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Health Innovation Manchester

Manchester’s Liverpool Road Station, once the first ever inter-city railway carrying passengers and produce between northern cities, has, since 1983 been home to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. A place seeped in the history of the industrial north, a place dedicated to the exploration of scientific and industrial innovation and the place where, in June 2014, Chancellor George Osborne launched his vision for the “Northern Powerhouse.”

A fitting stage that saw the now First Secretary of State outline plans to liberate the northern cities from the shadows of London. “Not to rival the South, but to be its brother in arms,” by devolving power from Whitehall to the regions.

Fast-forward six months to February 2015 when the cogs in the devolution machine began to turn and it was announced that Greater Manchester would take control of a £6bn health and social budget. Last Wednesday evening this became a reality when representatives from academia, science, national health and industry signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’ Health Innovation Manchester was born.

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The vision for Health Innovation Manchester is to transform the health of the population in the region by driving research and innovation into every day medical practice.

For us at True North, this launch was a culmination of an incredible and insightful piece of work, which saw us create a name, vision, purpose and identity for this first of its kind partnership.

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We started this project with a focus on collaboration, spending time with a diverse range of stakeholders and partners, interviewing them to define their vision and establish guiding principles. Discovery, development and delivery through transformative healthcare solutions was a vision that resonated with each and every partner and so, this became the focus that bound the brand.

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Inspired by this idea of the continuous and connected system, a visual identity was created that reinforced the vision. An abstract infinity symbol becomes a powerful brand device, flowing across and connecting all brand communications.

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This same brand device was used in the brand film, produced and edited by Gate Films. A series of seamless transitions from once scene to the next demonstrate the system’s joined-up approach, reinforcing the close connections and the blurring of the lines between academia, industry and healthcare providers.

The overall look and feel of the brand is that of an energetic, forward thinking organisation. One that has movement and pace, capturing the sense of positive momentum behind this transformative brand.

Fresh Nominations

Proud to have been nominated for six Fresh Awards. Here's what's in the running:

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Learning from the Radicals

The demise of Kids Company last week brought up an all too familiar question: When faced with a loss of government funding, how are those organisations reliant on it to cope and progress? It’s a question we faced last year when working with People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester. Now, the situation PHM found themselves in was not on the same financial scale, nor had the sensitivities and complexities of the recent Kids Company closure, but each faced the same challenge: how can we open up new streams of revenue to mitigate the effect of a reduction or withdrawal in central government funding?

In the case of PHM, we decided to take an innovative approach. The 15% of their income which came from central government was going to disappear in April 2015 and all ‘business as usual’ ways to replace or top that up had been explored. There was definitely going to be no additional public sector financial support – from local or national authorities.

Unlike Kids Company, PHM suffers from a lack of profile and it has next to no history of philanthropic support. What’s more, its core story – the development of democracy and rights in Britain – is not a subject matter closely aligned with the agendas of potential corporate of private philanthropic donors.

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These were potentially insurmountable obstacles, but we preferred to think of them as brilliant ingredients for a radical and innovative solution. We created the ‘Radicals’ brand and campaign to reflect the brave actions of the people whose stories are told in the Museum and to show that Museum management was prepared to follow their lead.  How? By ‘rebelling’ against the financial status quo and getting ‘Radical’ in order to secure their future. So, a unique package of benefits was put together, to encourage donors to build a closer relationship with the Museum and its team in exchange for their financial support. A celebration of the efforts of Radicals from British history became the core of the approach, with a ‘radical’ solution, celebrating the Museum’s brand DNA, to a potentially immovable obstacle.

Thanks to the prioritisation by the Museum board of efforts to replace the disappearing government funding, a strategic plan with time to implement and our bold and brave voice to a new style of fundraising, the Museum successfully ‘filled the gap’, and more, and has a pipeline of donors for the future.

This isn’t to suggest that the situation facing Kids Company and People’s History Museum were identical; but that a combination of strategic planning, management focus, genuine courage and a willingness to innovate went a long way to heading off a potentially crippling problem. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, but it helps to have brothers and sisters that combine strong management, creativity of approach, a genuine grasp of your own brand and the ability to leverage it in new ways.

Product of a Placement

For the last year, we have had the pleasure of hosting three placement students from the University of Central Lancashire. Anya, Beth and Dan have become a vital part of our team and it is with heavy hearts we have to say goodbye as they head off to complete their degree. Ahead of their departure they embarked on one last hurrah, Dan and Anya explain all.  

Our placement journey began last summer when we were delighted to discover that we’d be spending a year at True North. As graphic design students at UCLAN we chose to complete a placement year in between our studies to gain experience, contacts and skills that we hope will stand us in good stead for when we finally graduate and are thrown into the design world.

Although a placement year isn’t compulsory, we would highly recommend it to anybody wanting to work in the design industry. Not only have we met and worked with some amazing people, but we have gained invaluable experience and been given the opportunity to work on fantastic projects for clients such as The People’s History Museum, Royal Mail and many others.

Our placement will soon be over, but before returning to our studies, we decided to create something for the team to remember us by and for us to pass onto the students who’ll replace us; A helping hand from one student to another!

