Responses by Jason Little, executive creative director, For The People
Background: Sydney is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a diverse population, rich history, internationally recognized tourist attractions and an exciting calendar of events. The City of Sydney is the local government authority responsible for the city center and more than 30 suburbs. It provides services for 200,000 residents and 20,000 businesses—as well as the city’s daily influx of workers and visitors. On any given day, the local population swells to more than one million, with people commuting, doing business, shopping, playing, studying or sightseeing. Our challenge was to unify all of the communications and all the departments into a one coherent brand.
Reasoning: We needed to rationalize the brand into a simple, easy-to-use system that could be worked across a broad array of systems. It also needed to be intuitive and enable in-house teams and creative partners to thrive. A key criterion was to overhaul the visual identity while evolving the city’s logo. Based on a core and flex model, the identity relies on a suite of core elements for the majority of applications, while being able to flex for special occasions. Due to the nature of the city’s circular logo, we built the holistic identity system on this foundation of geometry and circle DNA. Once adopted, a high degree of flexibility ensured the council could maintain a world-class communications strategy that captured the essence of the city.
Challenges: It can be difficult for public governmental organizations to make wholesale changes to their identities without generating public frustration regarding expenditure. Shifting to a master-brand strategy drives positive perception to the organization and helps reduce the costs involved with managing a large number of sub-brands. Internally, the removal of sub-brands can also cause people and departments to feel like they’re losing their identities within a large organization. So, a key challenge was to make significant changes without drawing attention to them—to facilitate a seamless transition. By keeping the project as collaborative as possible, we ensured buy-in and uptake by the broader organization.
Favorite details: Building an easy-to-use system is a key outcome when we’re designing for organizations. Ensuring there is enough flexibility built into an identity creates greater engagement and encourages a more joyful experience without feeling constrained by rigid guidelines and templates. The illustration style spectrum was a way of confirming a coherent identity for the organization while guaranteeing maximum room to play. The City of Sydney has always been at the forefront of creative collaborations, and we wanted to make sure this continued on well into the future.
Alternative approach: We approached the brand with a user-centric mindset, tailoring the communications to the audiences. However, there were accessibility issues with some aspects of the brand that required immediate attention. While we managed to fix some of them, we, unfortunately, weren’t able to push through some of the bigger issues in this piece of work, such as a fully accessible brand font and logotype and the ability to rollout out a fully accessible brand across key platforms.