Perspectives: Frost* Design & Broken Hill

Published:  June 17, 2013
Perspectives: Frost* Design & Broken Hill

Perspectives is a regular feature where we invite a designer and their client to discuss and unpack a project. Here, Catriona Burgess (C) of Frost* Design speaks with her client Andrea Roberts (A) (Manager of Community Development at Broken Hill City Council) about how they discovered the unique personality and spirit of Broken Hill, and translated it to a visual identity.

C — So in the interest of a bit of background to the project, there was a tender put out and I thought it was a really interesting project. We’d just finished work on the Redfern project which was really enjoyable and despite the fact that we were so busy – we couldn’t resist putting ourselves forward for Broken Hill. Do you recall how many other people put in?

A — Our tender processes in local government are all very confidential so I can’t really respond to much to that other than to say Frost was a standout application, and I think we were incredibly fortunate to secure an agency of that calibre to work on the brand for this community.

C — I feel really passionate about destination branding, it’s something that I think is quite a specific discipline because you’re not branding a product, you have to connect deeply with the place and the people. One of the fantastic aspects of this project was the time we were able to spend in Broken Hill and get to know the remarkable community. We found that the people there really understood the great things about the place as well as the issues and were motivated to do something, to get into the action, and make things better. It’s such a unique place and community and our challenge was to understand that spirit and respond to it.

Local Broken Hill residents share ideas and artefacts of regional significance.

A — Yes, I think reflecting on that era of strategy development was a very empowering time for the city, to be working in that very close relationship with Frost and gave people in the community the opportunity to share what the place meant to them . I think in essence the community did share very openly, not only the stories but bringing in artefacts that were of particular importance to them. It was a very emotional time for many people to be reflecting on what the city meant to them and in turn what they can give back. So the way that Frost handled that consultation was very powerful, and in the end when that brand strategy was delivered for our consideration – it was so simple and so clear that it felt logical, almost as if we’d thought of it ourselves! Do you recall if there was a brand essence, or a brand commissioning statement that we supplied?

C — Oh yeah, it was a really simple idea, and it was all about being “for real” and being down to earth. When we were getting to the point of doing the tagline there was a bit of debate over what was the right line to use, and one of the things that we all felt very passionately about was that the people of Broken Hill were very resourceful, very empowered and that there was a strong sense of what’s real and what isn’t. What we saw out in Broken Hill was a lot of the things that people in urban communities today are really looking for in their lives, a sense of identity, a sense of connection to other people – one that’s got no BS about it. In a world where we see a lot of superficial behaviour, Broken Hill seems like the antidote to that sort of stuff, in that you can feel very comfortable being yourself, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I found it such a remarkable project to work on – was that it didn’t matter who you were or what you were into, the place and the community make you feel good about yourself. And it’s funny because films like Priscilla Queen of the Desert really bring that into the global focus in a way. So that whole idea of being “for real” was also not just about being real, but championing what’s real in the world – having a voice and coming here to reconnect with what’s important. Part of the brief was not just to develop a brand, but to give a purpose and understanding to the idea of the place as a destination. To me it’s these qualities that make Broken Hill so magnetic and can help you reconnect with what’s important.

A — And in doing that, the brand had reflected back on what was a very rich and robust heritage of championing causes such as workers rights and women’s rights, and this idea about the brand being very heroic was obviously very true. We not only wanted to celebrate that history, but also carry it forward and to give a voice and a creative look to that.

Another challenge with us not having an overly strong marketing budget was that we’ve just had to gradually start embedding not only the brand, but the visual identity to items and assets that we’re producing as we go, but what the brand has really delivered to an organisation that doesn’t have an endless marketing budget is that it delivers clarity around all those communications and decisions so it’s not really just about where to logo is applied or what materials can be used but what we do, what what we don’t do, and what sort of language we use. The brand values gave us a license to be fearless and creative and original and inspiring and all those sorts of things that gives us enormous scope in how we communicate to the different stakeholders from business to the community

C — And how as the community responded? What’s the reaction been like?

A — Well I think in the first instance there were those that were drawn to it immediately, and those that felt that a font could have been different or whatever, but the logic and the natural transition of the visual identity that flowed from the brand really meant that as we’ve been continuing to roll this out it’s just become more and more a usable and understood item.

C — It’s interesting, as I was surprised at how brand savvy and design literate many of the people we spoke to were. We deal with a lot of different types of clients, and I found that many of the people in Broken Hill got it immediately and seemed to know exactly what we were talking about and so I found it from that perspective a very easy project. People seemed to understand that we were trying to embody what Broken Hill is and what it was all about – simplified into a way that local could people could marshall that force into something that would help them succeed on many different levels. There seemed to be a lot of empathy for what the brand was there to do. The other thing I would say is that the identity system was loaded with a lot of nuances, such as that it was very cinematic as obviously Broken Hill is such a great destination for film. Often you don’t want an identity to be too obvious, and you don’t have to carry everything in the brand positioning within the logo itself, and I think that was a necessary thing to consider here.

