In 1999 a single corporate brand was introduced for the NHS. Previous to this rebrand there were over 600 brand marks being utilised used by different departments within the NHS broadcasting a blurred brand and identity. This muddled identity made it difficult for members of the public to easily distinguish NHS services and communications from those of a commercial or charitable nature. The single NHS identify was formed to address this problem, improving recognition and accountability of the NHS and its services.
Following on from the branding project the NHS needed a central resource containing brand assets along with guidelines on how the NHS brand should be used by different user groups. These groups range from dental practices and GPs through to strategic health authorities. In total, 20 groups with varying requirements were identified.
Several NHS communication principles were defined in the branding:
- Clear and professional: Demonstrating pride and authority.
- Cost-effective: Showing that budgets have been used wisely.
- Straightforward: Avoiding gimmicks and over complicated design or wording.
- Modern: Portraying the NHS in way that is up to date.
- Accessible: Understood by the target audience and easily obtainable and available in other languages, symbols or formats.
- Honest: Avoiding misleading information or false promises.
- Respectful: Showing respect for the audience, avoiding unfair stereotypes, acknowledging the different needs of individuals and populations.
The NHS engaged with Bostock & Pollitt for branding project who in turns recommended Solid State Group to develop a publically accessible internet site run on the Sugar Cube digital asset management system. The solution contains all brand assets and collateral as well as a series of guidelines tailored by user type, downloadable in PDF format. The solution identifies the type of user (be it GP, dentist, nurse etc.) through a simple drop-down menu, then based on the selection, retrieves only assets pertinent to that user. Sugar Cube also dynamically generates a complete brand guidelines document in PDF format, which is personalised to that specific user.
How it works
The individual brand guidelines document are dynamically created and personalised for each individual type of user from shared content, which simplifies updating elements that span the entire set of guidelines. For example, if the user wanted to update the paragraph 'trademark' across all of the guidelines they can do this by editing that section of content in one place. So when there are 20 guideline documents all with the same paragraph about trademarks, its very quick and easy to change the content across the entire set.
In addition, even though all the guidelines share the same content elements it is possible to customise each guideline document specifically; so if the user wanted to change the NHS logo on a particular set of guidelines (e.g. dentistry) to differ from all the others they could do so.
Similarly, if the user wishes to delete elements from only one set of guidelines there are options to do so. The PDF documents on the NHS Brand Guidelines site range from a few pages up to around 180 pages in size which contain hi-res versions of all images and artwork. Technically, for performance reasons although the PDFs are created dynamically, it is not done at download request as the user would experience a delay. Instead there is a PDF generator which monitors when changes have been made to the content in the guidelines, automatically starting the process of rebuilding the PDFs, making sure they are always up to date and available instantly for users.
The NHS brand value and clarity has increased through a more clearly defined message to the public. NHS departments and services are now able to produce communication and promotional material quickly and confidently with automated guidance from a central service, which is very cost effective and efficient to run. Out of date brand collateral has nearly been eliminated through the use of the NHS Brand Guidelines site, making old methods such as distribution of assets on CD's or by email redundant.