Watch the film then read below
On the morning of 28 January 1965 Patricia Fay, a young mother aged 32 got together a group of her friends in the Long Room at Chenies Manor, in Buckinghamshire. Their vision was to create regular opportunities to meet and learn about the Arts – they called themselves the Chiltern Antiques Group. Their first talk was on Victorian Teaspoons and the speaker, Miss D. K. Millington, cost the best part of £5 - haven’t lecturers fees gone up since 1965! Overwhelmed by the initial success, in her report that year, Patricia Fay said “the possibilities before us are limitless” – how prophetic that was!
Within 3 years, in 1968 they realised they could be so much more and 11 societies came together to form the newly-named NADFAS. Those pioneers had no compunction in changing the original name to one that better represented their widened activities and interests. But it’s stayed at that for nearly 50 years.
And herein lies our two key issues: we are not widely recognised in the cultural sector and many find our name hard to promote. An even greater number find it hard to understand.
Our research shows that – despite the positive connotations it has for many within NADFAS – externally the name is opaque, inaccurate and inaccessible. It is perhaps the most crucial obstacle to us becoming more recognised.
Over many years, at Area meetings and elsewhere, members have told us we should consider changing to a name that isn’t confusing and doesn’t require lengthy explanation. There is a deep loyalty to NADFAS and we all acknowledge the contribution of those along the way who have made it the huge success it has become but, just as the founders agreed in 1968, today’s members want a name that more clearly describes who we are and what we do.
The Trustees have listened and when the possibility of a new name was raised at the AGM in 2015, there was an unquestionable murmur of approval amongst those present – a very heartening reaction. Even better, when members’ views were sought at the 2016 AGM, there was a positively enthusiastic response - and the course was set.
But of course, brand is not just a name-it is very much more than that. A brand is a set of beliefs, goals and values that guides an organisation, its decisions and communications, both internally and externally.
Here we reference a familiar favourite – Waitrose.
It is a place where people go to do their weekly shop. They meet, chat, drink coffee, and pick up their John Lewis orders. It is an enjoyable experience. It has been suggested that, more often than not, a new NADFAS Society will open within weeks of a new Waitrose – or vice versa. Waitrose is a desirable place, people aspire to shop there and want one on their doorstep.
Why? It is because of their brand; how we perceive them, how they behave, their promises, their customer service and their partnership system – everyone who comes together at Waitrose feels like a valued stakeholder. This is not a plug for Waitrose, even if it sounds like it, but an illustration of what a great brand is about. As a supermarket it is not in the Big Four, but has credibility, appeal and quality beyond that of much bigger competitors.
So when we decided to consider the rebrand the brief was to develop and help us realise our strategic objectives, which are:
- Expansion of our educational remit
- Sustainability and capacity-building within the organisation
- Improved communications
We also needed to take into account the beliefs, goals and values of our membership. So from April to September last year our brand agency, Jane Wentworth Associates, have deeply and broadly researched the influences behind our behaviours, motivations and ambitions. Why are our members so invested? Why do they care? What is the essence of the organisation? Our research was opened up to all members in the Review, and we conducted in depth interviews with key groups such as society and area chairmen, trustees, volunteers, lecturers and grant recipients, and also external partners such as the National Trust and Historic Houses Association.
So let’s take a look at some of the findings to understand both how we perceive ourselves, and how we are viewed by others.
It is clear from the research that, in a hugely competitive and busy market place, we don’t have a clear identity or a strong profile, and that we are slowly falling behind. While the cultural sector is booming, our membership is quite static. Over the last 50 years, the market place has become more crowded, with the likes of U3A, Historic Houses Association, and more recently online platforms such as TED and Audible. And they do things very well in a changing world. We, however, are unchanged and continue to be a difficult organisation to get to know. If we want to secure our place in the future, to have a greater profile and be more recognised in this marketplace we have to change with the times and make ourselves heard at the top table.
So finally, before we reveal the new branding, let’s remind ourselves of where we want to be.
We want to be more joined up and connected.
We want to be pioneering again, as our founders were.
We want to be welcoming and knowledgeable.
We want to enrich peoples’ lives through the arts.
We want to be the most inclusive and influential arts society.
And we want to have a name and identity that gets us there.
The Arts Society – a new, shared name, which along with our shared values will unite all of us, NADFAS House, areas and societies, under one brand.
The Arts Society may sound simple, perhaps even obvious, but therein lies its strength. It is both clear and familiar, and doesn’t require further explanation. Much like the National Federation of Women’s Institutes is now affectionately and well known as the WI, this trimmed down version of a long and opaque name will help us achieve our aim of being more recognised and impactful in the cultural sector. Our new name communicates that we are inspired by all the arts and makes a strong statement about our role in the community and wider society.
It was not an easy decision to make, but the results of our research were indisputable – although valued by many, the old name was no longer fit for purpose. It was a daunting task and many aspects had to be considered; does it express who we are? Is it ambitious? Is it available? And how does it work visually? Many hundreds of names were considered, but The Arts Society, which had been suggested by a number of members, stood out and whilst it is simple, it is also descriptive, it works well visually and there is a strength and confidence about it.
