The Design Council’s refreshed visual identity launched with sustainability and accessibility at its heart. As the UK’s national strategic advisors for design, the Design Council aims to open a conversation around graphic design principles that are more inclusive and responsive to the climate emergency and to better serve design’s two key stakeholders: people and planet.
The Design Council worked with B Corp certified brand studio OPX to create a simplified design system and updated graphic language, promoting the use of white space and applying a structured use of red to create signature moments.
The colour palette has been streamlined to replace black with a deep claret that brings depth and warmth. Carefully selected hero imagery is used to champion all disciplines of the design industry as well as UK communities and business.
Designed by Tayburn McIlroy Coates in 1996, the distinctive red Design Council logo remains unchanged. With its core red colour and Quay Sans typeface, it cements the clarity and consistency of the brand’s identity.
To learn more we spoke to Minnie Moll, Chief Executive at the Design Council.
What was the brief for the rebrand?
The brief was for a refresh rather than a rebrand. The world we live in has changed so much since our last rebrand in 1996, so it was time to update our visual language. We needed graphic tools that communicate modern, dynamic design to be a credible voice in championing the sector.
How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?
We first met David and the OPX Studio team at an event I was speaking at in 2021. The conversation got us thinking about what design means for everyone and it led to the idea of creating a simplified visual language that reflected our Design for Planet purpose.
Describe the purpose of the brand and its target audience
Our mission makes walking the walk an imperative. As with all our work, we wanted our new guidelines to serve design’s two key stakeholders: people and planet.
What was your thinking behind the rebranding solution?
OPX simplified our design system by promoting the use of white space with structured use of red to create signature moments. They delved into some of our mid-90s to 2000s reports and took what they knew of us and resurfaced it in the refresh.
Their approach was to simplify everything, starting with a systemisation of our brand and stripped out varied visual styles to start afresh with our typography and colours.
Conducting a sustainability and accessibility audit of the brand guidelines makes the Design Council brand fit for purpose for a new era.
Did you learn anything new during the project?
A formal set of rules to follow to keep the carbon impact of branding to a minimum doesn’t exist, as it does with accessibility standards. Through the sustainability and accessibility audit we learnt how to make small adjustments in digital and print that will help keep the planet at the heart of our work. We learnt that:
- White is the most energy emitting colour, so it was recommended to use an off-white colour in our digital applications.
- Serif fonts have been found to be harder for neurodiverse people to read, so Helvetica Neue was selected for our new signature typeface.
- Use of white space increases legibility and allows for printing directly onto white paper.
What was the biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
From the outset, the team at OPX was striving to create something great with us. We both felt a big responsibility to create something of quality that would stand up to the scrutiny of a highly design literate audience.
In addition, we wanted to be aligned to our company mission of Design for Planet and signpost to a new way of approaching brand communications through the sustainability and accessibility audit.
We were delighted with the successful launch of the refresh and the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received, both from the public and the industry.
What kit/tools/software were used to create it?
OPX used Adobe Creative Suite, including Indesign, Illustrator and After Effects.
What details are you most proud of and why?
We are proud that the sustainability audit carried out was, as far as we know, the first to be included in a brand review, and that resulted in a comprehensive update that we hope will be an example for all designers.
What visual influences fuelled your solution?
OPX started out looking for inspiration from visual references. They explored how we can use our own white and red colour palette by having a brighter visual tone without fundamentally changing all the core brand elements.
What do you hope it achieves for the brand?
The new brand guidelines have been published publicly on the Design Council website for all to see and for both internal and external designers to use when we work on projects together. I hope that this encourages the design community to continue to learn, inspire each other and be more inclusive and responsive to the climate emergency.
What would you do differently if you could do it over again?
It would also be great to have the opportunity for a photoshoot to build a bank of great images to bring even more visual richness.
Credit list for the work?
Brand identity - OPX Studio
Sustainability and accessibility audit - Mia Allers, Design Lead on gov.uk at the Government Digital Service