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Reconnecting the urban landscape with the natural world #BehindTheBrand #SustainabilityMonth

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Something a little different today! We’re speaking to Chris Trotman, Creative Director at Run for The Hills, about his agency’s work creating the brand identity and interior design for a very unique and very sustainable workplace.

COAL HOUSE, which launched last Summer, is an inspiring and progressive workspace in the heart of Cardiff, from developer Create. It’s undergone a stylish industrial-chic refurbishment, courtesy of RFTH, to give sustainability-conscious businesses the opportunity to thrive in an ultra-green environment, with all the perks.

What was the brief for the rebrand?

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We were tasked by property developer Create to develop the brand identity and interior design for its latest workspace development, which reflects its mission to push the sustainability agenda in real estate and society by reconnecting the urban landscape with the natural world.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

From the outset, we knew the website and messaging had to be designed to showcase the key eco-benefits of the new workspace, so we made sure to give the development’s branding an urban sustainable heart. We share and understand Create’s vision.

Describe the purpose of the brand and its target audience

The workspace sector has been constantly evolving since the pandemic, real estate developers need to go above and beyond to attract tenants who are increasingly more aware of the impact their company makes to the environment. Create’s vision and ethos to contribute economic, social, and environmental value shines through their buildings.

The future of workspace design is to create spaces workers genuinely look forward to being in, during their office-based collaboration days as a refreshing ‘foil’ to their working from home days. Something essential for all employers in this post-Covid world.

The brand and the website for Coal House was going to be in the market place to attract prospective tenants before the refurbishment was completed, and its main purpose was to sell the vision and pre-let as much of the building as possible, in difficult economic times.

What was your thinking behind the rebranding solution?

We like to approach workspace design and branding with the same creative principles we use to approach hospitality design. Fashioning an environment which kick-starts people’s day with a smile; going beyond just a stylish look and feel, filling the space with artistic, discreet brand touches, wrapped up in a super welcoming, inspiring tone of voice and creative signage which might be integrated into a custom light fitting or neon sign art piece rather than a standard ‘sign’. Somewhere to enjoy making that amazing first coffee of the day or to catch up with colleagues for an informal breakfast chat before the day begins.

For the brand palette, we used a stylish monochrome and green mix, to appeal to the environmentally conscience target demographic. We designed an urban deco graphic language for illustrations within the brand world, loosely based on the building’s architectural fenestrations, animating a series of these patterns for the website, which were also used on interior architecture details.

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Our interiors team made sure it was world away from offices of the past. The new Coal House entrance lounge is an inspiring shared space for tenants and clients to meet, socialise and collaborate. Subtle wayfinding leading you through the help-yourself coffee bar, café seating, comfortable lounge areas, Zoom Rooms and bookable meeting spaces.

Using biophilic design principles, the eco-friendly design maximises the sense of light, using a natural materials palette of timbers, organic, tones-from-nature paint shades and textured ceramics, accented by tailored dark metals, refined concrete style flooring and brass-accent decorative lighting. The lobby lounge feels fresh, crisp and modern, but softened by injections of botanicals and colourful art, giving an informal, stay-for-a-while hospitality feel.

We passionately believe good design is also good for business. A well-thought-through brand and space fosters creativity, productivity, team-work and a sense of community. Inspiring not just workers but fellow tenants, clients and suppliers within a multi-unit workspace complex.

What was the biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?

The building is in a very prominent position on an A road in central Cardiff. But it was a large, hideous 1980s new build called Marchmount House, and driving by you wouldn’t give it a second glance. There wasn’t the budget to make big architectural changes to the exterior.

Our solution was to paint the building black and call it Coal House. Giving Coal House a dramatic new dark façade, softened with lush planting and atmospheric lighting diffused behind the warmth of corten architectural cladding. Then we hand painted our Coal House logotype in 3 metre high letters that wrap around the building making it impossible to miss by passing traffic.

The new reception lobby is signposted by an illuminated canopy and hero signage beckoning to the airy atrium space within, styled by our interiors team.

What kit/tools/software were used to create it?

The brand was designed using the Adobe Creative suite. The website was built in Webflow and the animations done in After Effects.

What details are you most proud of any why?

We love the website! It is so interactive, and, unusually, you scroll sideways rather than down. It’s full of motion graphics and a custom video, really showing off the power of Webflow and bringing the project to life for prospective tenants.

Did you learn anything new during the project?

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How much more difficult it is to go sideways rather than down in Webflow!

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

We hope Coal House continues to be a success, and a great place to base your company. That it helps bring together an eco-friendly community doing what they can to help save the planet. Coal by name, green by nature.

What would you do differently if you could do it over again?

The website would scroll down, not across.

Credit list for the work?

Design Studio: Run For The Hills

Property Developer: Create

Creative Director: Chris Trotman

Designer: Gosia Bugaj

Web Developer: Daniel Drabik

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