The logo is made up of two elements – the monogram combined with the name. The interlocking of the letters A and S communicates a value at the heart of our brand – that we connect people to the arts and each other. The monogram is designed by Studio Sutherl& from a typeface called Plantin and was further refined by Yorkshire lettering artist Charles Stewart to create a unique and bespoke design with a classic and timeless look.
There is a strong desire among members for our organisation to be more recognised and impactful, whilst maintaining a clear sense of quality in everything we do. Our new colour scheme is designed to reflect this. Purple communicates in a positive way and has power to uplift, instil confidence and encourage creativity; it is also associated with royalty and prestige. We call this colour The Arts Society Purple. Our colour palette also incorporates blue and pink, which combined form the colour purple, and a neutral grey.
A combination of two typefaces – traditional and modern – expresses our value of connection. Our typefaces are News Plantin and Gotham. The monogram is crafted from Plantin and The Arts Society name is set in Gotham Medium.
Plantin is an old-style serif typeface named after the printer Christophe Plantin. It was first cut in 1913 by Fritz Stelzer for the Monotype Corporation, Surrey and influenced the creation of Times New Roman. Gotham was designed in 2000 by Tobias Frere-Jones. Gotham is a modern sans-serif typeface that is contemporary, clean and legible.
The Arts Society is a name we can all use, without hierarchy or unnecessary complexities. We are all The Arts Society, and we now share one identity. Your society will have its own name, and the flexibility to be distinctive with its own visual identity, but we will all be connected and part of a wider community.
Finally, just a few things that have been raised in the consultation:
We were asked by some why now, just before the 50th anniversary? The answer is, because we hope to have much more visibility in 2018 and we want to do it with a stronger, more sustainable identity.
Some have asked why we want to grow and there is a simple answer to this; no organisation can simply stand still forever. Over time it either grows or it declines and we do not believe that any of us want NADFAS to decline.
There are, understandably, practical concerns about new websites, leaflets, badges etc. We suggest that Societies join the branding as and when it works for them. Nobody has to change straight away and you can budget for changes to replace existing material when it runs out. But we also want to reassure you that the new branding will come with a lot of help, templates, resources on our website and guidelines, so we will work with you, as and when you want to make the change.
In the future we will be able to offer you hosting space on the national website, and you will be able to display much more information about your Society on the main website. We have secured various domain names for The Arts Society and an internet search shows that there are no other local groups using these URLs.
We have been reminded that NADFAS has an electorate with a great sense of independence and healthy scepticism towards central initiatives: we absolutely value the independence of societies and want to support this, but we do hope that the rebranding will contribute to a greater sense of shared values and aims, where everyone within The Arts Society – whether volunteer, staff or trustee – simply plays a different role, respects each other and shares a sense of collegiality. The Arts Society is not about hierarchy, it is about working together.
There have been concerns that we have not consulted widely enough, but through the Review every member has had the opportunity to contact us or Jane Wentworth Associates to express their views, exchange opinions, give advice and vast numbers did take this opportunity. We should also point out that the societies are the voting members, and the trustees their elected representatives, and they had final say in everything that was done.
There were discussions about competition or conflicts with other local art groups such as the Haslemere Art Society. We feel that such situations can be resolved amicably at local level. No doubt, your society is doing something quite different from most local art groups and the placement of the place name after The Arts Society (e.g. The Arts Society Epsom) should add further distinction.
Quite rightly it has been pointed out that the name and brand are not going to change things overnight, so we cannot expect people to flock to our new banners in a matter of weeks. We will be rolling out a new marketing plan and support societies in their endeavours to recruit new members. The new website, invigorated social media and a newly designed magazine with more arts content will be at the heart of our new communications strategy, of which the rebranding is a just one element.
Costs were of course a concern to many, but we want to reiterate that the development of the new brand has not led to an increase in the affiliation fee, and we believe that through sensible budgeting and prudent planning of resources, a change at local level can be covered through annual budgets.
There is also a legal point to be made, that the legal name of the charity will remain NADFAS, adding The Arts Society as a trading name. Societies that are charities in their own right and who want to change may follow this model, but for them a full name change is also an option if they wish. As an integral part of NADFAS, areas will change their name and logos at the AGM .
Even though we’ll look and sound a little different, our experience will not change. We will still offer the same services: through our excellent lectures we will provide welcoming opportunities for our members to discover and connect to the arts and each other. We will also ensure that heritage has a future through conservation and preservation, and we continue to support the skills of tomorrow’s artists and makers.
The belief that the arts are essential to enriching people’s lives will always be at the very heart of who we are.
We ask and encourage you to help us communicate the new brand to your committees and members. Why not show them the film at your next meeting, or send it to them in an e-newsletter so they can watch it at home? On your way out you will be presented with a pack of postcards which beautifully illustrate the new brand. This is for you to keep and to refer to in the months ahead and it gives information about the link on the website to the film, so that you can download it to show your members. We look forward to May and embarking on this next phase, together.
For any comments, questions, or if your society is interested in adopting the new branding after the official launch in May, please write to Isabel Cooper, PR and Communications Manager, NADFAS House, 8 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1DA, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7430 0730.