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When consultancies make international alliances or go through management changes, how do they reposition themselves and their new identity? Design Week examines how three have recently coped with hitting their own goals

When in 1992 Michael Peters quit the group that bore his name, his erstwhile colleagues faced a dilemma. Should they continue trading as Michael Peters Ltd, under a banner known and respected by designers and clients, or should they change? They opted for the former, eventually seeing off their one-time chairman’s short-lived bid to name his new consultancy The Office of Michael Peters. Peters chose instead to call his team Identica, and has more recently renamed it The Identica Partnership.

And so MPL made a new beginning, complete with an illustrative purple crocus marque commissioned by its then creative head Glenn Tutssel (now of Tutssels) to signify a fresh start. Some three years down the line and the initials MPL have fallen so much into common usage – especially by headline writers – that they have been adopted as the London group’s official name.

According to MPL chairman Peter Sampson, people tended to twitch their fingers in the air, adding imaginary quote marks when uttering the initials MPL. That habit is now immortalised in the new logo, created in-house. Printed in black with the quotes in deep purple – a throw-back to that crocus? – the image is applied to stationery that has a uniform white face, but which uses a different bright colour on the back of each item. “It’s an attempt to give it a younger look,” adds Sampson.

The idea of the quotation is carried, literally, through to the consultancy’s suite of highly illustrated brochures. “Every book carries a quote,” says Sampson, who proves to be a master of the understatement as we thumb through hand-picked saying after hand-picked saying. All have been cleared with their original authors where appropriate, Sampson boasts, and he admits to having changed one for the better – with its author’s blessing.

Reminded of the aspirational quotes that make up the Design Council’s slogan-based identity, Sampson admits he nearly called a halt to the MPL exercise when he saw the The Partners’ work late last year. But the feel and message of MPL’s new image is so different – notably in the use of real quotes and strong colours – that he let the programme run. And when, as is expected, the council changes its image, MPL will enjoy having the last word.

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