The Houses of Parliament has been given a rebrand in a bid to make it better suited to digital platforms, as well as make it “simpler” and “clearer” to understand.
The Houses of Parliament – now known in brand terms as UK Parliament – is made up of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Its role is to examine and scrutinise Government, make new laws, hold debates about political issues and approve Government spending in the form of budgets and taxes.
The new visual identity has been designed by studio SomeOne, and includes a name change from Houses of Parliament to UK Parliament. This aims to “highlight the role of the institution in the UK’s constitution, and distinguish it from the building it occupies”, says a parliamentary spokesperson.
SomeOne was appointed to the project as part of a tender process in late 2016. SomeOne held meetings and consultations with the administrative staff of the House of Commons and House of Lords throughout the design process, which identified that the main issue was the digital application of the brand. The design studio then presented concepts to parliamentary managers, who selected the final identity.
The new logo includes a refined version of the previous crowned portcullis – a heavy, medieval-style, grated gate – symbol, alongside the new name set in sans-serif typeface National to the right of the symbol. The typeface was designed by type foundry Klim.
The logo is also now digitally optimised so it scales depending on screen size, such as moving from mobile to tablet or computer screen.
Previously, the teams that provide shared services to the House of Commons and the House of Lords had been using inconsistent Parliament branding across various outputs. The two Houses have also always had their own individual visual identities, which they will continue to use.
“The new visual identity has been designed to provide the consistency and coherence that was previously lacking, and enable faster, clearer visual communication, primarily across digital platforms,” says Simon Manchipp, co-founder at SomeOne.
A core colour palette of dark purple, mint green and white has been incorporated, while a secondary, serif typeface Register, designed by foundry A2-Type, has been used across communications.
The primary type aims to be “simple” with a “distinctive but not distracting personality”, while the secondary type has a more traditional feel, and has been inspired by “French Renaissance-era type and traditional broad-nib calligraphy”, says Manchipp.
A new suite of flat icons, graphics and infographics has also been used across communications to demonstrate different options and statistics online. For example, infographics indicate how many Lords sit within each political party, and icons indicate options such as online petitions.
The visual identity guidelines and applications are also available to view online via Cloudlines, which will enable others to implement the same style for new parliamentary documents and communications in the future.
There has been some backlash over the price of the new visual identity, which cost £50,000 of public money to produce and deliver, coming out of the House of Commons’ and Lords’ budgets.
A parliamentary spokesperson says: “The visual identity of UK Parliament has been reviewed and updated by the administrations of both houses because the current version does not work successfully on digital channels. The new version works with mobile responsive websites, and is more accessible and readable.”
The new branding is currently rolling out across the parliament.uk website, print materials, in-house staff collateral and marketing communications.
The UK Parliament rebrand is one of many public sector or governmental body design projects that has received backlash from critics, the press and others about the use of public money.
Scrutiny and sensitivity over public money spent on design
The NHS’s implementation of stricter visual identity guidelines was scrutinised in 2017, which – like this rebrand – pushed for more consistent use of the NHS branding across medical trusts and hospitals. It allegedly cost roughly £100,000 to implement, with NHS England calling for the likes of print and publicity materials, stationery and signage to be replaced as they run out or need replacing.
The issue of using public money for design projects is a very sensitive one, given the rise of austerity, alongside lack of funding for crucial services such as the NHS and primary and secondary schools.
As Design Week noted with the response to the NHS’s identity guidelines last year, projects such as these should be conducted responsibly, only when necessary, within budget and inevitably should not be at the top of the list when it comes to money spent on public services.
Sleeker design can also save money
Equally though, design’s ability to make public services easier to understand can also save money in the long-run. The gov.uk website, designed by the Government Digital Service (GDS) in 2012, pooled several confusing and disjointed Government websites into one place, making it easier for people to use and the find the services they needed while also saving £61.5 million of taxpayers’ money in 2015.
On top of the money it has saved, the redesigned gov.uk site has also helped to liberate the public by allowing them to access more services online, saving them time. According to the GDS, 98% of driving tests are now booked online and 12 million people have used the website to register to vote.
Could Parliament become easier to understand for the public?
Along a similar vein, the new UK Parliament rebrand has the capacity to make the services it offers the public more accessible and available, therefore democratising Parliament’s goings-on and giving more people a voice; creating or signing online petitions, contacting local MPs to voice concerns, finding out about political workshops and simply learning more about how Parliament works could all get a lot easier.
While many of the mainstream press have resorted to labelling this project as “£50,000 on a new logo”, the new identity and its roll-out aims to be far more than this; it looks to bring clarity and consistency to the parliament.uk site and brand as a whole, with the hope of enabling the public to interact with and understand it better.
It is impossible to tell at this point how effective it will be – it will be down to conducting research and holding consultations with the public, alongside looking at website engagement in a few years’ time, which will determine whether the £50,000 was well-spent or not.