In 2020 we decided we needed a new office, and a new brand. Well, not a ‘new’ brand, that implies there was an old one. We needed to understand ourselves better and be capable and more confident in how we describe ourselves and what we do. Plus we wanted some new graphics that didn’t look like we were wearing someone else’s.
Many of you will recognise those occasions when a client or other interested party asks for some background on your business. Why do you work the way you do? Why do you build the buildings you do? What do you believe in? Questions that encourage existential angst, deep thought and scribbled notes that seem terribly pretentious in the morning.
So it seemed a good idea to tackle this properly. To get to the heart of what makes us who we are and explains the work we do. What drives our thinking and our design work.
We didn’t realise at the time, when we started the project, that we’d end up establishing a sort of TGA credo. We know, it sounds terribly grand doesn’t it? But in simple terms, the brand project and the initial naval gazing revealed quite a strong sense of self, principles and ambitions that were all, subconsciously driving the way we work and what we do. We just didn’t really realise it, or we’d never articulated it.
It was a combination of how we feel about ourselves. Being an architect, the responsibility we bear for our clients and the people that will use or walk past our buildings, that led to our very simple brand defining statement. Behind which sits a number of principles, values and working practices. We also have a secret handshake, a weekly ritual and a brand song… no we don’t… but we might.
Control. Liberated. is a potent encapsulation of how we feel about ourselves and the work we do. We want to celebrate control, simplicity, restraint and attention to detail. There’s wonderful creativity too in what we do, but it’s measured, not always visible or discernible at first sight. Our creativity is not overt, it’s implicit. We will use it to guide us and build a clear reputation, which is the real reason you have a brand.
Control. There is great responsibility in architecture. We have to understand and represent the people that commission us, honour the intent, and provide for the community that will use and walk past it. We also have to satisfy and reward ourselves. Control for us in design terms means precision and restraint, quality and authenticity – refined buildings without extravagant embellishment, rich in detail, material thought and exacting execution.
Liberated. Creativity and innovation tend to be associated with wild expression and ‘doing something different’ but the confidence we have in our abilities and our design intent free us from the need to follow fashion, ‘make a statement’ or deviate from what we feel is right. Our creativity and innovation is knitted in, not layered on. We’re proud of our work and it’s important we remain so.
One of the first things we decided was that we wanted a typeface with the same aesthetic, voice and manners that we put into our work. We didn’t want to compromise so eNaR suggested working together to build a bespoke typeface.
The first iterations had some extreme tensions and exaggerated cuts that made it instantly distinct and noticeable. But that sense of ‘show’ didn’t fully connect with ‘Control. Liberated’. If it was to be an expression of us as a practice then it should be structured, well proportioned and rigorously detailed.
TGA Sans in its final state is an honest, to the point, typeface defined by usability rather than stylistic choices.
Out of the TGA Sans came our logo. This was always going to be the case. The notion of TGA was very briefly toyed with but in an architectural sea of three letter acronyms ending with the letter A it was quickly put aside – although we have retained it for our social media profiles where space is limited and legibility can be compromised.
Our logo is a marker for who we are. It lives in all our collateral and internal and external communications.
The wider visual identity was constantly being explored, developed and iterated as we went through the typeface and logo design process – it was only by seeing the typeface and logo working in situ that we could definitely measure them against ‘Control. Liberated.’.
This work led to a decision to pursue a visual language, shorn of graphic embellishment, patterns or tricks, that existed to frame our work and imagery.
When we consider an expression or application of our brand we ask ourselves why we are doing it, does it help build our brand and reputation and can we do it our own exacting standards. If we are sure it is worth doing we determine the tone, aesthetic and physicality of the task. If we aren’t sure we stop and we walk away. Would we do a tote bag? Maybe. But only if we determined that it added value to our brand. Would Tim carry one around town? Now that’s a question.