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The concept of creating a handbook came about when we were comparing our daunting first weeks of placement. That’s when the idea of sharing our own knowledge and experience through a handy guide was first spoken about.

Our aim was to create an informal, interactive yet informative book containing useful information about True North. The guide is split into 4 sections. ‘Welcome to the team’ introduces the students to the team and their roles, as well as a fun fact about each team member.

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‘Placement duties’ gives the students a heads up about some of the responsibilities they will be taking on (brewing up being first on the list of course!).

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The next section, titled ‘Important bits and bobs’ is the boring but necessary stuff that they will need to know such as fire precautions (yawn).

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‘Top tips’ is the final section of the guide, it consists of 10 tips about general studio life, and a few personal tips about members of the team that we have learnt during our time here. A personal favorite is top tip number 3, ‘Don’t challenge Ady to a game of darts,’ Dan in particular can vouch for this one!

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We attempted to make each section engaging and fun by adding our own doodle style illustrations relating to each point.

Once we had the content for the guide, we looked into various formatting styles, paper stocks and binding techniques. We wanted the handbook to feel interactive and almost unfinished, allowing new placements to add content where prompted, and take things from the book if they wish. Binding screws allow this because single pages can be easily taken out or added. The colored dividers give the handbook structure and make it easy to find specific information.

We hope the future generations of placement students learn as much as we did.

Inbox Inspiration

We've been talking about Email Newsletters over on Medium. The Email Renaissance and Why Brands Should Take Note, talks about how email is more than just a sales tool and instead can be used to build lasting relationships to those audiences that matter. In light of this, we thought we would pull together a list of inspiring sources. Enjoy. 

Sarah Hardman, Designer, on The Skimm

"Amongst the spammy emails that I either trash or let accumulate and never read, there is one email that I particularly like to receive: The Skimm. It's a daily email that briefs you on what's going on in the world.  Their subject lines are witty, adding some humor to my morning routine and the copy provides a source of objective, amusing and intelligent content. A good read!"

tumblr_inline_ngqk02xiy91qztrrd.pngNeil Mason, Director of Brand Strategy on Noah Brier

"I think he gets a nice balance of it feeing personal ie his own opinion without it feeling too preachy or bandwagonny. Some bloggers like the sound of their own voice (or words) too much and try to show how clever they are but with him it’s definitely less-is-more - it feels like he’s genuinely trying to be helpful and informative. He poses as many questions as he answers and he backs up all his thoughts and stories with links to real stuff. Even when he’s just signposting to other stuff, he manages to do it with a sublet and succinct viewpoint."

Graeme Rutherford, Digital Strategy and UX on Invision

"Every article is a must read for me. They are setting the agenda and are always totally relevant to what I'm doing (or, want to be doing) and the way I’m doing it (or, want to be doing it)."

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Ami Guest, Brand Communications Manager on Ann Friedman

"This feels like an email from a friend, with loads of great links to articles I would have otherwise missed or never seen. I have been introduced to so many publications through this newsletter and look forward to reading it." 

A Legacy That Lasts

Athletes at the London Olympics 2012

Following the publication of Sport England’s annual Active People Survey earlier this week, which brought mixed news on the London 2012 Olympic Legacy, Account Manager Emma Bluck explores what really encourages us to get active.  

The BBC’s show Twenty Twelve made a bit of a joke about the Olympic Organising committee and their commitment to legacy, but really when it all happened weren't we all feeling more than a little inspired to explore our own sporting potential? We here at True North certainly were, with a worrying number of the team planning to add professional sports personality to their CV. “If we started training now, I’m fairly confident we’d make the Rio 2016 Archery team.”

Although recent participation figures published by Sport England showed a peak around the Games (with cycling and athletics seeing continued growth), it now seems like most sports participation figures are dropping. Could this be because of the way the Olympics portrayed sport to us? Anyone who has tried to take those steps towards a more active lifestyle will know that there’s no crowds cheering you on when your legs start to ache, no gold medal after finishing boot camp and no Claire Balding pestering for a post event analysis. In fact it couldn't be further from a “true” representation of what it’s like to be active.

In late 2012 True North were engaged by Sport England to work on a pilot scheme that would promote a more active lifestyle to women in Bury. Inspired by research showing that friendship and camaraderie are often the most successful triggers in getting those who are sport shy moving, we came up with a solution. I Will if You Will is a community-led brand designed to encourage involvement by engaging the support and ownership of women in Bury.

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It took a more direct and personalised approach, putting participation and female to female empowerment at the heart of the idea – I Will if You Will encouraged women who were active to encourage their friends to get started. Women who were inactive to find a friend to get started with. And those who were already on the journey to help build a community that could encourage and support each other – providing the ‘cheering squad and crowd support' along the way. 

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And the results so far are positive. Three years after the brand’s launch, 2,000 more women are now active in Bury proving that this approach works. In April this year, Sport England took the findings from I Will if You Will to inspire the brief for This Girl Can, rolling out a national campaign of female sporting encouragement.

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Although we look back on London 2012 with great fondness and will no doubt be enthralled when our athletes head to Rio, we’ve learnt a huge lesson. Our sporting hero’s are incredible human beings, but it won’t be them who finally get the nation moving. It will be me, you and the women of Bury.

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