5 important things that happened in design this week

From a rebrand for the Southbank Centre to a visit to Dundee, the UK’s latest cultural hotspot, we round-up the news from the last seven days.

Southbank Centre rebranded for the first time in 10 years

According to a report conducted by the London Mayor’s Office in 2015, London is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with 40 million visits per year to cultural institutions and 80% of visitors claiming “culture and heritage” as the reason for their visit.

There’s no doubt that Lambeth’s Southbank Centre, the UK’s largest arts and cultural venue, plays a huge part in these stats. Currently undergoing an architectural revamp of its four sub-venues – Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery – the centre decided it was also time to revamp its brand identity.

Southbank Centre revealed new branding this week, scrapping the identity system designed by Wolff Olins in 2007 and replacing it with a new, Brutalism-inspired identity by North.

The previous identity aimed to demonstrate the centre’s wide offering of art forms through changeable branding that “created an ever new series of outcomes”, said Wolff Olins at the time.

But according to North, this branding was “complex”, and so the design studio has simplified the identity system through consistent use of a serif typeface and a colour palette of yellow, black and white.

The new, simplified identity system will be applied to all of Southbank Centre’s sub-venues, and will allow advertising material for festivals, performances and shows to take on their own style and be “freely expressed”, says North.

The branding is gradually rolling out across interiors, online and print marketing materials.

The design industry reacted to the Queen’s speech

Following the shock general election result at the start of this month, where the Conservatives failed to secure a majority, it looked likely that the party would partner with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form the new Government. At the time, we asked designers their thoughts on the result, and what this could mean for the industry.

While the partnership is still up in the air, the Queen delivered her speech this week, laying out the Government’s proposed legislation and plans for the next two years.

Eight out of 24 of the new bills focused on Brexit, such as tightening up immigration and removing the power of EU law in the UK.

Other bills included those focused around the implementation of prime minister Theresa May’s industrial strategy, a push in development of new technology such as electric cars and a focus on technical education.

We asked the design industry for their reactions to these bills, all of which could affect creatives. Everything from the impact on EU workers in the UK’s creative industries to a need to establish new copyright laws, as well as a focus on creative technical education, came up.

Read our reactions piece in full here.

British Design Fund looked to invest £500k in product design

The UK product design industry is under-funded, says entrepreneur Damon Bonser, with many bright, young businesses having to rely on crowdfunding to get their projects off the ground. This needs to change, he adds, if the UK is to keep up in the international market following Brexit.

Alongside ex-Design Council CEO John Mathers, Bonser has set up the British Design Fund, which launched on equity crowdfunding site Seedrs earlier this year in order to secure investors.

Now, over 160 companies and individuals have invested in the cause, raising £500,000 which will go towards product design start-ups and manufacturers.

While at the Design Council, Mathers spearheaded many similar initiatives, which saw young designers have their product design prototypes realised through award money. Last year’s Spark Awards, for instance, saw four designers receive £50,000 to bring “life-enhancing” products to market, including devices to help people with diabetes and arthritis.

“During my role at the Design Council, I saw how significantly fast the UK’s design sector is growing,” says Mathers. “It makes no sense that funding for the sector is so low. That’s why I am driving a change.”

The British Design Fund stays open for further investment on Seedrs until 30 June.

We witnessed how Dundee is driving social change through design

Scottish city Dundee has, until recently, not been associated with arts, culture and design. Previously a manufacturing city, Dundee saw a rise in social deprivation and a drop in jobs in the 20th century after many of these industries declined.

But now, Dundee is being turned into a cultural hotspot; a £1bn, 30-year masterplan was launched in 2001 to change the waterfront area and transform the city.

Now, the Dundee Design Festival is in its second year, the University of Dundee has been ranked by the Guardian as the best place in the UK to study design, and the V&A Museum of Design Dundee is set to open in 2018. As well as this, the city has worn the coveted badge of the UK’s only Unesco City of Design since 2014, and has an illustrious history in game and comic book design, being home to the Beano and Dandy.

We visited Dundee this month for its second ever design festival, and spoke with Anna Day, manager at Unesco City of Design, about how the city is staying true to its industrial roots through factory-style exhibits and installations, but also creating new opportunities for residents and students.

Skype rolled out new branding in line with Microsoft

Video chat and instant messaging platform Skype was well-known for its blue-and-white, cloud-shaped logo.

Now, it has subtly ditched its eponymous look to fall in line with its parent company Microsoft’s branding; retaining its blue and white colours, it has adopted a simple, sans-serif typeface, with an emblem of the shortened version of the Skype logo to the left of it.

The new logo is also very similar to software company Windows’ logo, which is also owned by Microsoft.

The rebrand comes alongside a website and app redesign for Skype, which aims to give users more opportunities to personalise and customise the platform, and which has adopted a more relaxed feel by incorporating “reaction” emojis and a Highlights feature, showing a series of videos or photos demonstrating a user’s day.

The online redesign and rebrand could be seen to unify all of Microsoft’s products more clearly under one distinguishable umbrella brand, and could also be looking to compete with social media competitors such as Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

The new Skype logo has rolled out, while the new version of Skype is currently rolling out across Android devices, with iPhones, Windows and Macs to follow.


Got a design story? Get in touch sarah.dawood@centaurmedia.com.

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