A — It is a very bold and strong logo, and easy for us to apply it within the guidelines that Frost provided. It’s given us a complete framework that’s easy for us to sustain over many years too. The simplicity and solid form of the visual identity and the strategy behind it as a way of expressing what was already commonly understood about Broken Hill.

Broken Hill Identity environmental graphics

Broken Hill Studios brand application

C — Was it a challenge for you to get things off the ground, and to convince some of the major stakeholders that Broken Hill was in need of a new visual identity?

A — Well it was part of our new overarching community strategy, so I think that it provided a really good place to start. We actually held back a lot of marketing funds in order to fun this new brand identity because we believed that if you don’t have clarity around your communications, you’ll end up wasting a lot of money anyway, so let’s at least get the foundation right. I must say after having this brand, there’s a lot more comfort around the internal decisions that we make now. It means that Broken Hill’s communications can pack some punch, and make a statement that is very strong, whether we’re presenting in a boardroom or running ads on television it has given us the ability to use smaller marketing budgets to make a louder noise.

C — Do you think that now this is something that we’re going to increasingly see regional areas do?

A — I would wonder how any regional location that doesn’t have an understanding of it’s brand identity, or a means to express that is truly being successful in its marketing. I think these are really the foundation stones that destinations should apply before they begin

C — The thing is Broken Hill were very lucky Andrea because you had a very good understanding of brand and destination marketing. You were someone who was from the area, but had gone away and learnt a great deal and was able to come back with some really solid knowledge about the importance of these things. I think that was fundamental to the success of the project, because you had the expertise to guide it in the right direction.

A — Well thank you very much for that, and I think also the idea of destinations establishing relationships with professionals whether they be residing within the region or coming from outside of the area – establishing those true relationships is very important. Destinations can’t work in isolation. In Broken Hill we say that you’re either from “here” or “away”, but if you’re from “away” you can become very well connected to “here”, and it is very important for us to not only look within, but outside as well.

C — It really is a place that gets under your skin. Whether you are local or not, everyone that has some association ends up becoming a real advocate for the place and I think that is not just about the city, but very much about the people.

A — And that’s a very big part of what drives these brand discussions. You’re forced to ask questions like “what is Broken Hill?” and I think people in the community became very intrigued, and wanted to get under the surface of what that was all about. The branding for Broken Hill previously had been very geographic-based as a harbour or a gateway to the greater outback which works really well for the point of view about positioning yourself in a geographic landscape but there’s something much deeper and more powerful than that in Broken Hill, which this process assisted us in navigating and understanding that – which in turn has made us more successful in understanding how to communicate what the city has to offer.

C — That was a big part of our discussions, when we talked to organisations at the time, about moving from a functionally based positioning into a more emotionally based positioning.

A — The outback is obviously a very emotional and evocative concept as well, but a lot of people claim ownership of it, so we had to find that position that only Broken Hill can own. I think this a big issue in Australia at the moment, particularly around mining and that sort of thing, and ultimately we just had to figure out what it is about Broken Hill that nobody else can claim.

An interesting part of the project that I can recall when we came out with the brand was that it said Broken Hill. A lot of people said “we knew that, we are Broken Hill”. I thought that was magnificent. It was just reinforcing that’s what Broken Hill is. It can’t be anywhere else, it can only be here.

Broken Hill identity and slogan application

C — I think it would be great, just to round this off, to get an idea of what your lasting impression of this project was. For me, even now when I think it’s around two years since we spent time out there, I still get excited talking about it. It might sound like a cliche, but it really was a once in a lifetime project, it was a remarkable opportunity. I think for us, and for me personally the chance to do something good, the chance to make a positive contribution to a community that really wants to also help itself – I feel lucky that a company like Frost gets to do the opportunity to do that, and for it to be something we really believe in.

You’re always working for clients, and often on great projects, but I really feel that Broken Hill is specially for the way we were welcomed into this community and we were able to actually contribute something that is worthy of the way that they opened their arms to us and that hopefully contributes to their success. So for us it’s not just about “oh, let’s give you some designs to work with”, for us it’s more about finding how how we can help you achieve what you’re aiming for and deliver something that’s important to people. I probably sound like I’m gushing, but two years on that’s probably a good sign isn’t?

A — For me personally and my involvement, I was born here obviously, my father was a miner, I did go off and work for other leading destinations in Australia and have had the opportunity to come back and work on this magnificent project that I’m enjoying the legacy of and I know the community is also enjoying the legacy of, and I think that we really haven’t begun to tap the full potential that this brand can deliver. I know that Frost had originally presented to us ways of embedding this brand into the landscape, engaging our cultural and arts community, our film industry, our magnificent light, all engaged in bringing this brand to life and I hope that at this point we’re able to getting some of these visions realised. It really was a powerful project, in fact I remember when Frost presented a really hand-made showreel which featured old photography gathered up from around the city, it captured not only the stories that were being told but also the visual clues from the looks on the miner’s faces and the fonts that are used from old buildings – that’s our typography and so all of this had been gathered together and there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Just being there for that presentation and knowing where we could take it was really powerful for Broken Hill.

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