When walking into Wigan’s town centre from our offices it’s virtually impossible not to notice the huge steel structure rising out of the Mesnes Park playing fields alongside Parson’s Walk. The new Youth Zone will change the town’s landscape dramatically and provide a new focus for its young people as it will provide somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to. Too often, services and provisions for young people have been overlooked, but ‘Wigan is bucking that trend by creating a vibrant, positive, fit-for-purpose youth centre in which young people from any background can spend their free time.’ States their website. ‘Whether you are interested in sport, art, drama, music or just simply looking for a safe place to hang out; Wigan Youth Zone will offer something for everyone and will be open 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year’
The Youth Zone is the idea of three of the town’s most successful businessmen – Martin and Bill Ainscough and David Whelan – who, having made their fortunes from crane hire, property development and retail respectively, have decided ‘to put something back’ into the town. Huge recognition and respect has to be given to them as they have put their money where their mouths are, by backing the idea with their own millions.
As the concept has evolved from the drawing board into reality the founders, and the charity ‘Onside’ which is delivering the initiative, have sought support from local organisations and businesses. At bd2 we responded by offering our design services on a pro bono basis as we feel this gives greater value than the equivalent financial contribution when translated into fees, but above all we feel it’s much more inclusive and personal.
A key requirement for the new organisation is a strong brand identity and our contribution is to develop this for the Youth Zone. We’ve taken exactly the same in-depth approach as we would with any commercial client, working through our structured methodologies with research and evaluation to define a set of brand values. So, initially, a workshop exercise was undertaken with their management team to first discuss what we mean exactly by the term ‘brand’, before considering various aspects of the Youth Zone from the literal ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’ before moving onto the more aspirational areas of ‘how we do it’ and ‘what we aim to achieve’. This concluded in a set of key words around each of these criteria.
The Onside management team, having previously opened Youth Zones in Blackburn, Carlisle, Manchester and Bolton, have been through branding exercises before and learnt through experience the value of buy-in from its users, but also of professional advice and execution. If the design and concept work is carried out purely by users, the results typically aren’t of a high enough quality to adequately represent the organisation neither do they address all the technical requirements. On the other hand, concepts that have been developed without any users’ involvement, often struggle to gain adoption as there’s a disconnect. We therefore decided to run another workshop exercise with a group of teens from the Youth Zone. This took the form of a huge mood-board process [on six 8 by 4 MDF boards] in which the group pasted up imagery they associated with the key words as well as style references they liked or related to.
Armed with the research, the brief and the finished mood boards, we began to consider concepts which led to a clear overall conceptual direction. This was refined into a set of considered visuals showing logo iterations, colourways and fonts as well as potential applications in literature, internally, online and promotional materials. We then presented these visuals to the same group of young people to show them how their thoughts had influenced our thinking throughout the design process.
The feedback was instantly positive and the comments flowed; “it’s a lot more modern”; “it’s young person friendly”; “right for the cause”; “I like the textures and colours”; “contemporary”; “excellent” and when looking at some of the applications: “I want one of those membership cards”; and “I’d wear that tee shirt”.
Having gained overwhelming support from the users, we had to then present the idea to the committee including Messrs Ainscough and Whelan who, of course, had the final say. Whilst the modernity of the concept came as an initial shock, they were quickly won over by its vibrancy, flexibility and visual impact. The conversation quickly turned to how it was going to be used rather than if, leading to instructions to produce some sample tee shirts and to implement online.
The new brand will be formally launched by bd2 on the 27th September at the DW Stadium during a dinner hosted by Martin Ainscough and David Whelan as they present the Wigan Youth Zone concept to the town’s business community.