Joining Mearns & Gill in July 2014, I set off on a personal mission to understand the agency I was now a part of. I discovered that Mearns & Gill was older than I’d realised. There was much to learn and, as I was not the only newbie at the time, we set about learning as a group.
The more we learned, the more interesting things became. By the end of 2014, most of the company had become involved with learning about the history of the organisation and in sharing stories about it. We naturally began discussing who we are as a team of people, as a business and as a brand. We focussed on where we’d come from, what we are known for, what we’re not known for and what we’d like to be known for. The time had come to ask some of our clients old and new and some of our peers for their input. Thick skins at the ready.
We looked at our strengths and our weaknesses and we agreed and disagreed just like any other group of human beings.
Always start with the “why?”
As we investigated every aspect of who we are and what we stand for, a number of objectives became apparent. We took note of these, tested them, reduced them to a manageable number, simplified them, then set about actioning them. When we decided to embark on a rebrand, these became our primary reasons for doing so (that and we like pretty things of course).
Objective 01 - Communicate our personality
We discovered what we sort of knew already, that we are too quiet. We were failing to show enough of our skills or our personality. We started talking about what we can do to change that.
Objective 02 - Communicate more of the things that made us who we are
So what makes us…us? Our history is something that continues to surprise and delight whoever we speak to. We decided to harness that and talk more about the decades of adapting, improving, getting things right and yes, getting things wrong too. This is where we grew up. It’s what fashioned Mearns & Gill into what we are today and make no mistake, we have some great stories to tell.
Objective 03 - A new brand identity to communicate who we really are
Are we “M&G”, are we “Mearns” or are we Mearns & Gill? Three names would make anyone confused. We discovered the majority of people who called us “M&G” were actually within our own walls. In general, there was better knowledge of “Mearns & Gill” and a little remaining usage of “Mearns” from those who would have dealt with the company before Mr Gill joined in 1971. So to pick up a bit of gravitas from the past, and to realign ourselves for the present day and into the future, we reached the decision to stick to “Mearns & Gill”. Removing this confusion focussed us and made something glaringly obvious, the “M&G roundel” was dead. This gave us the reason to why the identity had lost the confidence of many of the team.
We have a set of objectives and a team of people with a variety of skills. Hit it.
Every one of us got involved and had a say. We received contributions to messaging, identity concepts, historical knowledge and opinions. Some provided biscuits and cake. We had a lot of cake.
At the beginning, we worked on messaging, what are we saying in the simplest way? How do we show the progressive nature of the business, its adaptability and its heritage? It took a long time to reject many strap lines and arrive at 5 letters and 4 numbers. “Since 1936” became the progressive statement we add to sign off our expertise and to show a little pride in the fact that we continue to be asked to deliver results to our clients after many decades. And so how do we move away from the orange roundel? A challenge was set to the studio, to consider all we’d learned and all we knew so far to come up with concepts around what our new logo might look like. The studio contributed a large body of work which was poked with sticks and otherwise discussed. We aligned this work with our initial objectives and set the parameters for what would become the identity:
- The identity must represent our past, present and future in a simple and elegant way.
- The logo must convey our personality.
We then made decisions on the type and the colour. The choice of typeface went in several different directions before landing on NB International. International is a grotesk informed by traditional book publication and from letraset. This all ties nicely into our guidebook publication roots back in the 30s and 40s and more recently, of the era of rub down lettering. As a relatively new typeface, it is designed with both print and screen in mind. It’s beautiful and we decided to use it exclusively. For many years, orange has been an integral part of the Mearns & Gill identity. Orange serves us well and we agreed that it should stay, just not that tired old terracotta looking orange though. Break out the Pantone book, proceed to page 1.1C and behold Orange 021. Now we’re talking.
And so to the process of bringing this together into a new logo and wider system. We preyed on the fact that we have an ampersand in our name and set about making that ampersand of our own. Making it a little playful gave us the little burst of personality we wanted.
Where are we?
We activated the first version of our new website on the 30th of October 2015, pushing the rebrand out into the world. We did this with as little noise as we could to allow us a week of social experimenting of sorts. Looking at who notices, how word spreads and evaluating the feedback we received. At the end of one week, we started letting people know through all the usual channels. We will continue to review findings and feedback into the future.
We have an evolving set of brand guidelines. All our stationery, signage and livery is complete and continues to roll out.
The next article in the series is a more technical one. It elaborates on the maths and reasoning executed throughout the whole identity system and communication materials, including this website. As a teaser, it’s got something to do with 1:1.89.