NHS England: Brand strategy and identity
Guardianship of a national treasure brand
In recent times, the NHS identity has taken on a new and greater significance. The blue lozenge has become a signpost for vital information and life-saving care during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the symbol's strength derives from its clear and consistent application and that relies on a solid set of brand guidelines.
In 2016 following a restructuring of the health service, we were asked to overhaul the NHS brand to strengthen its presence in the new healthcare landscape. With NHS services now being delivered by CCGs and Foundation Trusts, as well as private sector operators, a new approach was needed to provide clear signposting to NHS services.
The existing guidelines were seriously outdated. Some NHS organisations had even introduced their own identities, leading to confusion among patients and public. New guidelines were urgently needed to bring consistency and clarity, and to help bring the NHS brand to life in a digital space.
Our approach was to develop a comprehensive Identity Policy, designed to help 600 NHS organisations achieve the consistent, national standard that patients need and expect. The new Policy was based on a set of over-arching principles, designed to ensure the interests and needs of patients and public are considered first. It also covered who could and couldn’t use the NHS Identity, how the core elements should be used and the responsibilities for ensuring correct implementation.
Comprehensive guidelines were created to reflect the Policy. These were designed for all levels of user and distributed online, containing over 50 visual examples to illustrate the new approach. 600 sets of assets were also developed for NHS organisations to help them implement the identity consistently and cost effectively.
After 2 years of development work, an informal launch took place in late 2016. A number of NHS organisations, trusts and CCGs were assigned to trial the new assets and guidelines. Following successful testing, the new NHS identity guidelines website was launched in January 2017.
The new approach was implemented over the long term, with materials only being rebranded when due for natural replacement. This along with the use of the new asset packs and a new culture of sharing artwork, has led to a significant reduction in the total NHS design spend.
As NHS England has evolved and encountered new challenges, our strategic partnership with the service has continued. In late 2022 we advised on the brand strategy behind the successful integration of NHS Digital and Health Education England into NHS England, helping to maintain the clarity and consistency that supports their vital work.