Health service knows it needs design treatment

In response to Colum Lowe (Design Business, DW 20 January), yes, the NHS needs design and has been getting plenty.

In response to Colum Lowe (Design Business, DW 20 January), yes, the NHS needs design and has been getting plenty.

I have just moved on from my role as corporate brand manager for the NHS Information Authority and taken up the post of strategic marketing director at Lionheart Marketing Communications, an Exeter-based design consultancy.

In my four years at the NHSIA, the organisation became considerably more accepting of the importance design plays in getting the right messages to the right audience. Notwithstanding the limitations of the public sector or opinions of performance, the NHS is one of the strongest and most recognisable brands in the UK, with clearly stated brand values – so it’s not a bad starting point.

These brand values translate easily into design and provide plenty of scope, even within the tightly controlled brand guidelines laid down by the Department of Health.

In the role of brand guardian, the greatest challenge came from within the organisation in establishing ownership of the brand among staff and a willingness of everyone to demonstrate a unified voice in terms of branding.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of the organisation was a key objective and was instrumental in the redesign of items such as annual reports, whose purpose moved from statutory obligation to promotional tool. Specific design challenges included the redesign and rebrand of Inform, the NHSIA bi-monthly magazine aimed at informing stakeholders of developments and new products. Corporateness was an important driver and this saw standardisation of templated products for both print and Web.

The NHS knows it needs design and is slowly moving in the right direction. It is not just about communicating safety issues to the public, it is also about informing and educating the 1.3 million NHS staff.

Martin Vickery

Strategic marketing director

Lionheart Marketing Communications

Exeter EX5 1AG

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