In-house teams: How BBC Creative designs for the “cultural fabric of the nation”

As part of our new series about in-house design teams, we speak to Laurence Honderick, head of design at BBC Creative, about how his team creates the campaigns and identities of some of the broadcaster’s most popular content.

“I honestly believe that, as an extension of a public service broadcaster, we have a moral duty to our audience to broaden their cultural horizons,” says Laurence Honderick. “Just as the talent making the programming are working to do this, so are we – in billboards, junctions, and social feeds.”

Honderick is head of design at BBC Creative, the in-house team that deals with the public service broadcaster’s marketing and branding.

The team was established four years ago, with the aim to bring in-house the huge amount of creative work needed to support the BBC across its print, digital, broadcast and social arms.

From the General Election, to RuPaul’s Drag Race, the team work to provide a face for some of the BBC’s most engaged-with content. Recent projects led by Honderick and his team include idents for BBC One and Two, and out-of-home identity campaigns for BBC One show His Dark Materials and BBC Sounds’ Have You Heard George’s Podcast?.

His Dark Materials OOH campaign for BBC One

What do they do?

According to Honderick, the BBC Creative Design team works “on virtually all design aspects of promotions and identity facing the British public”.

This creative work comes in a variety of different forms, from billboard campaigns and special build out-of-home installations, to augmented reality, major identities or social media spots.

Because of the nature of the BBC, the team often work on briefs with national significance. In the run up to the general election, for example, the wider BBC Creative team created “The Real Number 10” campaign, which was intended not just to promote the broadcaster’s political coverage, but also show how the public has “real power”.

As for the project Honderick himself is most proud of, he points to BBC Creative’s campaign identity for Change the Game – the 2019 commitment made by the BBC to showcase female athletes in “a way and scale that they have never been before”.

“It was an amazing feeling to design a campaign which was essentially geared at changing national perceptions of female athletics,” he says.

Change the Game campaign identity for BBC Sport

How does the team work?

Throughout the year, Honderick says the team fluctuates between 35 and 50 designers, split between offices in London and Salford. Their work is overseen by him, and “a small contingent of awesome senior designers and our amazing traffic team”, he says.

Having to work across all the BBC’s various outputs, the team necessarily needs a wide breadth of talent to cover all projects.

“Our remit is broad, so are our skillsets,” he says. “[We mix] specialists and generalists from every classical and technical corner of the design spectrum.”

Have You Heard George’s Podcast? OOH campaign for BBC Sounds

What’s the process like?

Prior to the establishment of BBC Creative, much of the work done by Honderick and team was outsourced to various external studios. Now with a wide-reaching inhouse team, he says the team can work “more closely and collaboratively” with other parts of the BBC, “in such a way that only an in-house agency can”.

“We handle the vast majority of our projects on the studio floor,” says Honderick. “[But we do] love to collaborate when something comes in that demands a truly specialist eye.”

As an example Honderick points to the BBC Two idents project, which were rolled out in two waves over the last two years.

“We partnered with Superunion and a gamut of world-class craft specialists to take the brand further than it had ever been before.”

His Dark Materials for BBC One

What are the challenges?

Being the creative arm of a public service broadcaster presents BBC Creative with challenges that don’t tend to befall other inhouse design teams.

There is, of course, a necessity to adhere to public service broadcaster guidelines – and as Honderick previously mentions, he sees the BBC Creative raison d’etre as very much an extension of the BBC’s mission to “expand cultural horizons”.

Hailing originally from the US, Honderick says he feels strongly the impact his work has on the country.

“[Americans] lack anything of the same impact and scale [as the BBC],” he says. “I know what a difference something like the BBC can make in the social and cultural fabric of a nation and I take the part I play in its welfare as a strong personal duty.”

But beyond this, the work flow of the studio needs to also reflect a public service.

“You have to consider how you do it,” says Honderick. “We wouldn’t want to be creating world-class work at the cost of leaving disillusioned or burnt-out talent in our wake.”

Leading projects therefore needs to be done in a “sustainable, progressive” way, according to Honderick – with plenty of consideration given to the talent that BBC Creative stewards.

What next?

As is to be expected, Honderick says the BBC Creative team’s next steps are very much influenced by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re extremely focused on helping the rest of the BBC serve the British public in this difficult time,” he says. “There’s a real sense inside the organisation that everyone is pulling together to help in all the ways we can – through informing, through educating and also, importantly, through providing some diversion and comfort and solace, as society braces for the short and long term effects of coronavirus.”

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