Getting back in touch
Campaign: A Bit Left of Centre
Client: Yarraville Community Centre
Agency: Watts Design
For more than 35 years, the Yarraville Community Centre (YCC) has provided education, training and support programs to the people of western metropolitan Melbourne. It operates over two sites in Yarraville, both dating back to the 1800s, and offers short courses, English for migrant classes, programs for disadvantaged people and more. But a few years ago, with the main building in disrepair and no funding for refurbishment, YCC faced closure.
A major community campaign was launched to save this important facility, expand programs and services, and repair the historical building. Support from all levels of government and a groundswell of community interest led to a full restoration and, in 2010, YCC was again open for business. Integral to the restoration and relaunch was a full rebranding that encompassed marketing materials, signage and more. Watts Design was there from the beginning – leading the awareness and fundraising activities, liaising with the architects and working with the YCC team to build a meaningful image and ongoing branding identity.
First of all, this project aimed to generate awareness, interest and support from the Yarraville community. Initial fundraising was dependent upon having local big business as well as state and federal governments on side.
Executive officer of YCC, Christine McCall, realised that a new image was critical to the renovated centre. As McCall explains, “We wanted a brand identity that was instantly recognisable, fun and memorable. At the same time it had to be professional and suitable for a whole range of applications, throughout the refurbishment and from internal and external signage to advertisements, marketing materials and more. Funding constraints meant that we only had one shot at getting it right and we encouraged our designers to think outside the square.”
The project had to address a number of objectives, with every element integrated to maximise impact. Key factors for consideration were the multiple uses of the building, its diverse client base and YCC’s focus on sustainability. YCC wanted to be welcoming to people who were not normally comfortable in a traditional educational environment. They were keen to broaden the function hire aspect, to generate much needed additional revenue. The brief also extended to development of an interactive website that allowed clients to pay online, saving on administrative time and costs.
The strategy was long-term and involved a number of key stages:
– initial awareness to grow local support – publications and distribution strategy
– fundraising, including from government – publications, events
– development of the brand identity and all its elements
– liaising with architect to ensure that the brand identity was reflected in the works
– development of internal and external signage, and collateral materials
– extending the marketing into new fields – function and meeting hire, to corporates and the community
– development of an integrated website, and
– ongoing marketing plan.
Underpinning the strategy was the overall positioning statement, ‘A Bit Left of Centre’ – a focus that worked in a number of ways. It alluded to YCC’s ‘edgy’ entity, its location just outside the Melbourne CBD, a contemporary branding identity juxtaposed against a historical building and the non-traditional ways in which the various spaces could be used.
Helen Watts, creative director on the project, explains the evolution of the concept. “Working on the project from the start meant this brand identity grew almost organically,” she says. ”Over time, we had developed a real rapport with the YCC community and a feel for every facet of its operations. We knew the people, the team and the operations. This helped us a lot in our execution.”
Establishing a ‘Growing Community’ campaign was the first step in infiltrating the community and creating a groundswell of local support. A kit sent to around 100 local businesses and organisations was followed up by 20 smaller and more personalised information documents for those who expressed interest.
After a prolonged period of activity, funding was secured from the Federal Government and, along with other funds raised, meant that the restoration could go ahead. A carnival was promoted through posters and advertisements to increase grassroots support and awareness. It attracted around 500 people and generated higher levels of buy-in to the project.
Next was formulation of a brand identity that had to be suitable for a range of applications.
“The brand identity had to appeal to all the stakeholders – comfortable for students, fun for the children in care, professional for corporate clients, workable for staff and welcoming to the community in general,” says Watts.” We chose a theme based on a freeform combination of logo and illustration that’s naïve, friendly and approachable.
“Signage was a key aspect that tied it all together,” she continues. “Each room features a ‘speech bubble’ explaining its purpose with illustrations wrapping in and around the doorway. The illustrations became a dominant feature of the semi-transparent nine-metre lift shaft, which is visible from both inside and outside the building. And, in the childcare centre, the illustrations appear around the glass wall at eye level, giving the children a vibrant level of interaction while keeping them safe.”
An integral part of the brief was finding ways to attract new funds, and this was achieved by focusing on hiring out the various spaces to corporate and community clients. ‘A Bit Left of Centre’ was the theme extended for the corporates, while ‘Weddings, Parties, Everything’ was a more casual focus for the community campaign, alluding to the fact that the spaces could be used for just about any purpose.
The website was a key feature of the rebranding, one that impacted on work functions as well as aesthetics. The challenge was to design a site that was accessible to a wide range of clients, simple to navigate and user friendly. At the same time, it had to contain all the information required for online administration of YCC’s diverse offerings – courses, childcare and venue bookings, with downloads of relevant brochures. It needed to be easily updated by office staff on a regular basis. And online payments, an essential component of the site, gave added complexity to the task. The backend challenge was ably met by software supplier, Lemonade Stand.
While the major project is virtually complete, Watts is still involved in producing YCC’s quarterly course brochures.
Walking through the newly-renovated YCC building, visitors experience a visual explosion of historical old world charm, its neutral colour scheme complemented by the contrasting colourful modern branding. The result is a mix of old and new, which has revitalised the 130-year-old centre. The branding has been extended to the external area of the lift shaft, which can be seen from the West Gate Bridge. At night, this landmark comes to life with glowing light piercing through the imagery, making it a visual icon in Melbourne’s inner west.
“It’s lifted our old building and given it a colourful edge,” says McCall. “While the renovations were terrific, given the space and size, it was a bit sterile. Now we have bursts of colour, life and character. This is a place where all sectors of our community are welcome. The happy, quirky graphics jump out in every area, injecting a sense of fun to all our spaces. Importantly, the brand isn’t institutionalised – it’s warm, friendly and accessible. All our staff, students and clients are proud to be associated with it.”
It’s early days, but financial results are positive too. YCC enrolments are up by 24 percent in just two months and student demographics have changed, with more younger people enrolling – an increase of 17 percent in the 20 to 30 age group. This is attributed to both the ease of online bookings and the new image that YCC is projecting. Venue hire is also up (by 11 percent) and childcare is operating at capacity. At the same time, the website has streamlined administration and given YCC a way of immediately informing its community about events and activities.
The branding identity has since won several major awards for Watts Design, including a Melbourne Art Directors Club Award and the Desktop Create: Award, and it was a finalist in the Australian Graphic Designers Association Awards for creative excellence.