South Bank & Waterloo net zero 2030

South Bank & Waterloo is a neighbourhood by the River Thames in central London. It is working towards becoming greener and cleaner.

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The local government, businesses, cultural venues and residents aim to make the area net zero by 2030. To achieve this, they are creating a plan to communicate and engage effectively with everyone involved.

We worked with PR company Flint and South Bank Employers' Group to understand what mattered to the leadership team. We used co-design to develop a visual identity that would support a long term process of change. 

A first step in the design process included a focus on the cultural values and missions for a neighbourhood green transition. This needed to go beyond technology and recognise that transitioning to a post-carbon world is also ecological, cultural and social, and that technology sits within society, society within culture, and culture within our wider ecological systems.

To support this we developed twelve pillars, or missions, that could be used to engage with people’s hearts and minds. 

We arranged the missions as a series of parallelogram-shaped steps which reminded us of South Bank’s world famous brutalist architecture.

This arrangement of missions became the starting point for a logo that embraced the diversity of partners and organisations involved in the project as well as the diversity of goals and that these goals would not progress at the same speed. Perhaps ecological adaptation will come before cultural adaptation, and  technological change will only be completed when everyone is supported and included.

The overarching ambition of net zero is often called sustainability, a concept that began to gather momentum following the 1987 Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, and the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit. But sustainability is also a contested term with many ecological commentators preferring to go beyond sustainable development to development based on restorative principles. We felt that this underplayed the power of sustenance as a principle of flourishing and proposed that every community has a desire to be sustained. 

The final logotype therefore included the twelve missions, the community’s name and ‘sustains us’. 

We used two font families to express the identity: a font for feelings and a font for facts. 

Vollkorn, a German font developed by Friedrich Althausen, which means ‘wholemeal’ or ‘folk wheat’ and harks back to the days of ‘Brotschrift’ or ‘bread type’ fonts used in everyday printing. It reminded us of the artistic and theatrical heritage of London’s South Bank which includes Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern, the National Theatre and many Arts and Cultural venues, as well as the famous call to arms, ‘Bread and roses’ – asking not just for physical sustenance but spiritual sustenance too.

The second font, Inter, was designed by Rasmus Andersson to make text easier to read on computer screens. This font recognises that greenwashing is not enough and that facts, goals and targets need to be included in any meaningful transition. 

As we worked with the identity and the missions we developed a number of different approaches to its use. The mission blocks can be seen as steps towards a goal, platforms on which we can test, develop and share ideas and windows into the future. 

We combined images that were pro-nature, pro-diversity and pro-urban as well as line drawing based illustrations to showcase ongoing projects and activities and to communicate ideas that could involve and include more people over time. 

The final deliverables included an online identity guide with a toolkit including logo, colour palette and font and identity applications, as well as templates for social media and e-newsletters.

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If you’d like to work with us to explore sustainability and ecological narratives and communications please do get in touch