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The 2015 thoughts archive

Brand Politics

After a lengthy six weeks, the votes will today be cast as the campaigns by the leading political parties draw to a close. The photo opps, the missed opps, the jibes and the slips ups which have played out in front of the British public over the passed forty two days will be acknowledged, considered and judged as we head to the polling stations to cast our vote. For us, it's the culmination of a project we started back in January of this year, when we were introduced to Michael Taylor, former business journalist, co-founder of Discuss Manchester and the Labour candidate for Hazel Grove. Together with Michael, we worked to develop his brand and campaign ahead of the election.

Its important to point out that not everyone who worked on this brief is a Labour voter, not everyone who works in this office is a Labour voter, but there are a few things we all agree on. Firstly, we believe in the power of brand as a catalyst for change and the most important tool for generating engagement and building trust. Secondly, we had all, at some point, felt apathetic towards the political system like many voters across the country. And thirdly, we felt incredibly strongly about the fact that creatively, political parties are clueless.

We worked with Michael to understand him, what he believed in and how he intended to help the people in his constituency. We looked at what voters wanted from their candidate and, on a national level, the perceptions of politicians and their parties. We quickly reallised, it’s not about them.


As Michael was a relatively new face it became clear there was an opportunity to create a brand that could change people’s perceptions and give a voice back to the voters.

The aim was to reframe the narrative around politics and move it away from personalities, instead focusing on issues people care about at a local level. It wasn’t about telling people what a party could do, but inviting them to engage and share what’s important to them. By creating a very stripped back, direct visual identity we cut through the noise of traditional political literature and got directly to the heart of what matters.


Lend me your ears...

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse

Faced with an hour and forty minutes of Shakespeare you could be mistaken for thinking you’re back at school. Not only because now, the prospect of the bard can’t help but summon memories of Double English but because The Liverpool Everyman’s latest production of A Midsummer Night's Dream takes you away from mythical Athens and places you slap bang in the middle of a high school.

The play opens in front of an oversized door, crowned with a clock, instantly transporting you back to those seemingly never ending days, feeling so small and counting down the minutes until the next free period. The sets blackboard walls, scribbled with juvenile graffiti “Hermia loves Lysander” and the cast’s school uniforms do nothing to alleviate the memories of boredom. Instead reminding you of the real and more interesting dramas that unfolded in the playground, and the lessons we learnt there.

It is an interesting angle to take, placing Shakespeare in the setting where most of us first encountered him. However, as the play unfolds those memories of dread start to drift away and you’re reminded that, even after 425 years, the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream resonates with everyone in the audience, just as it did when first performed.

Lysander is that boy who was always unsuitable in your parent’s eyes. Helena, that friend who won’t take no for an answer, constantly sending those hopeful texts even though we all know he’s “just not that into you.” Oberon and Titania, that couple disagreeing and playing games, despite being old enough to know better.

And then there’s Nick Bottom, the hapless fool and light relief. That ever optimistic, eager and, lets be honest, rather annoying pal who can take on any challenge, knows more than the rest of us, but who you can’t help but like. In this performance, reminding me more of David Brent – the Bottom of our time.

So even though the language has evolved, the names sound daft and the use of magic seems absurd, Shakespeare continues to hold a mirror to our lives. It’s hard to believe we’ll ever bore of the bard.

A Midsummer Night's Dream runs until the 18th April at The Liverpool Everyman. 

Spread This Word

The Roses Student Awards exist to showcase the best in class design talent. In September last year True North were invited, along with eight other agencies, to write an anonymous brief for the competition. Last week, the judges cast their vote and we met Rebecca Stephens, the student designer who successfully responded to our brief Help Spread the Word. 

The challenge: Create or select a ‘non-word’ and help it claim its rightful place in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The response: Smushables. 


We spoke to Rebecca about her process and we begin our campaign to spread her word! 

On entering the Roses Awards:  

I remember looking at the Roses website in my first year, and I was really interested in some of the briefs that had been set. So, when it came around to this year, I was ready to get going on my chosen project. Roses, and student design competitions in general, are so valuable to enter - you never know what these things lead to! 

On the brief:

The brief caught my eye straight away. At face value, it looked a hard brief, especially trying to design for a non-physical thing like a word. But once I got to the crux of what the brief was saying, it was something that opened up to so many possibilities. In a nutshell, it was a fun brief that you could really play around with! 

