Reframing a brand's heritage to reignite its future

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Springer Nature


In 1999 as a start-up, BioMed Central was the first company to prove a sustainable, credible model for ‘Open Access’ (OA) research publishing, whereby peer-reviewed research is made freely available online to all. This proved to be a seismic and successful challenge to the traditional business model for publishing academic research in which large subscriptions were paid by universities to provide access to the latest papers.


Although BioMed Central was the pioneer, with OA now almost mainstream, their association with an historic breakthrough only served to make them feel dated. They were well established but outflanked by competitors, unloved and unable to command the interest their work and the work they published deserved.

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By listening to stakeholders throughout the business and across the research communities they served, we discovered that the company was still in constant renewal, piloting new ideas and incrementally refining the processes intrinsic to improving the quality, integrity and reach of research on behalf of authors. Their initial breakthrough had been decisive, but the compulsion to continue questioning ‘what next’ defined their culture today as much as it had at the start. This devotion to incremental discovery also resonated with how academic researchers view their own role – that most research is small but vital steps forward, rather than entirely new discoveries.


Articulating the brand idea as Research in Progress, we reframed the proposition from being tied to one breakthrough invention in 1999 to being a commitment to innovation as an attitude, a restless pursuit to improve every aspect of how research is shared. Renamed as BMC, this enabled a broadening of their offer to fields beyond biomedical sciences and helped support marketing in non-English language communities.

The visual identity system, inspired by the turning of a page to find out what’s next, embodies the idea and forms the basis of a rationalized brand architecture that clarified the role of different products and services across their vast portfolio. To help bring the idea to life through every aspect of the business, we worked with teams throughout the process to amplify the brand and train and inspire staff in how to own it within their day-to-day work.

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In 12 months since rebranding, BMC has successfully launched a range of new journals reaching 300 titles, increased the number of articles published, attracted 45 million users and significantly increased the number of article downloads to 195 million per annum.

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“This is a fantastic achievement, thanks so much to everyone at True North for helping to make this happen. We are delighted with the new strategy and visual identity for BMC.”
Grace Baynes, Data and New Product Development, Springer Nature
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