Since 2010 when the LibDem coalition came to power, Haringey has had to slash its budget to the extent that by 2017 it will have gone down by 50% in real terms.
There’s probably never a good time for a cash-strapped council to announce they’re spending £86,000 on rebranding the borough – and sure enough when Haringey unveiled the new logo there was plenty of anger and derision.
The ‘Evening Standard’, not previously known for its anxiety about Haringey’s hardships, suddenly reminded us that the latest round of £70million worth of cuts could be to services ‘for vulnerable people.’
They then quoted a local resident from Tottenham Hale – funnily enough exactly the same local resident who spoke to the Ham and High – who said the logo ‘looks like it was made by a child with a marker pen.’
I don’t wish to go into the aesthetics of the design, but I would like to look at the arguments in more detail. Like all councils, Haringey is desperate to attract work and business to the area, and to me the new logo says more about ‘attracting shiny new things and people to the borough’ than it does ‘all your dog poo cleaning and social service drop-in needs from one handy council’.
So here, and in no particular order, are the answers to the questions everyone’s been asking: Thanks Councillor Joe Goldberg for your responses.
- Why spend anything on this now?
JG: There is never a good time to spend money on these things, and we were extremely conscious that this is taxpayers money being spent at a time of imposed austerity. But we felt the time was right to invest money on promoting the borough, signaling change both to residents and businesses from inside and outside the borough.
Having said that we wanted to keep costs to a minimum which is why not everything is being changed at once – but instead changed over as and when things are due to be changed – with the exception of key signage on buildings (which is included in the cost). In terms of spend it is also not additional money but comes from the annual communications budget which has declined year on year with the cuts.
Finally we are heading to a model where Councils are going to be pretty much entirely self-funded – with no or very little support from central government. In that world it becomes even more important to attract investment from individuals, businesses and developers if we are to be able to generate tax revenues to fund public services. We think a fresh image will assist with this.
- Yes, but £86,000?
JG: As I said we wanted to keep costs to the minimum. A quick google search shows that this is the sort of sums you spend when you go through such an exercise. One council spent as much as half a million – the BBC a taxpayer funded body spent £2m in today’s money.
When Councils say they have re-branded at “no cost to the taxpayer” this is ever so slightly lily-livered. This for the most part means the cost was covered internally. We were clear we wanted to be disruptive – to signal change – we have certainly done that. To do that we wanted to get someone external to look in from the outside – though ironically the designer turned out to be one of our residents.
Half this investment was for the core identity and strategy. That is to say that the brand is not just a logo, it is about the ideas behind it. A large part of this was identifying how you move from a Council brand to a Borough brand and defining what the borough is about. The rest was for implementation costs – signage and the like and the video. Would it be too cheeky at this stage to ask you to embed the video here? (Ed: yes afraid so I’m a complete technophobe. But here’s the link – https://youtu.be/LssVe6rOlzo . )
I think it’s a nice story about Haringey – told through the eyes of its residents, and businesses.
- Why change it at all?
JG: We wanted to signal change. When you say Haringey, too often people think you are just talking about a Council – some sort of far off behemoth. This concerns me and it concerns the Cabinet. I think FDR put it well when he said “we must never forget the government is ourselves.” In short if it is the ‘Council’ it is the ‘Council’ of the place – Haringey – and we should be more worried about reflecting this than the authority we hold.
The old logo is based on a coat of arms – which always hold meanings of authority, ruler-ship and royalty. When you add to that most people didn’t even understand that the design was originally intended to evoke the radio and television transmission that used to take place from Ally Pally, but instead saw ‘lightning bolts’, ‘hazard warning signs’ and a ‘death star’, the case for change becomes quite strong.
Aside from our strong legacy with the BBC, which as I say was not understood, what of any of this would any borough want to retain in its identity? We needed something positive, fresh, modern and forward facing and something that became about the place.
That is why at a very basic level the word Council has gone and we have gone less corporate in look and feel.
- What are you hoping to gain from this?
JG: We also want to speak to people outside of the borough. We wanted something confident and that stood out from other London Boroughs.
We wanted people to know where Haringey is. People outside of the borough and the country often don’t. This would be like people not knowing Brooklyn is in NYC. So we wanted to put London in the identity to make the connection.
We want to increase staff focus on its residents, and we want people to re-appraise what Haringey was about.
- How do you respond to the ‘marker pen’ jibes?
JG: Honestly I can only shrug my shoulders. We could have done something safe, something iterative – say rounded the corners of the lightning bolts – made them softer or something – something that ultimately would have drawn less attention – but for me that really would have been a waste of public money.
Secondly the response we have had – both positive and negative – confirms we got something right. As much as people don’t ‘want to get drawn into aesthetics’ or ‘complain about vanity exercises’ – they do actually give a sh*t. People here care about Haringey – they have as we say ‘attitude.’
Ultimately rebrands of this nature always draw this sort of fire – London 2012, Pepsi going blue, Mars going more feminine, Hershey’s (which was accused of being like an emojii poo), and even AirBnB. Over time they blend into our culture.
I try to avoid getting all designy on people but for those that say it’s “just a font” – it isn’t. You can’t download it on the internet and type it out. It’s designed. I challenged the designers on why no icon – they came back and said because the name itself should be iconic. Hard to argue with that.
The next question was how. We wanted to be distinct from our London sister boroughs and move away from heraldry, swooshes, handwriting fonts, and trees and leaves, from blues and greens. The agency landed on Red – as they felt this was the colour of London – London buses, City of London street signs, Red phone boxes.
And then on style the agency went out into the borough to speak to its residents. Wherever they went they found a positive pride in the borough, and a sense that we were misunderstood and the creative, eclectic spirit wasn’t appreciated. We wanted an identity that gave voice to that creative spirit. We sum this up as “an attitude, not just a place.” And evoking that attitude is what has led us to this new identity.
When people say it looks like a 12 year old has done it – I smile. Not just because this is a common criticism of brands but because I think essentially it must also mean it looks like we are young, fresh, and the future – and this is certainly pretty close to what we were going for.
Regardless of all those reasons given for the change above, one thing it definitely does is break with the perceived image of local councils in general and Haringey in particular. Whatever the reasons, in my opinion in the aftermath of five years of incessant bullying from our local MP against every cut enforced by her government, if any council needs rebranding it’s Haringey.