I read a great article in CR about the fantastic identity work CityID has done in Southampton and it started me thinking about my home town Brighton. I've been a part of this city my whole life and I'm still very much in love with it. A lot has changed in my lifetime and fairly recently it has achieved 'city status', so it seems an appropriate time to reflect these cultural shifts in the city's branding. Tourism is a massive part of the Brighton's economy and the perception of the city to visitors is vital to sustaining it's commercial balance, so it's extremely important to have a brand that reflects the city's unique culture, as well as it's forward thinking community.
So i asked myself 'How would i brand Brighton?'
To start any brand project we would agree the brief and ensure everyone involved understands what the aim of the project is and how we will measure it's success. Then we dig straight in to research. The history of Brighton is very rich and easily accessible, but the future of the city is just as important. To really identify the task ahead it is important to establish the high priority touch points ie; how and where people will interact with the city's brand (eg; street signs, public transport, press, web, information centres etc)
Once all the information is gathered the next step would be sorting it in to a cohesive order. This will obviously require working closely with town planners and getting a deeper understanding of the districts and where Brighton will be expanding in the future. In the past few years there have been a number of key developments and further expansion needs to be accounted for. The coding phase also needs to take in to account feedback from residents and local tourism officials.
Now the schematics are established we need to create a unique way of expressing Brighton's unique history, culture and future - it's personality if you will.
Typography is a key aspect to a city's brand. In order to create a consistency in visitor messages and wayfinding a typeface would need to be developed to achieve maximum legibility and recognition. At this point we would work with a type foundry in order to create something bespoke. However based on existing typefaces you can see some of the possible directions; Helvetica is known for being well designed and legible, but doesn't carry any of the required personality. A narrow font like National First would work well with long names and has rounded edges to give a little hint of style and warmth. Mono spaced fonts would create good clarity for wayfinding, although Avante Garde would bring a strong sense of style and sit comfortably with Brighton's artistic past. Another possibility would be Gill Sans as it ties in nicely with the city's history and stands apart from anything usually seen in this context, perhaps a little too tied to history though.
The council's website and it's variations both comprehensively deliver a great deal of information in a clear way. However there are very few opportunities to interact or feed information back in to the city. I think to set Brighton out as a leader in digital design we should make best use of the deep pool of digital specialists in the city to develop means by which users could rate, share, comment, discuss, record and respond to the city's culture.
Clarity is king here, however signage and wayfinding needs to find a way of retaining some of the city's personality. This is also where the coding (set out above) would be rolled out. As Brighton is divided up in to lots of different districts (Hollingbury, Portslade, Five ways, Seven Dials, Kemp Town, North Laines, Hanover etc) and there is currently no way for visitors to distinguish between them. Obviously creating new signage for every road and cul de sac in the Brighton & Hove area would be very costly and take a long time to implement, so the new street signs should be initially focussed on the areas identified as touch points in the Homework phase.
Roll out and Testing
Once a comprehensive set of tools had been created, i would sense check it with a series of focus groups, but i would also insist that local committees are consulted and involved at an advisory level. With a project this big it is absolutely essential to get the backing of the community, without it you face the danger of being publicly strung up and offending residents.
Brighton is a beautiful city that's history is as important as it's future, however it sustained some heavy damage in war and has suffered some heinous architectural decisions, which has left it in varying states of confusion. Over the past twenty years it has transformed itself to become one of the country's best features. Both residents and visitors should feel as though they have had the 'Brighton experience' and be able to identify with it's unique identity. Small changes could be made for massive gains that not only capture Brighton's personality, but helps to guide it.
I've spent the last ten years involved in branding projects and I would make this project my magnus opus. I have no idea if Brighton & Hove Council have any plans in the pipeline, but i'd certainly be keen to discuss it further with whomever is responsible for such projects.
If anyone knows who i could talk to within the council's labyrinth please drop me a line at the usual address.