaking to an international audience, while garnering established press”. 

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The Living Shakespeare essays are currently being brought to life on screen through a series of BBC World Service short films.  

All the essays can be downloaded from here: http://www.shakespearelives.org/explore/literature/living-shakespeare

Vogue: More than a pretty face?

For the next few months Manchester Art Gallery is exhibiting Vogue 100: A Century of Style, direct from the National Portrait Gallery.

Naturally, as a lover of design and fashion I found myself wandering into the midst of artfully curated covers and beautiful photography from this iconic fashion bible to celebrate it’s work over the last century.

Thanks to this ultimate fashion brand, photography has become an integral part of how we consume and appreciate fashion. All the great names are there from Horst to Testino, but, beyond the beauty of this stunning collection of imagery what really struck me was Vogue’s ability to tell much deeper stories throughout the exhibition.

The exhibition transports you on a journey back in time, from present day to 1916. Featuring everyone you’d expect to see from the Duchess of Cambridge to Britain’s alternative royalty, The Beckham's. But, it was a piercing eyed, squared-up image of Margaret Thatcher to symbolise the Iron Ladies leadership of the 80’s that really got me thinking: is the perceived reputation of Vogue for style over substance right? Or, without realising has this brand succeeded in defining culture for generations?

The brands photography crosses political and cultural issues from the optimism of the 'Swinging Sixties' then back to the post war austerity of the 50’s, expressed through the gritty imagery of London streets and girls with their Victory Rolls saving fashion coupons for clothes from Harrods. Not to mention a rare, stark and symbolic photo-less cover to commemorate the death of King George VI.

What was certainly clear is that amid all the cultural change this fashion brand appears a constant and important element. Vogue is a cultural icon worth much more than it’s designer fashions. Over the years they have proven their ability to place fashion at the heart of our visual culture and make it accessible to the masses, as well as capturing the lives, aspirations and mood of periods of time. It’s certainly a brand expression far beyond the realms of designer handbags and shoes.

It’s definitely an exhibition that proves if a brand gets it right that great design and photography never goes out of style.

Victoria Pinnington
Designer

The EU Referendum and the effect on the 'Made in Britain' brand.

The chance to decide whether we Leave or Remain in the EU is nearly upon us, but are we any wiser as to the potential impact on the ‘Made In Britain’ Brand?. When we think of ’Made in Britain’ we are talking not only about brands that are produced and manufactured here but also the concept of ‘Britishness’; the power of Country of Origin and national identity.

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The ‘Made In Britain’ label is potentially worth £Billions to British business but will it have the same standing and gravitas if the UK were to leave the EU? A Leave decision could signal the beginning of the end for the Britain brand as Scotland look to reopen the debate on independence if the vote goes in favour of Brexit. Is 'Made in England’, or Scotland or Wales, as powerful and marketable as ‘Made In Britain’?

It’s this step into the unknown that has not only the business community, but the population at large, fearful of what the future might hold. It appears that the debate has thrown up more questions than answers, and this lack of clarity manifests itself in anger and confusion for the general public who are often denied the true facts of the consequences, from either side. It seems no-one really knows. It’s a gamble, but one that will have a huge impact on our economy. 

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The Leave campaign have assured us that exit from the EU will offer more opportunities to UK businesses, allowing more unrestricted access to world markets. Those on the Remain side counter this argument with the pledge that we will be stronger as a partner in the EU trade bloc and weaker if we turn our back on the richest single market in the world.

The effect of Brexit on the strength of the £Pound may be felt immediately but the overall impact of Leave on Brand Britain may not be apparent the morning after or even in the following weeks or months but in years to come.

Analysts will watch with concern how the global markets react if Brand Britain was no longer an integral part of the wider portfolio of Europe. Whether the market allows Britain to function productively as a single brand rather than one that is part of the wider European concept remains to be seen. 

A departure from the EU could signify a weakening of the ‘Made in Britain’ brand, the decision appearing as a backward step and an isolationist approach that could leave us in an economic wilderness. A reputation has to be built up over many years, and with a large part of our export going to the EU we could be damaging the reputation of the brand in the minds of our continental European neighbours and indeed the wider world. 

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In 2014 Britain ranked 6th in a worldwide survey of reputable country’s of origin. The research outlined the four key areas that signified the strongest countries of origin; authenticity, differentiation, quality standards and expertise. Each camp in the EU Referendum could claim that these key areas are made stronger by following their preferred chosen path. However a Leave vote could irreparably damage the world’s perception of the British identity and therefore our reputation as a trustworthy brand.

It is also important to consider that a strong country brand has a halo effect on the consumer brands that carry the flag of that country. In the 21st Century, brands that demonstrate a progressive and outward looking philosophy are more likely to be the brand of choice of the more ethical and ecological minded Millennial consumers, the 18-24 age group, 60% of whom would vote Remain. If the country of origin is held in high regard then so are the brands that are associated with it. 

“The trust people have in a Brand is built together with the trust they have in the place of origin”.

Leave or Remain - the whole Referendum experiment may have tarnished the reputation of a once solid Brand, the consequences may have far reaching implications for Britain, its industry and its economic strength. 

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