Tobacco Factory Theatres: Our creative approach

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The creative strategy 

Our creative strategy was deeply informed by the immersion period. This short but intense research period spanned just over three weeks and gave us a clear picture of the Tobacco Factory Theatres core values and aims.

Working in one day sprints we looked for visual themes that were emerging from the brand book, which we assembled into mood boards that sparked ideas for visual direction. The early stages had no boundaries or restrictions, it was about exploring the themes as much as possible within the time restraints.

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In the early 20th century the factory boosted much needed employment in the community. The building was a central part of the local community and transformed the area.

After further meetings and discussions, themes of collectivism resonated with key stakeholders and members of staff. We found that the concept of ‘assembly’ sat well with Tobacco Factory Theatres’ heritage, it’s collaborative ethos, the diversity of their programme and the strong links with the local community.

Spread from Tobacco Factory theatres brand bookPlaying with both literal and abstract representations of the theme, we looked at many visual references from blocks and patterns to investigating the architecture of the building and natural forms such as icicles and DNA patterns. From this initial exploration period came the idea of using blocks and shapes to construct letter-forms and that these shapes could subsequently be used as part of the new visual identity.

Creating a custom typeface

We were inspired by the famous red brick building and it’s rich history to explore display fonts and typographic techniques from the early 1900’s tobacco industry.

We were inspired by the famous red brick building and it’s rich history to explore display fonts and typographic techniques from the early 1900’s tobacco industry. We spent time researching and exploring industrial signage, sign-painting techniques and typography from around this period.

Gradually we began to see an opportunity to create a completely bespoke typeface for the theatre that would give them the fresh unique visual language they needed, while also honouring their beginnings.

The letter-forms were constructed from a series of basic geometric shapes to mimic the qualities of old architecture whilst the tall letters gave it a modern industrial feel. This modernisation of old design techniques sat well with our organising thought of ‘creativity rooted in tradition’.

We went through countless variations and versions of all 26 characters as well as glyphs and special characters, heavily scrutinising individual letter-forms and letter spacing until the whole typeface felt succinct.

After a brief naming session we aptly named the typeface ‘Assembly’ and created three weights: Assembly Outline, Assembly Regular and Assembly Light.

Evolving the logotype

Having developed the Assembly typeface, we now turned our attentions to the logotype. We knew from speaking to staff and stakeholders and from audience feedback that many people had an attachment to the current logo. The view was that this should be a brand maturing and not a complete overhaul, so we discussed what elements could stay and what needed to change.

“One of the things we set out to achieve with audience members, was a smooth transition to the new identity and that our audience would see it as the growing-up it was intended to be”
David Dewhurst, Director of Operations at Tobacco Factory Theatres

Looking at the building’s architecture, we drew a basic grid based on the placement and spacing of the windows. Using Assembly Outline, we found that the three words ‘Tobacco Factory Theatres’ stacked nicely within this grid and utilised the Regular version of the font to create a secondary version, which could be used at smaller sizes.

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This grid then extended to allow for a multitude of sub-brands that form part of the Tobacco Factory Theatres’ wide-ranging offering: their Factory Theatre Cafe, Children and Young People programme and various studios.

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The end result is a font and logotype which represents the personality of the organisation, their history and a gentle evolution or “growing up” of the brand. The logotype is designed to be flexible and fully scalable, meaning that it can be used on anything from company stationery to large internal wall signage.

“We’re so proud of what we’ve created. It’s new, refreshed and of national and international quality but it still retains the heritage and the sense of who we have been since we started, which is really important to us as an organisation.”Becky Cresswell, Marketing Manager at Tobacco Factory Theatres

Read about how we brought the brand to life in print and online >>