On the design process:


I actually started my process by looking at trying to group ‘non words’ together, which didn’t work at all - I always end up going through the classic process of trial and error when I design. My chosen word ‘smushables’ has a strong visual language - meaning I had so much to play and experiment with. I took photographs of squashed fruit, made some out of wool and paper that I had painted and manipulated - after trying out all of these, I then had my visual language created. I then considered how I could get the word ‘out there’, and not just on posters or leaflets, which lead me to looking into bags people can use whilst packing their shopping.


On being a Graphic Design Student:

I’ve always been a creative person, and had a love for design, but I also enjoyed the academic side of things. Even though Graphic Design isn’t necessarily an academic subject, I feel like things such as current events, the economy and even history can have a big influence on design. 

This year I’ve been working on a range of projects and briefs from typography through to creating campaigns to support fracking. And that’s what I love about studying a design degree, it can encompass so many different areas and I have the opportunity to explore a range of techniques, layouts, image making and so on.

Beyond the Museum

 Wellcome Collection's curiosity roadshow.

For the last four days, our “twitter dwelling” has been dominated by one thing: Museum Week’s seven-day international tweetathon. A feed full of gloriously inspirational, insightful and engaging content pulled together under unifying hash tags, celebrating the wonder of museums and culture from across the world.

What captivated us so much about this was the demonstration of creative communication and the opportunity museums and galleries have to engage with their visitors, new and old, beyond four walls. This was something that resonated with us. For the past 14 years True North has collaborated with a range of similar organisations to develop strategic and creative ways to engage their audiences, and have been fascinated by how the use of social has liberated institutions and created a new form of curation. 

It’s something we have thought a lot about recently, for a range of clients, but one in particular that posed a rather unique challenge. In 2013 we were commissioned by Wellcome Collection to communicate their redevelopment project to their 500,000+ visitors. What was unusual about this was that the building would remain completely open throughout renovation and so posed an intriguing brief in articulation. How do you retain a branded experience when a venue is under construction?

‘Be Part of our Curious Journey’ was the creative idea, inviting visitors in the gallery and beyond, to join in and become part of the transformation. Curiosity is so much of what the Wellcome Collection is about and so this became the central thread, unifying a range of messages and events providing visitors with an experience that was in keeping with the existing Wellcome Collection brand.


Curiosity was brought to life across the building with hoardings defying the traditional closed for business notices, instead becoming installations in their own right. But it was online that played a crucial role in engaging visitors and creating participatory experiences that weren’t always feasible in a building under renovation.

Social media, in particular, was key in ensuring existing audiences were kept engaged and connected by posing questions fortnightly. Each question linking to Wellcome’s vast collection or a range of topics: Science, Art, Humanity. 


What this week has reinforced, and our collaboration with Wellcome Collection has perfectly demonstrated, is that museums no longer live behind bricks and mortar but have the power to reach audiences around their city, their country and the world.

For more information on Wellcome Collections redevelopment read Fran fascinating article or explore Curious conversations on Wellcome Collection’s storify.

We're on the look out...

We’re looking for an established Senior Designer, with a minimum of six years experience, to join our award winning team. If you’re a creative with a head for strategy and the ability to delight clients then we want to hear from you. You’ll be responsible for working with the Creative Director and Head of Brand Strategy to develop successful brand concepts and design solutions for a range of organisations. A team leader, you’ll be expected to direct, encourage and support Junior talent as well as working alongside the wider team to build and maintain successful client relationships. If you’re ambitious and can contribute big ideas for clients and the agency then you could be exactly what we’re looking for. 

For more information please contact us on

True North and Transform

We’re thrilled to have been shortlisted in two categories at this year’s Transform Europe Awards.

The shortlisted work comes from Wellcome Collection's Curious Journey, which is in the running for Best Brand Experience. Whilst Bury Council and Sport England's I Will If You Will, has been nominated for Best Visual Identity for Charity/NGO.

The Transform Awards is a global celebration of brand development, reputation management and rebranding and has been celebrating excellence in branding since 2010. Take a look at some examples of the nominated work below.

Bury Council Supported by Sport England - I Will If You Will 
Wellcome Collection - Curious Journeys

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